7 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

The Power of Daily Prayer

Prayer is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to spend time with God praising Him, thanking Him for all that He has done, and bringing our anxieties, needs, and concerns before His throne. Prayer is not a burden to God; He seeks worshipers, John 4:23. Jesus urges us to pray and taught His disciples how to pray, Matthew 6:5-13. Paul promised peace to the believer who cast all anxiety into the care of God in Philippians 4:6-7:

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through the scriptures and history, great men and women of faith devoted themselves to prayer and trusted its power.  It’s no wonder Paul urges Christians to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.Pray

Obstacles to Daily Prayer

It is perplexing that some Christians confess to not praying daily or forgetting to pray when its blessings are obvious. Some obstacles I have observed:

  1. Start the day focused on tasks and problems instead of praying before facing the demands of life
  2. Little trust that God will answer our prayers because they doubt that prayer is effective despite what the Bible teaches
  3. Can’t figure out how God will answer their prayers or are disappointed when God doesn’t answer the way they want or expect

We must remember that God will hear His children and He answers prayers through wisdom giving us what we need. Sometimes what we want is opposite of what is best for us. Sometimes we are asking for things opposed to His will, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12,  prayed repeatedly for one outcome but rejoiced the outcome God chose for him as it made him stronger spiritually. God is not a genie to grant our every wish; He is our Father who wants what is best for us and acts out of love for our greater good even when we can’t see or appreciate it at the moment.

6 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

Understanding the blessing and power of daily prayer, when Christians fail to act on that belief they are telling God several things:

  1.  You are not important to me or a priority in my life
  2. I do not have time for you
  3. I do not want to spend time with you
  4. I can handle things without you
  5. I do not believe that you can impact the things I am facing in my life
  6. I have nothing of which to thank or praise you
  7. I can take advantage of our relationship and use you only when I am in trouble or need

Five Principles for a Focused Life

Dart boardDanger lurks in the soil of your heart. The Parable of the Sower (or Soils) tells of hearts that will not entertain thoughts of God’s word and good hearts that bear great harvests when His word is implanted (Matthew 13).  Some hearts are shallow and bear faith that will wither when troubles arise. But there is another heart that I must vigilantly prevent being in me: the distracted heart. Jesus described a heart in which the word grew for a time but thorns also grew in the heart and choked out the word. This is the heart that “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22). Distractions are a persistent danger to God’s people and have always threatened us. How can we protect ourselves?

Hear a sermon I preached on Five Principles for a Focused Life

Five Principles for a Focused Life

1. Don’t let prosperity separate you from God

Wealth brings worries and burdens. Solomon wrote of the many hands that rise to claim the wealth of others in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20.  Many rise to get their part of the wealth: accountants, lawyers, government, friends, and family. A bigger house, multiple cars, and many possessions require insurance to protect and people to clean and maintain them. More money doesn’t guarantee relief but often more problems. Lottery winners (Tampa Bay Online) Noreene and James Gordon, a north Tampa homemaker and a retired textile worker, claimed the February 2000 Florida Lotto jackpot of $52.4 million. They chose a one-time lump sum payment of $24 million. Things have changed since then. “It’s a nightmare,” she said recently, with friends and strangers knocking and calling for a chunk of her prize. “They don’t want a piece,” she said. “They want it all.” Her husband died in 2006, and she has suffered three strokes since the windfall. “People come out of the walls to take advantage of you every day of your life,” she said before ending the short telephone interview.

Wealth and comfort can separate you from God. This was a problem with Israel: Deuteronomy 8:5-14, 17-20. God described, in great detail, the great blessing of the Promised Land but concluded with a warning that they would forget Him in the good times. They would become complacent in the daily care of their homes and land and forget to serve Him. Pride can accompany prosperity: we think we have done this on our own and that, down deep, we can do fine without God. This was the danger Jesus identified in the Parable of the Sower: maintaining our prosperity and handling the details of daily life can choke out our faith.

This is a threat for all of us. This is not addressed to the “super rich” or the vilified 1% in America—it is the average American. The average American income, and even poverty level income, is much higher than the rest of the world. The poorest of us are very wealthy compared to the world. We have garages that are bigger than the whole living space of many people. We have garages and attics full of unused possessions, clothes filling our closets, and refrigerators, freezers, and pantries full of food. Our children have luxury items and people still do not seem to be satisfied or content. There are people in the US and other wealthy countries who complain about luxuries they have when others are living in abject poverty with absolutely nothing. It is the everyday American living comfortably who has to make sure that he does not forget God.

2. Don’t let adversity separate you from God

Job 14:1 describes man’s days as few and full of troubles. Trials and adversity should produce good fruits in the Christian’s life. James encourages us to “count it joy when you fall into various trials” because of the fruits produced, James 1:2-8, 12. Joy in not our first natural reaction and we should pray for wisdom to understand how to learn and grow from our trials. It is through trials that we receive patience, trust, dependence on God, and appreciation of His care. Trials help us sever our relationship with this troublesome world and grow homesick for heaven where all will be made new and no suffering abides.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described a heart that withered during persecution and trial, symbolized by the sun. Yet the sun, shining over the good soil, nurtured a great crop. Trials that withered the shallow heart helped the good heart to grow and bear fruit!  Trials and adversity are a part of life, it is how we handle them that determines whether they will crush us or strengthen us.

Jim happened to meet the minister on the street one day, and during the conversation told him of all the troubles he had had during the past year. He wound up with: “I tell you right now, preacher, it’s enough to make a man lose his religion.” “Seems to me, Jim,” the minister told him quietly, “it’s enough to make a man use his religion.” Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Trials reveal the genuineness of our faith, 1 Peter 1:7. We must remember that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

3. Trust God with the unknown things

We must realize that God’s greatness and wisdom exceeds ours and there are so many things in His domain of operation that we can’t grasp or know but trust that He has it in control. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us “the secret things belong to God.”

People spend much fruitless energy trying to identify with certainty the things that operate in God’s realm. Unless God explicitly reveals His actions, it is presumptuous of me to say “God did THIS.” Give glory to God that whether by chance or His purpose, the action took place but in humility remember that “His ways are past finding out.”

I don’t have to know how God will answer my prayers, I have to trust in Him to give all things to Him. God’s word promises peace to those who give everything into His care, Philippians 4:6-7. We often do not have peace because we do not really trust God to take care of our concerns or we insist on taking the burden back from Him. Peter tells us to cast all of our anxiety on God; an act of faith in His love, care, and ability to do something about that which is causing us anxiety, 1 Peter 5:6-7. This approach allows us to embrace the next principle.

4. Trust God to make all things work out for good

God promises that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. This is a promise of God and I trust that He can do this even when I don’t know how He will do it and when I don’t see how He could make it happen. He is the master designer of a grand work of art and I am one of many artisans toiling on my very small part of the whole. If I do what I’m supposed to do God will make it part of something much larger and more beautiful.

Funny how we label things “bad” and “good” (sleep, day, events) when, in time, our labels may reverse. Some people lose a job but it opens doors to a great career. Some people get a terrible disease “bad” but attribute it to giving them a better appreciation for their loved ones and the little things in life and bringing them closer to God. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was an atheistic Russian writer who was imprisoned in a Russian forced labor camp (Gulag) but emerged with a belief in God and wrote, “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

Don’t try to look for God’s fingerprints in your life, just trust that He is there and He works all things in your life for the good.

5. Remember heaven is worth every sacrifice

The word pictures in places like Revelation 2:1-5; 12-15; 21:1-4 remind us that God has prepared a place of rest that exceeds our imagination and dreams and is worth any sacrifice needed to get there. Like other great men and women of faith, when we focus on living with God eternally, we lose our grip on the things of this world as we grasp heavenly treasures, Hebrews 10:32-39. Considering the glory of living with God forever, Paul says nothing should separate us from it, Romans 8:18, 31-39.

Live a life not trusting in riches but trusting God, standing strong in trial, and casting anxieties on Him looking forward to eternally living with Him.

God Gives Me Songs in the Night

In the still of the night loneliness and sorrow can envelop us. But God gives Christians songs in the night when they seek him in their sorrow. The perspective of Psalm 42 is someone in distress. As is often the case in the Psalms, the writer trusted in God’s deliverance though he had to endure suffering at the hands of his enemies.

Though he was in sorrow, he wanted to enjoy pleasant times with the Lord again. He fondly remembered how he led the multitude in praise as they made pilgrimages to God’s house. He eagerly desired God’s company as a deer longs for the water. After a big meal neither food nor drink are appealing. When one is feeling self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and at ease he does not hunger and thirst for God—he does not need the Father. However, when one is suffering, broken down, and weary, he acutely feels the pain for God’s presence and comfort.

The psalmist did not thirst for God’s word but for God Himself. It appears that his enemies had hindered his ability to come to the house of God and worship. Just as a young couple eagerly desires one another’s company and seeks every opportunity to be with one another, so one who truly enjoys fellowship with God will hunger for opportunities to join with Him in prayer, study and worship. Though he was suffering, he could still see the kindness of God in the daytime and sing songs as darkness enveloped him in the night.

Think about this comforting theme: God gives us songs during dark times. The phrase “songs in the night” appears a few times in scriptures and indicates confidence in God in the middle of dark times.

  • Job 35:9-10 – Job’s friend, Elihu, told of the confidence of the oppressed who cry to God and receive songs in the night
  • Psalm 77:1-6 – The psalmist reflected on a time when God answered him though he had to suffer some sleepless nights; yet even in his despair he had songs in the night.
  • Psalm 149:5 encourages saints to sing loudly on their beds

When we are enduring trials or sorrows, we often lie on our beds staring at the ceiling and praying for help and answers. Though despair has driven sleep from us, God is ever near. It is often in the silence and loneliness of the darkness that we realize how much we depend upon God and that in suffering we see Him more clearly. John Michael Talbot said, “I can look back at my darkest periods and realize that these were the times when the Lord was holding me closest. But I couldn’t see his face because my face was in his breast—crying.”

In the darkness of pain and despair we can find a song of love, praise, and comfort from our God. Acts 16:20-25 records how Paul and Silas were severely beaten and cast into the depths of a Phillippian jail. It would be understandable if Paul and Silas moaned about their beating, complained to God, and wallowed in self-pity yet late into the night they were singing praises to God. They were following the example of Jesus who, before spending the night in agonizing prayer and going to the cross, sang a hymn with His apostles, Matthew 26:30.

Before the Civil War, as slaves labored in the field and endured beatings, separated families, poor living conditions, and all of the indignities associated with oppression they sang spiritual songs of praise and deliverance. It is a challenge to sing songs in the night when you are enveloped with despair and feel that your suffering is unfair.

How can we sing songs in the night?
First, we must trust in God’s love and care. God as our shepherd can comfort us even when the suffering is the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23:4. We can have confidence in His comforting presence for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

We must seek strength from God. Paul urged us to be strong in God’s power, Ephesians 6:10. We must not depend so much on our own strength. This is also when we need to allow others to help us bear our burdens. God is intimately concerned about us, Luke 12:6-7, and will not keep His strength from us if we request it.

We must also realize that there will be times of joy and sorrow. Times of sorrow help us appreciate the good times. The timeless wisdom of Solomon reminds us to enjoy the good days because the dark days will come, Ecclesiastes 7:14. He further reminds us, in Ecclesiastes 11:3-8, that some things are out of our control and some things are within our control. We must do what we can do and leave the rest to the wisdom of God.

God can only give His children songs in the night. Those who have rejected Him or Christians who are rebelling against Him will only have anxiety and worry for they know that God will punish them if they do not repent. To sing songs in the night, one must have peace and true peace can only come through obedience to God.

Working With God To Relieve Suffering

In the grand questions of how a good God can permit suffering, sometimes we forget that man can stop or help relieve the suffering of his fellow man. In all suffering, God is present if we will seek Him.

OTHER ARTICLES:

  1. How Can  A Good God Permit Suffering
  2. Man Creates Much of His Suffering

It is easy to see how man, through his greed for power and material wealth, ignorance, or acting based on “acceptable risks” creates situations that brings suffering upon himself and others. Some suffer terrible diseases or physical problems because they do not exercise, eat properly, or continue in other bad habits that have been proved to hurt the body. Man clearly has a hand in much of the suffering in this world.

Where Were You When Others Suffered?

However, man also can be a power to relieve suffering or provide comfort in a time of need. In the face of disasters some ask “Where was God?” but a question equal, or perhaps of greater significance is “Where is man?” In every suffering there is an opportunity to be compassionate and responsive. During the Judean famine of the first century churches throughout the world who were not suffering famine were able to provide assistance. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 13-15, the wealthy brethren helped their needy brethren to provide food during this time of deprivation. Involved in this action is the understanding that the Judean Christians would have the opportunity to repay that kindness when they helped other Christians during their suffering.

I have forgotten the source of this great quote: “In some kind of suffering that befalls man, I am afraid to ask ‘Why didn’t God do anything about it’ for fear that he will ask the same thing of me!” A story told by Stanley Jones illustrates this well:

A wealthy farmer prayed in his family circle that his unfortunate neighbors might not starve. When they arose from their knees, his little girl said to him, ‘Daddy, you needn’t have bothered God with that, for you can quite easily keep them from starving’

The question is less about what can the church, government, or society do to address a problem to the practical “what can I do to address this need?” He who curses the darkness could light a candle

Be Careful Not To Blame God

We have to be careful about the role we assign to God. Unless He explicitly states through His word what He has done, we are only speculating–and often terribly–about His actions. Sometimes people try to account for God during sufferin in a way that opens up more criticism. For example, an email that circulated after the September 11th attacks said that God “held up the towers while the people escaped.” If your loved one was one of the 2,830 who died, would you not be angry and wonder why God held it up long enough for many to escape but did not continue holding it up until all could escape? Why did He let it go when He did? Why not create obstacles for all the people (cancelled flights, etc.) so no one had to die? When we begin down this road, we come to some illogical and unscriptural conclusions.

I see this type of ignorance when people try to explain the death of a child. A well-meaning person tries to comfort the sibling by saying God wanted his little brother so much that He took him to heaven. In a misguided effort to provide comfort they terrify a kid and make him scared of God. Who knows when He’ll be back to get another one of us? Good intent; terrible approach. Better to understand that death is just a part of life and enjoy the comfort that while the death of the child was unfortunate, that God is comforting and caring for the child now.

Similarly, we must not assume that suffering on an individual or national level is the result of the judgment of God. We do “reap what we sow” and “our sins will find us out.” However, sometimes we suffer as a consequence of the action of others or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God allowed Job to suffer many things as the devil sought to lure him away, but Job’s friends falsely claimed that he was suffering as a result of some sin. When Jesus and the apostles discussed some Jews killed by Pilate and eighteen people killed when a tower collapsed He did not blame their fate on sin, but told them that the dead were no worse sinners than anyone else (Luke 13:1-5). In John 9:1-3, Jesus rebuked the foolish question of whether the sin of a man or his parents led to his blindness. It is better not to blame God for suffering that may be simply the result of chance or natural consequences of one’s actions.

Where is God When Others Suffer?

It is easy to find God during suffering if we will open our eyes. He has entered the suffering with us and can strengthen us. God in the flesh had compassion on the lepers, forgave the immoral who repented with broken spirits, groaned in His spirit at the sorrow of Lazarus’ loved ones and wept with them, suffered rejection and violence at the hands of wicked men, was spat upon, beaten, and mocked, abandoned by his friends, and died a slow agonizing death on a cross of shame. Hebrews 5:5-9 tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering and is sympathetic to our pain.God can make “all things work together for good” for those who love Him, Romans 8:28. People find strength in suffering. Some learn compassion and become selfless. Some learn humility. Sometimes a small tragedy energizes a community to create laws or systems that prevent greater tragedies in the future. All suffering helps us to look forward to an eternal home where suffering is absent.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Where is God? He has entered into our suffering and grief and can give us strength to endure and use us to relieve the suffering of others until the day when we rise to live with Him in a world without suffering.

Man Creates Much of His Suffering

Suffering Series: Second Article
First Article: How Can A Good God Permit Suffering
Next Article: Working With God to Relieve Suffering

Before we look at man’s role in his own suffering, let’s examine God’s power. Some theologians take the approach of Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi who lost his son at an early age to a cruel and debilitating disease. God is infinitely good, Kushner concluded in his immensely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), but He is not all-powerful. We do know God cannot do anything that is inconsistent with his nature (lie) nor that is contradictory or absurd like create square circles. However, the powerlessness Kushner describes is not the God revealed in the Bible.

Restrained power

Though God could relieve all suffering, certain characteristics of man would suffer: loss of free will (if no opportunity to rebel—which brings suffering), weakened faith and hope, and little desire for heaven. Parents often exercise this restraint of power when they allow their children to suffer accidents, etc. so that they may learn on their own and develop character and perseverance. The world was created with the possibility of suffering and allows it to take place in the natural order: he does not decree it. As one author noted, “If I give my boy a pair of roller skates, I immediately make it possible for him to get a bad bump. That is a very different thing from taking him by the neck and banging his head upon the ground.” (Weatherhead)

Sinful People Inflict Suffering On Others

God has created a world capable of blessing and cursing, compassion and hatred, ease and suffering, benevolence and malevolence, good and evil. In His power God created a good world but when man sinned the world was corrupted and pain and suffering were introduced into the creation. 

Suffering was a byproduct of sin and rebellion, not a product of God’s positive creative action. Much suffering is brought about because man has used the good things of earth to oppress and subjugate his fellow man or has amassed control over these good things to the destitution and poverty of his fellow man.

Those who have moved a lot are very familiar with U-Haul trucks and have been glad to rent them to move to areas of great opportunity.Fertilizer is a great substance which allows us to enhance our food production and feed many who would otherwise starve. However, Timothy McVeigh filled a U-Haul truck with fertilizer and some other chemicals and blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City killing many and injuring many others. We would not think the U-Haul company or fertilizer manufacturers diabolical nor think they are not good because someone misused their products to destroy others. 

God commands us to live holy lives. Standards such as described in Galatians 5:19-21 explain how God wants us to live:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Think how this world would be if everyone did what God wanted them to do as expressed in Galatians 5

  1. Would we have murder in the world if people would not hate their fellow man or be bitter or malicious?
  2. Would we have the sexual diseases that have killed so many if people were pure until married then faithful until death?
  3. Would we have the pain and suffering of broken homes if people remained faithful and truly loved one another as Christ loved the church?
  4. Would we use locks and burglar alarms if no one was covetous and there were no thieves?

All of the chaos of our world is brought on by those who reject the law of God and will not submit themselves to Him. We have to live in such as world so we may directly or indirectly suffer at the hands of wicked people. It would be unfair for God to force people to do what is right; it would take away from our humanity. We must not implicate God for the product of men’s evil arising from their free will.

Man’s Role in Natural Disasters

Sometimest he decisions of people create suffering associated with natural disasters. Many natural disasters have become tragedies due to short-sighted or negligent decison making.

  • Hurricane damage to property on barrier islands such as Santa Rosa Island (Gulf Shores and Orange Beach). Barrier islands exist to absorb damaging waves and surges.
  • Many have lost their lives and more have lost their homes and businesses because they built on flood plains—large expanses of land that contain and absorb excess water from rain and runoff.
  • Volcanoes erupt and houses built close to them will be destroyed.
  • Forest fires are a natural way in which forests are cleared of underbrush and allow new growth to emerge yet when men build close to the forest they may suffer from this natural occurrence.

Sometimes the political wranglings of nations create tragedies. In the Asian Tsunami of 2005 a record earthquake was recorded so one should expect a large tsunami. The tsunami ravaged areas that were built right up to the coastline and destroyed shanty towns that were built on the coast because financially other options were closed to them. People had suggested and proposed building a tsunami warning system for the Asian nations but no one funded it or started it. The Asian nations, many of whom are hostile to one another, did not seriously pursue building warning system until this disaster.

Acceptable Risks

People know that making certain decisions can increase their chance of being in a situation that can lead to suffering, pain, and even death. It is no secret that Japan exists on a major earthquake fault zone (as does California). However, the residents of these areas choose to live there because they consider the benefits outweigh the higher than normal risks of disaster. To their credit, these cities have tried to build structures to resist all but the most violent earthquakes and provide tsunami warning systems. But, as the events of 2011 have shown, sometimes events occur that overwhelm these preparations and people suffer.

We know that a high number of injuries and deaths result from car accidents. Yet most of us consider it an acceptable risk to drive anyway. I have a thirty minute commute to work–which increases my chances of an accident–because the benefits of living in my community outweigh those risks. If I am involved in an accident it would be foolish to blame God for my suffering since I made the decisions that increased the likelihood of the accident.

Suffering is just part of the human condition. In the final article we’ll examine where God is during times of suffering and where we should be.