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Ineffective and Dangerous Prayers

Prayer is the most important activity a committed Christian should engage. Prayer is our life blood because we are in a relationship with the Almighty. You would think then that prayer of any kind would be just fine with our Heavenly Father. But actually such is not the case.

In James 4, the last part of verse 2 into verse 3 we read these words: “And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.”

Much has been debated on why we don’t receive from God. The truth is many of our prayers, including mine, are not always with the most pure motives. God doesn’t expect perfect prayers, but I believe the whole of Scripture does differentiate when Christians are setting their hearts on Godly desires verses worldly desires.

An example of this is when Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to die and Peter pulls him aside to rebuke him. Now I don’t for a minute think that Peter doesn’t love Jesus or isn’t committed to him. But when God (Jesus) has just informed you of His will and you dismiss it, then your heart is in the wrong place.

We know this because Jesus looks at Peter and says for Satan to get behind him. What Peter said was seeing things from a human or worldly point of view and not a view from God. Obviously Jesus doesn’t think Peter is Satan, but when believers are seeing things from a worldly rather than a godly view, then in effect we are unwittingly being used by the devil.

So we go back to James 4:3. In this verse then James is warning us followers of Jesus that we need to pray; we need to ask God for things. However, we must check our heart motive when we do pray. Otherwise our prayers are ineffective. This might explain when we ask for things and don’t receive, it is because Father knows best and he won’t answer that prayer.

But what happens if you keep on pleading or I dare say bugging God to answer a prayer that you clearly know is against his will? Interestingly, there is evidence in Scripture that God will actually “answer” that prayer, but it comes with a warning. The warning means that you will have consequences for that answered prayer.

A classic example is found in 1 Samuel 8. The back story is God wanted the nation of Israel to be a theocracy; essentially that He would be king and not some earthly ruler. The Lord did raise up temporary leaders called judges to oversee a particular function like leading Israel into battle against enemies. He also commissioned prophets to guide the nation spiritually. But as the ultimate leader, God clearly communicated that he would be king and no other.

By the time of Samuel the prophet coming on the scene, this process had been working quite well. But then in I Samuel 8, the people approach Samuel to ask God for a king. They wanted this because they saw Samuel was getting old, his sons were living an ungodly life, and they wanted to be like other nations.

When Samuel approaches the Lord about the request, this is God’s reply. “Do as they say, the Lord replied, for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually forsaken me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about how a king will treat them.” (Verses 7-9).

Samuel then goes back to the leaders and tells them that their request will be granted, but then shares with them all that the king will take: sons and daughters to serve him, lands and their servants for his use, forced offerings, and much more. Even after the warnings the people insist that is what they want.

So here is the point. If we ask God for anything that goes contrary to his will, it will be ineffectual and not answered. But if we keep persisting in asking him for something that is clearly not his will, He just might answer that prayer and it will end up being something we regret.

I don’t know why God just doesn’t say, “I am not going to answer that prayer, so move on.” I have a hunch it is like a child that keeps bugging his parents for something and they finally say, “all right.” But then add, “this will not go well with you in the long run.” This might be a way God teaches us all a lesson. So trust Him and find out His will before asking.

With all the present day turmoil, especially in the political realm, I believe strongly that we better be asking God what He wants. Because if we pray for something that turns out to be our flesh and not His will, we may get that prayer answered, and then realize, “I have made a terrible mistake asking for this.” Then we will understand that there is no refund. How frightening is that!

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