How About Today?

     These true stories are not the accounts of people distressed in war, poverty, pain, or persecution.  They are just a microscopically few incidents of the hand of God intervening in the affairs of mankind.

     They teach the lesson of trust in God in times of trial and trouble.  But more important than faith in God in difficult times and situations is complete confidence in the Creator in the everyday affairs of life.  When the Almighty will step in and help in emergencies, He surely can be depended upon for guidance, comfort, and assistance in the normal duties of life.

     In other words, the intervention of God in climactic events only serves the more to give mankind a picture of His behind-the-scenes-operation and administration in behalf of the occupants of planet Earth even during the calm occurrences.  The dramatic on-the-spot, miraculous deliverances are the exception, not the rule, of God’s overall full-time work for human beings.  It is an around-the-clock operation with no breaks or time outs.  And this never ceasing concern is not limited to any particular race, color, or creed.  He loves all mankind and wants to see every man, woman, and child one day make it into the kingdom of heaven as a born-again believer, and lover of Him, His Son and His Holy Spirit.  But tragically, the majority will not accept His great plan of salvation, follow His teachings, nor allow Him to lead in their lives.

     How do you insure that you are of the most highly privileged people ever created?  How do you make sure that you are one day soon to be escorted away from this sinful, sick and diseased, depraved and unhappy, war-torn world up into the peaceful paradise of God?

     How can you have that “connection” with God?

     How can you have answers to your prayers?

     How can you see things such as these in this book become a reality in your own life?

     An old man operated a shoe repair shop with a young apprentice.  The apprentice had become an outstanding musician by simply playing his harp as he worked the long hours in the humble store.  He had acquired such an art with his harp that he could almost make it talk.

     The shoe repairman was deaf.  He wrote a note on a brown paper bag to a customer.  Having heard about his accomplishments, the visitor was eager to hear the boy in person.  The repairman walked over to the boy, picked up the harp and made the motions with his hands that told the young harpist that the customer wanted to hear him play.  And play he did!

     While he was filling that shop with enchanting music, the old man picked up an old poker lying beside the stove.  He placed one end of it between his teeth and the other on the harp as the lad played it.  The old man’s face lit up with delight.

     Afterwards, the customer also wrote on the old brown paper bag, asking if the man had actually heard the sounds that way.

     The man replied on the backside of the paper bag with these written words: “All that you heard, I heard.”

     That piece of metal took the sound from the harp to the old man’s teeth, and from his teeth to his brain.

     By the same token, prayer is the method that we get in touch with God, and through which he produces “music” in our lives.  But to have this God-given “music” we must put forth the effort and make use of the medium God has given us.  That is, we have got to pray.

     Since many, many people have not found the method too successful in times past there is no “music being produced in their lives.  Despite all the claims of others of answered prayers and direct interventions by God in their behalf, it just did not work for them.  So, needless to say, they are not trying to pray.  Prayer is an art that they simply did not master.

     But since prayer is an art, and this is the art of happy, and holy living, one of the best ways to acquire the art is to look at why and how it did not work for others and maybe even you.

     Since the Bible has statement after statement about the benefits of prayer, and since it also contains promise after promise that prayer would be answered, every unanswered prayer has got to be attributed to the one who prays [or tries to pray], rather than to God.  Look closely at the reasons for unsuccessful prayer.  There are many, but not all apply to every person.  It is a matter of ”if the shoe fits, wear it.”

     In Psalms 66:18, one vital reason for praying in vain is listed this way, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

     “Iniquity”, is anything that is evil, it can be more than unrighteousness, crime, murder, and theft.  You can be a solid law-abiding, well-respected, and admired citizen and still be guilty of regarding evil in your heart.

     In Ezekiel 14:3, there is a statement that throws real light on this subject of iniquity.  It states that “idolatry” is the stumbling block of iniquity.  Idolatry is the loving and adoring of anything or anyone more than God.  It is placing these things first before God, in our thoughts and affections.  But there is more.

     The Bible says if I regard iniquity….” That is, if I cherish or look with real interest on these things, then my prayer is in vain.  And it goes on to say that “If I regard iniquity in my heart….” So, if I cherish bad feelings, concoct bad plans, or indulge in secret sins, “the Lord will not hear me.”

     Isaiah 59:2 reveals that these things remove the iron poker, the medium between God and man.  Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”

     So in order for God to be merciful to us we have to be merciless in dealing with our “iniquities”—our sins!  Sin will either kill prayer or prayer will kill sin.

     One sure way, then, of having a direct and active communication with our God is to acknowledge our sins, uncover our iniquities, confess our transgressions to Him, and work diligently, and ask persistently for help, with our hearts to keep them pure and clean.

     David did all this and could honestly say, in Psalms 32:5 “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” That is why you read so many of his prayers in the Bible.

     Another cause of praying in vain can be found in improper goals.

     In James 4:2 and 3, unholy and improper goals cause the vanity of some prayers.  Look at the way it is spelled out: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

     Since the word “amiss” in its original Greek is “wickedly,” God is saying through James that it is wicked to pray for things for mere selfish gratification.  The phraseology may be right while the motive may be wrong.”

     Jesus recognized the wrong motive in a beautifully phrased request from the mother of James and John.  She wanted the Lord to allow her two sons to sit on Christ’s left and right hand in the kingdom.  Jesus immediately saw that it was a selfish motive.

     In the book of Acts, a man named Simon wanted the power of the Holy Spirit, which is a most worthy desire.  But he wanted it for a commercial purpose.  Simon even offered a large sum of money to Peter if he would give him that power.  Peter saw his motive and said, “Thy money perish with thee…. Thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”

     It is quite interesting that the Revised Standard Version of the Bible uses the word “pleasures” instead of “lusts” in quoting James.  In other words, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss [wickedly], that ye may consume it upon your [sinful] pleasures.”

     God knows that it is for your own good that He not grant our requests when they fall into this category.  Sinful pleasures can never bring true and lasting happiness, so why should He give them to us?  Granting us our selfish request would be like our giving our child a sharp knife to play with.  Giving us our unholy desires would be like giving our wives or husbands a slow-acting poisoned drink.  God refuses to answer such prayers because, in the long run, we will learn that it was for our benefit.

     Another factor leading to unanswered prayer is an unforgiving spirit.

     Jesus said, “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  And this cuts across the grain of so many, many professed Christians.  To forgive someone else seems almost impossible.

     “I can’t forgive” is an expression that is repeated over and over again everywhere you go.  Regardless of where it is found, it is always coming from an imperfect Christian.

     “I just can’t forgive him. What he did to me hurt so badly it almost made me leave the church.  I can’t forgive him because he hasn’t even made as much as a feeble effort to try to apologize, much less make it right.”  As difficult as this is to accept, it is not the job of the one who did the hurting to make the first step towards reconciliation, but the one who was hurt.  Jesus said that when you pray to “forgive, if ye have aught against any.”  And just to make sure that there was no misunderstanding, he worded it again this way: “If… thy brother hath aught against thee, first be reconciled to thy brother.”

     A newspaper in London, in the days of the telegraph, had a private wire connecting the Edinburgh office with theirs.  This way they could get all the latest news from the Scottish Athens.  One night the clerk who was gathering up the news to take back to the office in London got there after it had been closed for the night.  He had no key and could not get in.

     One clerk, working at night, was up in the fourth floor in a closed office and could not hear the knocking at the door downstairs.  He came up with an ingenious idea.

     He went to the telegraph office and sent a message to the Edinburgh office telling them of his situation.  Then he returned to the building to wait at the entrance door.  In less than twenty minutes he was upstairs at his desk typing.

     Please notice this: The shortest way to get at the man in the fourth story was by the way of Edinburgh.

     Please notice this even more: The shortest way to God is by that offending brother or sister’s house.

     Another cause of unanswered prayer is disobedience to God’s Word.

     Many years ago, wise old Solomon said, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”  God’s law was divinely thought out, divinely penned, and divinely appointed.  It was given for all times for all people.

     In the British Museum, the Magna Charta is on display.  The Magna Charta is the declaration of representation of the common people of England.  The world’s Magna Charta is the Ten Commandments.  They are unchangeable.  Contempt for them is contempt for their Author.  Indifference to their teaching is indifference and insult to the One who framed their precepts.

     Is it logical that God will answer the prayers and grant favors to anyone who refuses to do what God requests?  In Zechariah’s day, God refused to hear the people when calamity came because they “refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder and stopped their ears.”

     Disobedience paralyzes prayer.  A disobedient person’s prayer reaches a deaf God.

     David declares that God is nigh “to all that call upon Him in truth.”  To pray while not heeding God’s clear commands in an open Bible is to become odious to God.  Our petitions are detested when His Word is rejected.  A loving, answering God depends upon our attitude to His truth.  Without a knowledge of the truth, and a life conformed to it, prayer, other than for that knowledge and for power to conform to it, is useless and worthless.

     A real factor contributing to the futility in prayer is the lack of belief.

     This is probably the greatest hindrance to complete communication with the Creator.  It creates the biggest stumbling block for humans.  It is quite difficult for the majority of church members to read and accept such passages as James 1:6&7, which says that we must “ask in faith” nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.”

     The possible with God is made impossible by man’s unbelief.

     Doubt kills prayer as frost kills buds.

     The difficulty with most church members is that they believe in God’s answering prayers, but have a great deal of doubt when it comes to answering their prayers.  A faithless prayer is actually a self-contradiction.  It acknowledges God’s ability to give, but it questions His willingness to give.  And this doubt is created by an overwhelming sense of our own unworthiness.  “Sure, God answered the prayers of Daniel, Moses, Paul and those godly men, but I’m not like them.  I don’t deserve God’s blessings.”

     Many sincere and earnest people, believing in an all-powerful and loving God who does answer prayer, just cannot bring themselves to accept the fact that the same God who worked miracles for Moses, David, and Paul will work again for them.  It is not just a low estimate of themselves; this feeling is actually a low estimate of God!  Like the moth in the cloth, it is destructive to any prayer.

     God not only can answer prayer, He really wants to!  Not only did he answer the prayers of godly Biblical characters, He will answer the prayers of believing post-Biblical characters.  He has not changed.  His mercy has not been diluted through the years.  His love and concern is actually more because our needs in these crucial, closing days of time are more.  He wants to carry us through this most sinful last chapter of earth’s history.  And, without taking away anything from the godly men of the Bible, God would love to help us even more and in even stronger ways now.

     When Joseph II became emperor of Austria in 1765, he undertook to right all wrong done to the people in times past.  To start, he renounced his inheritance of two million and applied it towards reducing the people’s heavy taxes.  Then he set up two hours every day when he would listen to anyone who had favors to ask or wrongs to be righted.

     He also would disguise himself as a citizen and walk among the people.  He wanted to get the pulse of the population and learn their needs and desires.  One morning, he met a girl who was crying.  She was on her way to sell her mother’s clothes, so she and her mother could have food.  He talked with her and learned that her father had been an officer in the army.  He asked her why she did not appeal to the king to get her rightful pension.

     “Because,” she said, “folks say that the king is proud and would refuse a common citizen’s petition.”

     “But,” the disguised man replied, “don’t you know that from twelve to two daily, his cabinet is open for all?”

     “That is what people say,” she answered, “but none of us here believe it.”

     “My child,” the emperor said tenderly, “you’ve been deceived.  Go home and write out your needs, and at twelve come to the palace.  Here are some gold pieces which I’ll give you as an advance against the money you’ll get from the pension that’s sure to be granted.”

     At twelve that day the girl went to the palace, and was ushered into the presence of Joseph II.  He said, “You wish to see the emperor.  Well, I am he!”

     The girl uttered a cry of dismay and fell to her knees weeping.”

     “Rise, my child,” said the monarch.  “We should only kneel to God.  In the future your mother will have a pension, which at her death will be transferred to you.”

     Will God do less for us than the human and sinful monarch?  Not as long as we are in touch with Him.  It is when we are out of touch that our prayers are not heard and answered. 

     It is the job of every person who claims belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the hindrances that keep back vital and powerful answers to prayer.  These hindrances have got to be treated as the worst kind of spiritual enemies, and dealt with through heroic courage and determination.

     Then shall the kinds of things listed in this book become realities in our own lives, here and now, and we shall see our prayers bloom into the most beautiful and radiant communication with the Creator.  Then shall we have power with God and influence over men.

Let prayer

Go with you everywhere

To speak for you

Your soul’s desire,

To bid faith grow,

And hope aspire,

Amid the silences to speak,

Of joy when troubled,

Strength when weak

For burdens shrink

Mists appear.

Flowers live

And skies are blue and clear

And glory lights up care

Through prayer.