Monday, July 23, 2018

The Power of Two or Three

The Scriptures have much to teach us about the power of two or three believers. Let's examine that in God's Word to see what it says.

All Things Established
Firstly, all things are established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. This was taught in the law by Moses and repeated in the New Testament, and I would like you to keep this point in mind as you read through the remainder of my points in this article.

Moses wrote, "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed." (Deu 19:15)

Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "This will be my third visit to you. 'Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'” (2 Co 13:1, NIV). It's interesting to see how Paul even applied that verse from the law to his visits to the Corinthians. He considered his third upcoming visit there to be a confirming one that would establish the matters there that he was writing to them about.

The Holy Trinity
God Himself is one God in three divine Persons, and we see this Trinity all throughout Scripture.

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:26-27)

As I wrote in my article, The Holy Trinity, the Hebrew word for "God" here is "Elohim", which is a plural noun. In order for it to be plural, that means it must refer to more than one, even though we know that God is one (Deut 6:1). And even if you don't know any Hebrew, you should be able to easily see in these verses in Genesis 1:26-27 that there is more than one divine Person, since God speaks of Himself in the first person plural. He uses terms like "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." He was certainly speaking of Himself in the plural form.

Another example of the Trinity all in one verse is the words of Jesus before His ascension, when He said, "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luk 24:49). Here we have Jesus speaking about "the Promise," which is the Holy Spirit, and the Father, so the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all in one verse.

Then again He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Act 1:7-8). Here we have Jesus speaking of himself when He says "My" witnesses, and of the Father when He says, "times or epochs which the Father has fixed," and of the Holy Spirit when He says, "the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

The last example I will give is from Revelation. John wrote, "John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—" (Rev 1:4-5)

In these opening verses of his apocalyptic book we again see all three Person of the Holy Trinity. We see the Father as "Him who is and who was and who is to come," and the Holy Spirit as "the seven Spirits (or seven-fold Spirit) who are before His throne," and finally we observe "Jesus Christ" the Son. For more on this topic, please see The Holy Trinity.

So this power of two or three originates with God Himself who is three in One. The members of the Godhead are always in perfect agreement together, and He has existed like this throughout eternal ages past without beginning. Therefore, the power of two or three is embedded in the very nature of God Himself, and perhaps it even has some connection with His other attributes, such as His omnipotence.

Triune Man
Likewise, man is made in God's image with a spirit, soul, and body. In other words, you are a spirit with a soul in a body, which means you are one person with three parts. The apostle Paul wrote, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Th 5:23)

I am not saying that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely three different parts of God, because they are actually three distinct and divine Persons, not parts. But there is an analogy that can be drawn between the triune nature of God and man.

A Cord of Three Strands
A cord of three strands is not easily broken and two are better than one. Solomon wrote:

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." (Ecc 4:9-12)

This is self-explanatory. There is no question as to the wisdom and truth of this instruction. Two are certainly better than one for multiple reasons. For one thing, they can perform at least twice as much (if not more) work as one person.  Another thing is that one will lift the other one up if he falls. Moreover, two are able to keep each other warm.

I recall that this was an Army survival tactic in cold weather when I was in the infantry, and perhaps it still is. In fact, the Army's "buddy system" uses this same principle to ensure that the two buddies assigned to each other look out for each other in all aspects of training and warfare, not just cold weather survival.

Another reason two are better than one is that they can better defend themselves against an attacker. And finally we see the wisdom of this principle proven in a cord of three strands, which is not as easily broken as a single strand would be. Anyone who is given the choice to climb the face of a cliff using either a cord of three strands or a rope made from a single strand will choose the cord of three strands unless they have a death wish.

Church Discipline by Two or Three
The power of two or three also applies in matters of Church discipline, such as taking two others with you to address a brother who has sinned. Jesus said, "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." (Mat 18:16)

Agreement of Two or Three 
If two or three agree as touching anything in prayer, it shall be done. Jesus said, "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." (Mat 18:19). That is an amazing promise the Lord made to us based on the agreement of two or three believers.

Praying alone is wonderful, but you also need to pray with others. You need to have a prayer partner. So if you are a believer married to another believer, then you already have a prayer partner. If not, then ask the Lord to give you a prayer partner. This is also why group prayer meetings that have at least two or three people are even more powerful than when individuals pray alone.

In the old days, after making a significant point while preaching, fiery preachers would sometimes shout, "Can I get a witness!?" Then someone would shout, "Amen, brother!" or "Hallelujah!" When you understand the power of two or three, you will realize when someone says "Amen" (meaning "so be it") to a prayer or to some part of a message being preached, then the two come into agreement in the spirit, which powerfully establishes whatever they have agreed upon.

Two or Three Gathered in Jesus' Name
Wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, He is there. That means if they are gathered for prayer, worship, fellowship, evangelism, hospitality, or whatever purpose -- as long as it is in Jesus' name, then He has promised to be there. He said, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Mt 18:20).

This is one reason why you should be a part of a congregation, because there are no lone rangers in the kingdom of God. I learned this the hard way as a new believer over thirty years ago. As a young infantryman in the US Army stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia in the United States, I had only been saved for about three months before I received a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to Berlin, Germany. I brought my Bible with me to Germany, along with my Christian music recordings, and Christian music videos, but I could not find a solid Christian friend to fellowship with. I also did not agree with something about the way the Protestant chapel conducted services, so I did not attend them. Instead I tried to walk with Jesus alone without any fellowship, and this led to me drifting away from the Lord for the first few months I was in Germany. You can read more about that in my article Drifting Away. It was not until I went back to church and repented for my sins that I came back to the Lord six months after being transferred overseas.

That's one reason why the Bible teaches us that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves. The apostle said, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb 10:24-25, NIV). There is power when two or three gather in Jesus' name, and the presence of the Lord is there.

Let me also say to you that this point, combined with my previous point about the power of agreement among two or three believers, is one reason why Life Transformation Groups, as well as small home group meetings and house churches are so effective. It is easier to have two or three or ten or twelve people in agreement that to have three, four, or five hundred people all in perfect agreement. The larger the group, the less likely it is that they will all be in perfect agreement.

Sent Out Two by Two
Jesus sent the Twelve out two-by-two in six pairs to preach that men should repent. "And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;" (Mar 6:7). Likewise, Jesus later sent the Seventy out two-by-two in thirty-five pairs (Lk 10:1). They were instructed to heal those "who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" (Luk 10:9). They went out and returned afterward rejoicing. "The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.'" (Luk 10:17). Once again it was the Lord's power demonstrated in pairs of two people who were in agreement in Jesus' name. This was the apostolic pattern followed by Peter and John, as well as Paul and Barnabas, as well as Paul and Silas.

Twelve Witnesses
Jesus chose Twelve to be witnesses of His life, death, and resurrection (Mk 3:14-19; Ac 1:21-22). The fact that He died and rose again from the dead, and all that He taught during His earthly ministry are established by the testimony of the Twelve.

Three Synoptic Gospels
Consider the fact that there are three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that testify of essentially the same things, plus a fourth gospel by John to overlay a spiritual layer of understanding. The Lord established the gospel not with one witness but four.

Not Good to Be Alone
It is not good for man to be alone. Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (Ge 2:18). This was true of Adam when he was all alone in the world without a companion, and it is true today as well. There are many lonely people in the world, such as widows and widowers. Many of these people are shut-ins and they are all alone. Others may be in the hospital, the nursing home, or even in prison, and while they have people around them, they are lonely. They need a visit from someone who cares.

This Scripture doesn't necessarily mean it is better to be married than single. As I wrote in my article, The Gift of Celibacy, some remain single for the sake of the kingdom and it's best for them to do so. But that doesn't mean they are supposed to be a "lone ranger" and go through life all alone. While they may not be married, they still need fellowship. And even those in ministry need to have a ministry partner. Sometimes this will be a family member or someone else in Christ that they serve with in ministry as the early apostles did.

Two Become One
The two (man and woman) shall become one flesh. This is repeated many times in Scripture.

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." (Gen 2:24, NIV)

Jesus said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh" (Mt 19:5. NIV)

In Mark's gospel, he records that Jesus said, "And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh." (Mk 10:8, NIV)

The apostle Paul wrote, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." (Eph 5:31).

This illustrates how two people can be one in the same way that the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity are One. And since there are two of them, then as long as they come together in Christ, they are a microcosm of the Church. They both have a partner to agree with in prayer anywhere they go in the world.

Jesus Had a Witness
Even Jesus had a witness. He had the Father and the works He did by the power of the Spirit.

He said, "If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form." (Joh 5:31-37).

Jesus identified His two witnesses: 1) "the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me." I believe this implied the Holy Spirit through Whom He did all of His works; and 2) "the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me." So the Father and the works that Jesus did by the Spirit provided the powerful testimony that established all that He did and said, as well as His divine identity.

Two Final Witnesses
Let me also remind you that there will be the two final witnesses who prophesy for three and a half years.

"And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." (Rev 11:3-4; cf. Zech 4:11-14)

These two witnesses operate together in Jesus' name and we can assume based on Scripture that the Father does for them whatever they ask of Him in agreement. If anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire." (Rev 11:5-6)

Three Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration
We also see the power of two or three in that Jesus took three apostles with Him onto the Mount of transfiguration. "Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves." (Mat 17:1).

Two Prophets on the Mount of Transfiguration
Then there was the appearance of Moses and Elijah - two witnesses on the mountain with Jesus.

"And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!'" (Mat 17:2-5)

That was an amazing experience that was powerfully established by three witnesses from heaven -- God the Father, Moses, and Elijah, as well as three witnesses from earth -- Peter, James, and John.

Witness of the Spirit
We have the testimony (or witness) of the Spirit.

Paul wrote, "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." (Rom 8:16)

The apostle wrote, "And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying..." (Heb 10:15). After saying this, he quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. This illustrates that the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture testifies to us as believers through the Word of God.

Satanic Trinity
Even satan has an evil trinity of himself the dragon, the beast (or antichrist), and the false prophet.

The apostle John wrote, "And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names." (Rev 13:1). In this verse we see the dragon or devil and the beast or antichrist.

John continued later in the same chapter, "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon." (Rev 13:11). In this verse we see the false prophet, which together with the devil and the beast comprise the satanic trinity. The devil, too, understands the power of two or three. He knows this power is evident in the Holy Trinity, and is embedded in all life that God has created. He will seek to counterfeit it on earth during the three-and-a-half year Great Tribulation. During that time he will seek to rule the whole world through the beast and the false prophet, but will do so to his own ruin. For the Scripture tells us of his final demise in Revelation 20:10. It says, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:10). Their condemnation is deserved.

Putting it All Together
As we have seen from Scripture, there is amazing power in two or three in Christ. This applies in many different ways to every area of life, whether to Jesus being in the midst of two or three believers gathering in His name, or the Father doing anything that two or three believers agree about and ask Him for in Jesus' name. It also applies to matters of Church discipline, as well as marriage and ministry. In fact, as we have learned, all things are established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I hope this has helped to build your faith, strengthen and encourage you, and show you another important secret of the kingdom of God. Now go put it into practice!

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB., copyright The Lockman Foundation, used by permission. Other Scriptures from The Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zonervan, used by permission. Photo image copyright Saint George Island United Methodist Church, used according to Fair Use Act for educational and commentary purposes only.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Keys to Prayer, Prayer Promises, Standing in the GapLife Transformation Groups, How to Start an LTGDrifting Away, and Supernatural Power for All Disciples, as well as other articles found on the Home page of this blog. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Keys to Prayer

Someone who recently gave his life to Christ asked me how he should pray, which is a completely valid question for a new believer. My answer to him may also be helpful to you as well. While it is intended for new believers who may not know where to begin, or who may have previously only known idolatrous religion, it may also be helpful for those who are more mature in the Lord.

Talk to God
Prayer is talking to God, so talk to him like you would talk to a person, except in this case with great love, reverence, respect, and awe. Pray to the Father in heaven in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (Jn 14:14, NIV).

You have direct access to the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn 14:6, NIV).

Do not pray to Mary, the saints, angels, spirit guides, or other entities. Jesus is your only mediator. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim 2:5).

If you need some sort of guideline for what to pray about, use the Lord's Prayer as your structure, not merely as a formula prayer, but as an outline for your prayers. I have written in more detail about this in my article, The Disciples’ Prayer.

Begin by coming to Him in Jesus' name with thanksgiving, thanking Him for every blessing He has given you. The psalmist said, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." (Ps 100:4, NIV). You can thank Him for life, health, strength, your salvation, food, clothing, shelter, your Bible, the privilege of prayer, etc. You can thank Him for your identity in Christ. Give thanks in all things, even your trials. For more on this, please see Giving Thanks in Everything.

Begin also by praising Him according to Ps 100:4 and Mt 6:9 for who He is: His love, omnipotent power, awesome name, holiness, majesty, beauty, compassion, care, omniscience, etc. For more on this topic, please see Praise the Lord!

Claim the Promises of God
During your prayer time, as the Spirit of God leads you, you may claim His promises for yourself out loud. Prayer Promises.

Pray According to Scripture
It's important to pray according to the Word of God. Aside from claiming His promises, you should also pray in accordance with what is written in Scripture. That includes patterns of prayer found in the Bible through the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself (e.g., Jn 17; Mt 11:25; 26:36-56), as well as others like David (see Psalms), Daniel (Dan 9:1-19), Nehemiah (Neh 1:1 - 2:9), and the apostle Paul (Eph 1:16-23). Praying according to Scripture also includes praying according to any verse of Scripture as the Spirit of God leads you.

Pray According to God's Will
If you are praying according to Scripture, you should be praying according to God's will, but I will mention this separately, because it is so important. The way to get your prayers answered is to make sure God hears you, and you know He hears you if you pray in His will. The apostle John said, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him." (1 Jn 5:14-15, NIV).

Have Faith
The Scriptures teach us that "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb 11:6, NIV). So you must believe that God exists and that He will reward you as you diligently seek Him.

Be confident as you approach the throne of God, since you have such a great high priest. For the apostle said:

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:14-16, NIV).

Faith Proclamations
Another thing you may do in pray is to make Personal Proclamations of Faith, declaring out loud the truth that God's Word says about you and those you are praying for.

Covenant Prayer
You might also incorporate this covenant prayer in some way: Covenant Prayer.

Interceding for Others
You should pray for others such as:

1, Your unsaved parents, family, other relatives, and friends, asking God to help them come to know Jesus and be saved.
2. Your government leaders, including local, state, national, and all those in authority, such as law enforcement officials (1 Tim 2:1-3).
3. Your teachers and/or those over you in your job.
4. Your pastor, teacher, spiritual mentor, and those in authority.
5. Anyone you know that needs healing or deliverance.
6. For the people you share Jesus with that they would come to know Him.
7. For all the saints (Eph 6:18) and for all men (1 Tim 2:1-3).

For more on this, please see my article, Standing in the Gap.

Pray for Yourself
Talk to God about your own needs as you pray for yourself. Some of the things you can specifically pray about are for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, forgiveness, not to fall into temptation, deliverance from evil (including evil spirits), for protection, for His provision for you, for opportunities to share Jesus with specific people, for guidance and direction concerning your life, for His will to be done in your life, etc.

In Secret with No Images
Jesus said, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Mt 6:6).

So when you pray, do so in secret, to your unseen Father in heaven, and do not pray in front of any images, since that would be an abomination to God. There is no need for symbols or prayer beads either. For more on this, please see Modern Day Idols.

Pray Out Loud
It's also best to pray out loud, rather than silently, although it's fine to pray in your heart silently as needed in certain circumstances. For more on this please see Crying Out to God Loudly.

Pray in the Spirit
The Bible teaches us to pray in the Spirit, so this is an important key.

Jude wrote: "But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." (Jude 1:20).

Paul wrote: "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." (Eph 6:18, NIV).

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding." (1 Cor 14:14-15, NIV).

In order to pray deeply in the Spirit, you need to first receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. For more on that please see my article, Baptized with the Spirit.

You can sit, stand, kneel, or lay on your face to pray. But one very good way to pray that is found in the Bible and helps you to express your reverence for God is kneeling. I also suggest praying with your eyes closed and your hands uplifted to the Lord. For more on these topics, please see Lifting Hands in PrayerLifting Your Face in Prayer, and Bowing Low in Worship.

Put on the Wardrobe of the Saints
Just as you need to get dressed everyday, you need to put on spiritual garments, too. For more on this, please see The Wardrobe of the Saints.

Head Covering
If you are a male, then pray with your head uncovered, and if you are a female, then pray with your head covered. The apostle Paul wrote: "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head...a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels." (1 Cor 11:4-5a, 10b NIV). For more on this, please see my article Is a Woman's Hair Her Head Covering?

Listen to God
Get to know Him. Listen to His voice. For more on this, please see Hearing the Lord's Voice and Inquiring of the Lord.

Worship the Lord
Take time just to express your love for God. Pour your love on Him. He is your great big Abba Father. Worship and adore Him for who He is. Bask in His presence and enjoy your time with Him.

You might like to play some instrumental worship music while you are praying or not have any music at all. Here is a link to instrumental worship to play while you pray, if you like.

I hope you have found these keys helpful as you spend time each day with the Lord in prayer.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan. 

Author's Note:  If you enjoyed this message,  you may also like other articles about prayer which you can find on the Home page of this blog. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master."  Now let me ask you a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

Friday, February 23, 2018

When God Does Not Seem to Answer

Dear Prayer Warriors,

We have all experienced times when God does not seem to answer us when we call. This is not unique to you alone, but has happened to us all at one time or another. In fact, it has probably happened to all true saints down through the centuries. Let's look at some passages of Scripture about this.

Habakkuk said, "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save?" (Hab 1:2, NIV). God responded to the prophet by telling him that He had raised up the Babylonians to execute judgment and to punish His people Israel.

In his second complaint, Habakkuk prayed to God and asked, "Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Hab 1:13b, NIV). Then the Lord replied:

“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." (Hab 2:2-3, NIV).

The Lord was teaching the prophet that the vision He was giving to him of the ultimate destruction of the wicked was to take place at the end of the age. He was teaching him that even though it took a long time to happen, it would certainly come at the appointed time and not prove false. It would not delay forever, but would one day come to pass. The Lord assured him that one day the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab 2:14). We must be patient and wait for the Lord.

As the Lord told David, "A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity." (Ps 37:10-11, NIV).

Yet there were times when David felt like the Lord was just watching what people were doing to him and not doing anything to stop it. He prayed things like, "How long, Lord, will you look on?" (Ps 35:17a, NIV). And "Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense!" (Ps 35:22-23a, NIV). And "My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest." (Ps 22:2, NIV).

Yet David had faith that "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles." (Ps 34:17, NIV). There are times in life when we may feel totally overwhelmed by troubles, and our prayers seem to go unanswered. But David said, "The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." (Ps 34:19-20, NIV).

Like David and Habakkuk, Job also experienced his prayers seemingly going unanswered. He said, “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice." (Job 19:7, NIV). He prayed, “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me." (Job 30:20 , NIV). Yet look at what God really thought of Job. He said that Job was blameless and upright, a man who feared God and shunned evil, and that there was no one else on earth like him (Job 1:8). In the end, after the Lord had tried Job, he blessed him even more than he did before his trials.

The Persistent Widow
Jesus taught us to pray and not give up. "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, "Give me legal protection from my opponent." For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out."'"

"And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'" (Luk 18:1-8)

Hindrances to Prayer
If your prayers are not being answered, it's best to ask the Lord to show you if something is hindering them. There are several possible ways your prayers can be hindered.

The first and most obvious one is sin. The blind man who received his sight said, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will." (Jn 9:31, NIV). The psalmist said, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Ps 66:18, NIV). Another version says, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear" me (NASB). Therefore, before you can expect God to hear your prayers, you must repent of all sin and turn away from iniquity. Ask the Lord to forgive you and cleanse you from all sin, and the Bible promises us that He will. The apostle John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9, NIV).

The second hindrance to getting your prayers answered is doubting. James wrote, "But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (Jas 1:6-8). Although you only need a mustard seed of faith to move mountains, you must be sure and remove all doubt, because if you have any doubts that God will answer you, then you should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Therefore, get rid of all doubt.

A third hindrance to prayer is idolatry. The nation of Israel fell into this sin, even sacrificing their own children to idols, and here is what God said to them. "When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away." (Is 57:13, NIV). Don't expect God to answer your prayers, if you are engaged in idolatry of any kind. He will not listen to you. For more on this, please see my article, Modern Day Idols.

A fourth hindrance to prayer is rebellion. The Lord told the sinful nation of Israel as they continued in rebellion that their offerings had become worthless, and he had had enough of them (Is 1:4-5,11). He said their incense had become an abomination to Him (Is 1:13). He promised not to listen to their prayers until they washed themselves and made themselves clean, removed their evil deeds from His sight and ceased to do evil (Is 1:16). He said, “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood." (Is 1:15, NIV).

Likewise in the first proverb, God sets us straight by saying that He won't tolerate rebellion. He says,“Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof...Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me." (Pr 1:24-25,28, NIV). There are plenty of warnings against rebellion that assure us He will not listen to us in that state until we repent. Scripture tells us, "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination." (Pr 28:9).

One sin that I would like to point out specifically is unforgiveness, because it is so common. You must be careful, because the Lord taught that if you do not forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you of your sins (Mt 6:15).

A man named Daniel Ekechukwu, whom I wrote about in Nigerian Pastor Raised from the Dead, had an automobile accident in November 2001 and died. There had been a misunderstanding between him and his wife that led to a disagreement, and the matter was not resolved before Daniel died. After arriving at the hospital by ambulance, he was repenting of his sins, but after he died an angel told him that the Lord did not listen to his prayers of repentance, since he was still holding unforgiveness in his heart toward his wife, even though she had tried to reconcile with him the morning of his fatal accident.

As Jesus said, God will not forgive us our sins unless we forgive others. Then the angel took him to hell and showed him that terrible place. He said that if his record was for him to be called to that place, then he would surely be thrown into hell. But the Lord chose to give him a second chance on life, and almost two full days after he had died, he was raised from the dead publicly in a large church. Don't let unforgiveness hinder your prayers and keep you from heaven.

Marriage Relationship
Another sin that I will call attention to, which will hinder you prayers, is treating your wife in an inconsiderate and disrespectful way. The apostle Peter warned us, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Pe 3:7, NIV). Be sure to keep that relationship in good condition, if you want your prayers to be answered.

Asking with Wrong Motives
Another hindrance to prayer is asking with wrong motives. James wrote, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (Js 4:3, NIV). Be sure you are asking with pure motives when you pray, if you want your prayers to be answered.

Not Asking in the Will of God
Another hindrance to prayer that I will mention, which is related to the previous one I have just covered, is asking outside the will of God. You cannot have any confidence that God will answer your prayers, if you pray for something that is not His will. On the other hand, if you ask according to God's will, you can be sure He will answer you. The apostle John said, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (1 Jn 5:14, NIV).

Spiritual Warfare
Sometimes a delay in getting prayer answered can be due to spiritual warfare. This is probably more common than we realize. Remember the time that the prophet Daniel prayed and fasted for twenty-one days before his prayers were answered. An angel then appeared to him and told him that the Lord had heard his prayers from the first day he began praying, and the Lord had dispatched him to go to Daniel in response, but there was an evil principality resisting the angel that delayed his arrival. He said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Dan 10:12-13, NIV).

Putting it All Together
Therefore, if God does not seem to answer your prayers, then check to be sure there is nothing hindering them. Ask the Lord to reveal to you anything that is hidden that must go. If there are any hindrances, then deal with those accordingly. However, as long as you know there is nothing within your control that is hindering your prayers, then take heart and learn a lesson from the persistent widow and the saints of old. Your situation and mine are not unique to us. If you feel like God is not answering your prayers, remember His promises. Remember His faithfulness. Don't forget what He told Habakkuk and David, and what He ultimately did for them and for Job. Keep on praying and do not lose heart. Though the answer lingers, wait for it. Have faith in God.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture taken from the holy Bible NIV. Other Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Prayer Warrior" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Wait for the Lord (poem), Never Forsaken, Going Through the Valley (poem), Nothing Will Separate (poem), When All Means Fail - Part I,  Who Intercedes for Us?Personal Proclamations of Faith, A.S.K. (poem), Open Line to God (poem), Modern Day Idols, Even if it Doesn't Happen Like We ExpectCrying Out to God Loudly, Lifting Hands in Prayer, Great is His Faithfulness (poem), Speak to the Storm, and Lifting Your Face in Prayer. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.  Now let me ask you a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.