Fickle and Selfish Prayers

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, October 7, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

There are two types of “prayers” that tend to be unanswered: fickle prayers and selfish prayers. In order to give this study any proper justice, I need to give you a few stories about my recent life that make me look really good [note the sarcasm]. First, fickle prayers.

A few weeks ago, I had a big moment in dealing with fickleness, and it was the same week my post on perseverance was released. That Wednesday and Thursday were very interesting days that week. Now, an important part of this story is that in this season of training on prayer, God and I agreed to meet at 9:00pm every evening for reading my Bible and for prayer. The exceptions were Mondays and Wednesdays because I teach a Bible study on Mondays and I help with my church youth group on Wednesdays. So I usually start that one between 9:15-9:30pm. This particular Wednesday evening, I got home so tired I told the Lord I just had to get straight to bed. It was not good.

I do not remember if it was that Thursday or Friday, but on my way to work, I listen to numerous sermons on my flash drive in the car. The one I happened to be on was Eric Ludy’s sermon: “The Amen Life.” This sermon is about living with “blazing integrity.” Instead of being “fickle” where you readily switch positions depending on what you think is better for you, Ludy suggests we need to be “amen,” where we mean what we say and we do not waiver. Let’s just say I was convicted. I had promised to God I would meet at 9:00pm, a little later on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I flaked out.

Thursday, the next day, was a challenge for me. This Thursday was NFL opening day and I am a Denver Broncos fan. The game was Carolina vs Denver, a Super Bowl rematch. God said I could watch the game, however, at 9:00pm, I had to be off. It was a close game. Denver had just scored to pull within three points at the start of the 4th quarter and would eventually win. But I had to turn off the game so I could be with God. It was hard to turn it off and even harder to focus because my parents had the game on in the other room and I could hear it. Denver has more night games coming up and I still need to be off at 9:00pm to be with the Lord.

I don’t say this to boast, but to show during that week, I was up and I was down. I was fickle. I spent time with God when I wanted to and did not when I did not want to. I was inconsistent. So I have to ask: do we make God enough of a priority to be consistent? Are we dedicated enough to show up on time, even if we don’t feel like it? Not just with our prayer time. What about with church? I get frustrated watching people walk into church part way into the worship service and don’t even give it a second thought. Let me just call it what it is: it is being fickle. We don’t dare show up late for work, but with God it is no big deal. If that is our attitude, if we don’t make God our priority and don’t care if we make or miss our appointments with him, we should not be surprised when God passes us by and does not answer our prayers. God is “amen.” He is faithful, trustworthy, consistent, and never late. If we want to meet God, and if we want him to answer our prayers, we too should be faithful, trustworthy, consistent, and never late. It is not about routine, though discipline does help. It is about letting your yes be ‘yes’ and your no be ‘no’.

Why are we fickle? One of the key reasons is that we are selfish. We are only interested in what we think will help us and are not truly interested in God’s agenda. James said one of the reasons why our prayers are not answered is because we ask amiss. We pray for something that we will use for our own selfish purposes. We must be very careful about this because three different things could happen. The first is God simply does not answer and we should consider ourselves blessed when this is all that happens.

The second thing that could happen is God does answer the prayer. It happened to Israel in two notable incidents. In 1 Samuel 8, Israel asked for a king and God gave them one. They got Saul who did not turn out to be a very good king. The other one was in Numbers 11. The Israelites complained about the manna God provided and wanted quail. So God gave them quail, so much to last them a month. However God cursed them with it. God may answer our misguided, selfish prayers and curse us for it.

The third thing comes from a quote from a local author and youth leader Gregory Reid.

"We must pray according to the will of God precisely because God is not the only one answers prayer. You heard that right. If you pray for yourself or others out of the direct and explicit will of God, or meddle with prayers in others' lives, there are plenty of demons more than happy to take your unbiblical or misplaced prayers and ‘answer’ them." (Gregory Reid: War of the Ages, pg 134-135)

Yes, this is a scary proposition. Satan and his minions are capable of answering our prayers, especially if they are not in agreement with what God wants. It happened with Ahab. He wanted Naboth’s vineyard and a very unfriendly source answered that prayer in his wicked wife, Jezebel.

There is one other type of selfish prayer we make that I will address. And this gets to poke me a bit more. Earlier this year, I wrote two posts about “Getting Slighted” and “Do Not Doubt in the Dark.” I was addressing a situation with my job where I was given a far greater workload than my job description called for, when I should have been simply given the job I was doing. I am a substitute teacher now and I was teaching physics, doing the job of a full time teacher last year. I do believe my administration did not properly handle the situation, however, God had to deal with me before he could deal with them.

That job had become an idol in my heart. I wanted that job and I believe I earned it. Others believe I earned it. However, I did not handle that situation the right way in my heart. I had an idol in my heart. When we have idols in our hearts, we will not be able to pray properly in accordance to God’s will. God had constantly told me about Joseph’s time in Egypt and I tried to listen but it did not click. When I realized this job had become an idol, it all started making sense. I was not seeking what God wanted in my life. I wanted that job. I was not doing my assigned job to the best of my ability because I wanted the title. And I had to do something I did not want to do: apologize to my principal for my attitude, when she did not know about it (to my knowledge).

Why do our prayers not get answered? The problem lies with us, not with God. Every time. God is never at fault when prayers go unanswered. Many times we do not understand why they went unanswered. Sometimes we do not know why things happen the way they do. Next week, I will address how to handle situations that we do not understand and how to pray them through.

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