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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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UNANSWERED PRAYER

Can we ask God for literally anything we want? Some religious people assure us we can. They insist that if you are a child of God, the world is there for the taking. Or, more accurately, for the asking. They proclaim that, if our faith is strong and we do not doubt, we can "name it and claim it." Got cancer or debts or a nasty neighbor or a hard job? Pray it away. If you believe it God can and will achieve it. Three passages in John are favorites of the "name it and claim it" prayer advocates. In John 14:13, John 15:16, and John 16:23 Jesus assured His disciples that "whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you." But the "blank check" approach to prayer many see in these passages brings to mind the adage that "it ain't so much what folks don't know, it's that they know so much that just ain't so." ,The "pray your way to health and wealth" theology just doesn't fit the Biblical data about prayer.

Does God answer all our prayers? Several years ago Garth Brooks gave us something worth thinking about in a country song that included these words: "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." What would life be like if God granted every person every thing he/she asked for in every prayer that was prayed? Little seven year old Debbie gave us a hint when she prayed, "Dear God, Please send a new baby for Mommy. The one you sent last week cries too much." Three verses from 1' John remind us that God's faithful children can confidently expect Him to hear and answer every prayer but not always in the way we desire or expect. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. ...Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (3.22; 5:14-15). No inspired man in the Bible, including Jesus, ever taught God will literally give us anything and everything we ask for. In the three verses just cited there are at least four conditions attached if God is to answer our prayers: (1) we must ask; (2) we must be keeping His commandments; (3) we must seek to do those things that please Him; (4) we must ask according to His will. These conditions met, we can have confidence God hears and answers our prayers. Problems arise when we fail to remember our Heavenly Father, like any good parent, can say "yes" or "no" or "not now" to our requests. God won't leave our prayers unanswered, but He always answers in ways that are best for His own glory and our own good.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ