Can You Handle An Answered Prayer?
The following is a summary of my teaching on Sunday, September 18, 2016.
My teaching today is called "Can You Handle An Answered Prayer?" I borrowed this title from chapter 6 of H.B. Charles Jr.'s book on prayer, It Happens After Prayer. That chapter is about the potential pitfalls of answered prayer. Today, I want to teach you how to handle the answers God gives us. He does not always give us what we expect or want. As a result, we might get frustrated or disappointed and that can rock our faith. I want to teach you how to deal with that.
Here's where we're headed today:
First, we'll talk about the pitfalls of answered prayer.
Then, we'll read a passage about answered prayer - 2 Corinthians 12.
Finally, we'll consider three protections for answered prayer.
A. THE PITFALLS OF ANSWERED PRAYER.
I remember when our son Michael was just a little boy. I remember being hyper vigilant about his safety - over protective. And getting worried about what he was putting in his mouth - choking hazards like beads, legos, teddybear eyes. Would you give a gob stopper to a one year old? Why not? It would be fatal.
And the Lord does not give us everything we ask for because it would be fatal. Fatal to our spiritual health, to our relationships, and so on. The Lord says to us: "I love you too much to give you that."
The Bible is full of dangerous answers to prayer. HB Charles describes three:
The people of Israel demanded God give them a king. The prophet Samuel warned them that it was a bad idea. They ignored him and the Lord gave them what they wanted. The line of kings that followed was overwhelmingly wicked and corrupt. Good prayer? (1 Samuel 8)
King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord to heal him. And the Lord did. In fact he gave him 15 additional years of health during which time he had a son - Manasseh. There was a definite downside to that answered prayer: Hezekiah was dominated by his pride. His son, Manasseh, also grew up into a godless man who led the nation away from God. Good prayer? (2 Kings 20-21)
When the mother of James and John made a request for their promotion. Jesus said to her, "You do not know what you ask." And that's how he thinks about many of our prayers - I’m sure he says to me, “You’re clueless Peter, don't you realize what would happen to you if I said yes to this?” (Matthew 20)
We can get pretty discouraged when God doesn't answer our prayers when and how we think he should. But maybe we should be grateful that he saves us from all kinds of trouble by not giving us what we want.
Anyone who is a parent or a teacher know how this works. Our children want all kinds of things that would not be good for them to have. I remember asking my folks to buy me a motorbike for my 16th birthday. Looking back, I’m so happy they said “no.” The last time I was on a motorbike I drove it into a ditch and it landed on me burning my leg.
B. A PASSAGE ABOUT ANSWERED PRAYER.
Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Now let’s talk about how to protect ourselves from answered prayers. We’re talking about how to stay in faith when we don’t get the answer we want or expect. Or we get the answer we want but it is potentially dangerous. There are three protections.
C. PROTECTIONS FOR ANSWERED PRAYER.
PROTECTION ONE: THE LORD HAS A PURPOSE FOR WHAT WE’RE GOING THROUGH - v. 7.
What is it we pray about most often? Our problems, right? We ask the Lord: “Get me out of trouble Lord. Give me enough money for this bill. Repair my broken marriage. Heal me.” And it's OK to pray that way. But ... as you pray, know this: The Lord has a good reason for you to be in this situation. You're not here by accident. The Lord GAVE Paul the thorn, the satanic messenger - verse 7. I heard Rick Warren preach, "God tests us before he blesses us."
God put Paul in a nasty conflict for a very good reason. verses 1-6 tells us that Paul had an incredible spiritual experience - a trip to heaven. Paul could have gone off the rails - "I'm a spiritual superstar! I don't need to stay faithful." But the Lord loved him too much to allow that. So he sent him a "thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass (literally, beat with fists) me to keep me from becoming conceited." - v. 7.
The thorn is a thick stick sharpened on one end - a weapon for killing people in a fight. God put Paul in a situation that would kill Paul's pride - conceit.
The messenger of Satan was a false apostle who turned the church against Paul and there was NOTHING PAUL COULD DO TO STOP IT.
Such difficulties would definitely kill Paul's pride about his trip to heaven. I can imagine him thinking, "I'm no super apostolic leader, I can't even get my church to work with me. I feel beaten down by this man.”
But the Lord kept Paul in the furnace because he knew the heat would forge Paul's godly faith and character.
God has a good reason for us to be in our difficult situations. And yes, it's OK to ask for him to get you out, but just know this: he might say no because he will use hardship to put in your heart what you need to handle what he's planning to put in your hands.
The Bible reminds us that the Lord "disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness." - Hebrews 12:10
PROTECTION TWO: THE LORD HAS POWER FOR WHAT WE’RE GOING THROUGH - v. 9.
When is God most real, most at work, most manifest in our lives? Is it when we're in charge, we're successful, we're all that? Look at verse 9. God said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9
That's how God reveals his grace to us. It’s when he says no. It’s when he lets us experience times of weakness, failure, impossible obstacles. Jesus entered the world in weakness - poverty, low status - so that it would be obvious what was doing the miracles - God's power. Jesus endured weakness at the cross in order to obtain powerful salvation for us.
Our weakness unleashes God's grace and power! If you stay in faith, in humility, in prayer, you will see God work in supernatural ways.
George Mueller of Bristol was a nineteenth century preacher in England. He had a burden for orphans so over the years he built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. After he died, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for by those influenced by Mueller’s example. Here’s the interesting insight: Mueller never asked for money for his orphanages. He prayed the Lord to open hearts and wallets. He wanted to show the world that God is faithful and hears our prayers for all the practical matters of life.
The point is: He deliberately lived on the edge where God’s power is perfected in us. He decided to be weak so that God would be strong.
That is the BEST place to be. Praying for breakthrough!!!!
Maybe we shouldn't pray to be released from the pressure. Maybe that's where we'll see God do his greatest work - for our good and his glory in the church/world.
General Joshua was given an “impossible” assignment to conquer the promised land. Only God could give victory and success. As he surveyed the terrain, the Lord spoke to him: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9 Basically, the Lord told Joshua, “My power is made perfect in your weakness. Step out in faith and watch what I can do for you.”
PROTECTION THREE: THE LORD HAS A PROGRAM FOR WHAT WE’RE GOING THROUGH - v. 8.
Paul was desperate and persistent in his prayers for relief: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” - verse 8.
Do you think that bugged God? Do you think the Lord rolled his eyes and sighed, ”Not again! This guy Paul is such a whiner! Go away.” Absolutely not. Persistence in prayer is good. It shows we know we need God. He likes that. The Lord Jesus prayed the same prayer prayer over and over three times before his crucifixion - “take this cup of suffering away from me” - Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus told a parable to show “we should pray and not lose heart “ - Luke 18:1.
The Lord will answer your prayer, using his special no, slow, grow, go program: (HB Charles, page106):
If the request is wrong, God says no.
If the timing is wrong, God says slow.
If you are wrong, God says grow.
But if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says go.
That's God’s program for what we’re going through. “Get with the program" and it will save you a lot of frustration and disappointment.
Answered prayer can be dangerous. But it can also be very helpful:
Turn the no into a time to learn God's will and wisdom.
Turn the slow into a time to develop godly patience and endurance.
Turn the grow into a time to surrender to God.
Turn the go into a time to serve God.
That's how you handle an answered prayer.