When we experience frustration in our prayer lives, it may be time to take a closer look at ourselves.
We all have behaviors and attitudes that can get in the way of really communicating and experiencing God effectively. This week Pastor Miles challenged us to examine ourselves and the ways in which we might be hindering our own prayers.
1. You have a rebellious heart. Proverbs 28:9, Proverbs 15:29, Psalm 66:18, John 9:30-31
Miles related a story about a poor villager had a neighbor who owned a cow that produced vast amounts of milk. The neighbor could trade the milk for all kinds of items, making him better off than the poor villager, who could not afford to buy these things. Now the villager didn't know all the hard work that his neighbor had put into this cow: nursing it from a calf, exercising it, feeding it, and the like. All he saw was that the cow yielded many rewards. So the villager complained to God, who responded by asking what should be done. The villager replied, "Kill the cow."
Like a father listening to children, God doesn't want to hear us complain. He wants us to ask for help and guidance.
This villager came to God in bitterness and jealousy, complaining about what he didn't have. He could not see behind the scenes and he did not ask for what he needed himself; he only wished for his neighbor's blessing to be removed. Proverbs 28:9 says that when one turns away from the law, even his prayers are an abomination. Like a father listening to children, God doesn't want to hear us complain. He wants us to ask for help and guidance.
2. You ask with selfish motives. James 4:1-3, Matthew 6:5-6
If you never want to be mad, then you should want for nothing! Sometimes when we feel frustrated or disappointed, we are simply reacting badly to not having what we want. But we must remember that life isn't about us - it is about Him.
James 4:1 tells us where wars come from and guess what - it comes from our selfishness. It isn't wrong to pray for things we need, but as in the story of the cow, it is selfish to pray for things to be taken away from others in order to satisfy ourselves.
3. You treat people disrespectfully. 1 Peter 3:7, 1 John 4:20-21
Miles reminded us that when we mistreat people (whom God loves), we can't expect for our prayers to be answered. 1 Peter 3:7 reminds us of this regarding the relationship between husbands and wives, Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Miles reminded us that when we mistreat people (whom God loves), we can't expect for our prayers to be answered.
Miles also pointed out that love means obeying God, so when you are loving your neighbor, you are helping him/her to obey God. Your neighbor may not like what this means, but sometimes that is how love is. You don't feed a child candy all day and night even though she wants it. Se needs real food! As a loving parent, you provide her with that nourishment, just as God provides us with what we need.
4. You lack faith. Matthew 17:19-21, Hebrews 11:6, James 1:5-8
Why can't we just always trust God and believe in His incredible power?
Miles pointed out a sad truth regarding faith: we learn more from pain rather than pleasure. My dog learned about cactus the hard way. I learned about a lack of written contracts the hard way. This nation and the world is learning about debt and about living beyond its means the hard way. We do learn from adverse experiences, but it doesn't have to be the only way we learn. As a good friend once told me, would you rather walk through a mine field alone or following someone who has done it before?
God wants to direct us, but we have to remember to rely on Him, even in the good times. If we truly have faith in Him and trust that He knows best for us, we can allow Him to direct our paths rather than only learning from our pain and errors.