Sermon for January 20, 2013 – Pastor Rick McKinniss
Sermon for January 27, 2013 – Pastor Wesley Zinn
Kingdom Communication: Prayer
The following question was submitted in response to Pastor Wesley's sermon. While the circumstances that led to the question are unique, many have wondered the same thing. Pastor Wesley's reply follows.
When I was a teenager I lived in South America for a year. One day, my brother, sister and I came home from school. My brother took a bath downstairs and I took one upstairs. My brother got carbon monixide posioning. The heaters were connected and there was no smell of gas. We didn't know what was happening. We found him passed out in the bath tub. My parents called their friends and asked for prayer. The short story is that my brother lived. My parents were very sure that if it hadn't been for the prayers of all their friends, etc., my brother would not have lived.
My question is this: What difference does it make if one person prays or a bunch of people pray? God hears one person's prayers just like he hears many people's prayers. I believe God hears my prayers and that God will answer according to his will. Didn't my brother live because it was Gods will? He didn't live because we impressed God with multiple prayers, that some how we impressed God with all the poeple that prayed for him. It is not something I understand.
Thank you for your question. It is a question that many people have, and one that we do not have a black and white answer for. However, I did make reference to this matter in my message, so let me elaborate.
You may recall that I said that our prayers have never answered a single one of our needs or requests. It is the Lord our Father who answers them, and our prayers are our communication to him. Therefore, prayers by themselves are not a commodity or a resource to pile on heaven or pile on God until he must respond.
At the same time, the Lord does request and even require our prayers. The model of Jesus is to routinely go to the Father with prayer. He instructs us to do so. So the distinction needs to be where our hearts are. When we go to the Father in prayer, if we think that we are demanding or begging, we are missing the loving heart of a Father. Even when we go repeatedly to the Father, we are not trying to wear him down. Rather, we are sharing our deep feeling or desire with him. Even though he knows before we pray what we are to pray, we are engaging with his compassionate heart and his power to answer our prayers. The difference may look the same on the outside, but God always connects with us from the inside. He wants our heart.
There are many reasons why prayers are answered and not answered. And of those reasons, we only have insight in a limited capacity, so there is plenty we don't understand. But we do know is that we do not demand of the Father, but we should come to him as a child in need.
My perspective with seeking out others to pray on our behalf should fit the same model. First of all, it is appropriate and even instructed in Scripture that we intercede for others. Also, when a whole group of people intercede, they are standing as one in a powerful expression of a desperate need for the Father's involvement in our lives, or in a particular situation. Just as one person's prayer cries out to the Father, so do the many. But just as one person must be praying in a connection with the Father heart of God and not in a demanding or controlling or manipulative way, the same is true with a whole group of people. I believe the truth is that many prayers that are sincere can move the heart of our father. I also believe that we can fall into the trap that if we get enough people praying we will somehow tip the scales and force God to act. That is the false mindset that I was trying to break down in my message.
Now to your brother's example. You are right that God hears your prayers and can answer you individually. In fact, Scripture says that he knows our hearts even before we pray, so it's not even about what is said. Could God have answered one person's prayer for your brother? Sure. The fact is he even could have intervened and not even have had the problem happened in the first place. I think it's the wrong question sometimes to figure out why God moved the way he did. That assumes that he's not moving before or after. For instance, was the Lord involved in finding your brother before he actually had died? Was it the mercy of the Lord that had him found in time to rescue him (through natural means and through prayer)? So why God chose to rescue him, and how he chose to rescue him, and when he chose to rescue are questions we can't always answer.
This is my assessment: the Lord rescued your brother! We praise him and thank him for that. Were prayers a part of the dynamics in the experience that happened? Absolutely. Scripture says that the prayers of believers accomplish much. The desperate cry of your parents to reach out to their friends is simply all part of the emotional and compassionate appeal for their son. I suspect that some of those who prayed, or even your parents themselves believe that they tipped the scales with many prayers. I don't believe that is true, but I do believe that many people praying have an impact on the Father's heart. Passion for the Lord's help and compassion for your brother was combined with faith in God. And the Lord's will was part of the dynamics as well.
Now that I've made everything very muddy, let me try to synthesize my response:
- God invites us to pray, to share our concerns and needs with him. He understands our hearts and our pleas even before we voice them.
- Many people gathered in a compassionate appeal is a multiplication of that desperate cry out to our father. Some of those prayers will be full of faith and others may not.
- The Father is sovereign and has a will, but if he invites us to pray that he may move on our behalf, then we have to believe both in his sovereignty and in his desire for us to communicate and even cry out to him for his involvement in our lives.
- I'm glad there is no formula to prayer but rather there is an invitation to allow the reality of God into our reality. Bottom line, that is what happened with your brother. In whatever way, God's reality came into your family's reality that day in a dramatic way.