Dealing with the Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer

Worship Service for January 24, 2021

WELCOME

Good morning and welcome to CrossPointe Community Church’s online worship presentation. I thank God for all of you and for the opportunity to spend these moments with you. If you’d like to reach out to me, I’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail me at randykmeyer@hotmail.com

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Jim and Lindsay Brandenburg have been making sure we are able to provide video worship each Sunday. This includes not only knitting together and posting it on our website, but also preparing and recording the music.

Speaking of recording music, they have recorded a Christmas Album containing 15 of our favorites. They are making it available to you for free in two ways. (1) You can e-mail then and they will make you a CD or, (2) use this link which will take you to JumpShare, where you can listen to and/or download the album to your computer or phone. Thanks Jim and Lindsay!

Our Community Dinner is scheduled for the following Friday, January 29th. Thanks to John and Amy, roasted apricot chicken, roasted potatoes, mixed veggies, and baked cinnamon-sugar donuts will please and satisfy all who come. Yum! Thus far, Alan and Vanna Robbins and Sheri Back have volunteered to carry food to drive-ups. If you would like to join them, let me know.

Next Sunday is Gather to Scatter Sunday. Obviously, we will not be going out into the community to work side by side. Here’s how we will observe it. First, representatives from the Lion’s Club, SHC, and the Church at the Lake will be making video appearances to remind us how we are fulfilling our purpose of Sharing God’s Grace with our Community. In addition, the Church at the Lake Food Pantry is in need of the following supplies: canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned soup with beef, bar soap, shampoo, and toilet paper. You can bring these items to the church this Sunday between 10 and 1:00 pm or the 31st between 10 am and noon. Once again, a chance to fulfill our mission! Yah!!

We will continue with our New Year’s series on the importance of prayer. To sort of prime the pump, let me tell you about when a sales representative from Tyson Foods arranged an audience with the Pope.

After receiving the papal blessing he whispers, “Your Eminence, we have a deal for you. If you change The Lord’s Prayer from ‘give us this day our daily bread’ to ‘give us this day our daily chicken’ then we will donate $500 million dollars to the Church.”

The Pope responds saying, “That is impossible. The Lord’s Prayer is the Word of the Lord and it must not be changed.”

“Well,” says the Tyson man, “Okay, we’ll up the ante to $1 billion.”

Again the Pope replies, “That is impossible.”

Finally, the Tyson guy says, “Okay Your Eminence, this is our last offer. We’ll donate $5 billion if you change the prayer to ‘our daily chicken.’”

The next day the Pope meets with the College of Cardinals. He says, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Church has just come into $5 billion. The bad news is that we are losing the Wonder Bread account!”

For a call to worship, I have chosen Deuteronomy 31:8. In that chapter, before Moses dies without entering the Promised Land, he addresses the people of God for the last time. In verse 6, he says, “For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Then he turns to pass the baton of leadership to his successor, Joshua, and says almost the same thing, in verse 8:

CALL TO WORSHIP

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Deuteronomy 31:8

These words are so encouraging that they are repeated almost verbatim in Joshua 1, I Kings 8, I Chronicles 28, Psalm 94, Isaiah 41 and Hebrews 13.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

OPENING WORSHIP SONGS

How Firm a Foundation

Rippon, John

How firm a foundation, Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not; I am with thee. O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, Omnipotent hand.

When through fiery trials, Thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake

©Public Domain
CCLI License No. 1843349

Jesus Draw Me Close

Founds, Rick

Jesus, draw me close; closer, Lord, to You.
Let the world around me… fade away.

Jesus, draw me close; closer, Lord to You.
For I desire to worship and obey.
For I desire to worship and obey.

©1990 Maranatha Praise, Inc. CCLI License No. 1843349

OPENING PRAYER

God of Moses and Joshua, God of the Psalmist and the Prophet; we recognize that Your promises to them have been granted unto us, and we thank You. We have come to believe that the promise of Your continued comforting presence has been even more wonderfully fulfilled in Your Son Jesus, and we thank You. And Lord, because we have come to believe this, it is our desire to worship and obey. And so we humbly ask that You would accept our worship and teach us another aspect of obedience as a result of our being here with You now. For we ask this in the name of the Christ, amen.

THE GIVING OF THE LORD’S OFFERING

I will be at the church today until 12 noon if you would like to bring your offering. Or you may send it in to:

CrossPointe Community Church
PO Box 126
Chippewa Lake, OH 44215

As we consider the opportunity to give, I remind you of Mark 12:41-44:

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’

Mark 12:41-44

That widow may have been poor in regards to possessions, but she was not poor in spirit.

PRAYER SONG

Still

Morgan, Reuben

Hide me now… under Your wings.
Cover me, within Your mighty hand.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm.
Father, You are King over the flood.
I will be still…know You are God.

Find rest my soul…in Christ alone.
Know His power…in quietness and trust.
When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm.
Father, You are King over the flood.
I will be still…know You are God.

When the oceans rise and thunders roar,
I will soar with You above the storm.
Father, You are King over the flood.
I will be still…know You are God.
I will be still…know You are God.
I will be still…know You are God.

©2002 Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing
CCLI License No. 1843349

MORNING PRAYER

Alan Robbins

Please join me in prayer.

Dear Lord, our Heavenly Father.

The refrain from today’s song….”I will be still, know you are God.”

With the overwhelming sense of need, we reach out to Jesus with our prayers ….. to know you are God…. you will hold our hand and guide us through the turbulence of today and provide calm for tomorrow and the future.

From this calm, we are ever so thankful for all the wonderful blessings you have given us and hope we can use these blessings to bring help and strength to those in need and to spread God’s wonderful message and to make our world a better place.

Our prayers reach out to our church’s leaders, our community’s leaders, and country’s leaders to provide calm and safe directions as we work for the good of all our people.

Lord, we know you will stay by our side. We know you will listen and guide our prayers to Reach Out…. to Hold….. to give Help….. to give Love….to give Peace …and to give Joy to those that are grieving, for those that are ill, for those that are hurting in any way and prayers for our own needs.

Thank you Lord, as we give God’s Glory ….and Grace…… and Joy….and Refuge…… and Strength….. and Love …..to our community and the world in which we live.

For these things we pray. Amen

SCRIPTURE

We opened this service with a call to worship from Deuteronomy 31 containing Moses’ famous words of assurance to Joshua. Prior to issuing them, Moses went on record in chapter in chapter 3 as saying:

At that time I pleaded with the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you have only begun to show Your greatness and the strength of Your hand to me, Your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as You do? Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains.’

But the Lord was angry with me because of you, (referring to the doubt of the people of Israel) and He would not listen to me. ‘That’s enough!’ He declared. ‘Speak of it no more. But go up to Pisgah Peak, and look over the land in every direction. Take a good look, but you may not cross the Jordan River. Instead, commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession.’ So we stayed in the valley near Beth-peor.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29

The next morning as they passed by the fig tree He (Jesus) had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!”

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that Your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.

Mark 11:20-26

THE MESSAGE

Randy K’Meyer

Dealing with the Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer

From Reader’s Digest, ‘Life in These United States’: a contributor attending a church in Kentucky, watched an especially verbal and boisterous child being hurried out, slung under his irate father’s arm, due to get a spanking for sure. No one in the congregation so much as raised an eyebrow until the child captured everyone’s attention by crying out in a charming Southern accent, “Ya’ll pray for me now!”

We can only wonder if the lad’s prayer was answered or not.

When we hear these promises of Jesus concerning answered prayer, we are faced with the dilemma of un-answered prayer.

“I’ve been praying that my husband will stop drinking, but he came home drunk again last night.”

“I’ve been praying for my wife’s depression, but its only getting worse.”

“I’ve been out of work and praying for a job for a year now, but so far nothing.”

“I’ve been praying for years for my son or daughter to come to know Christ, but still no answer.”

When our prayers are not answered the way we wish, doubt about the veracity of the words of Jesus begins to creep in. And those doubts can lead to lethargy in prayer. If God is not going to answer these prayers I’ve been praying, why pray?

And so I want to deal with the dilemma of unanswered prayer. Since this is a deep subject, this will be a two-part message. Today, I’d like to address the dilemma in somewhat practical terms. And next Sunday, I want to take a deeper dive into the subject from a more theological point of view.

As we begin to unravel the dilemma surrounding unanswered prayer, it helps to realize that the Bible records many unanswered prayers prayed by those we consider heroes of the faith.

In today’s Old Testament reading, we saw that after leading the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years, Moses prayed and asked God to allow him to cross the Jordan to enter the Promised land; but God said, “You shall not go over the Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:23-27).

King David spent a week prostrate on the floor fasting and praying, begging God to spare the life of his infant son, but the child died (II Samuel 12:15-18).

The prophet Habakkuk prayed that Jerusalem would not be destroyed, but it was. (Habakkuk 3)

Even the Apostle Paul had his share of unanswered prayers. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul informs his readers he has been suffering a physical malady and he prays for healing. He writes, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a)

These folks not only experienced unanswered prayers as we have, their unanswered prayers had an impact on their faith too.

When the Psalmist cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1), he expresses doubt about God’s ability to hear his prayer. And don’t lose sight of the fact that even Jesus feels the same way as he quotes the same Psalm as He hangs on the cross.

Psalm 88:14 asks, “O Lord, why do you reject me, why do You turn Your face from me?”

Job, who has suffered much and doesn’t feel his requests have been answered asks, “Who is the Almighty, what good will it do us to pray?” (Job 21:15).

And then Habakkuk, whom we just mentioned, complains, “How long, Oh Lord must I call for help? But you do not listen” (Habakkuk 1:2).

Okay, so we are in good company when it comes to unanswered prayer and its impact on our faith, but that still doesn’t help me very much when it comes to resolving the dilemma of the words of Jesus to ask and receive.

Then let’s remind ourselves that not even God is capable of answering all our prayers the way we wish.

Think about it; if God answered every prayer, He would be effectively turning the world over to us to run.

The movie Bruce Almighty presents a Hollywood version of what might happen if God entrusted supernatural power to just one ordinary human being. God (Morgan Freeman) gives His divine power to Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey). At one point in the movie, he begins to hear the voices of all people as they pray. He channels them to his e-mail account, sits down at his computer to answer, and is overwhelmed with the sheer number of prayers. So he sets up his e-mail account to reply, “yes to all” and says, “There, that will make everyone happy.”

Unfortunately this does not make everyone happy. Bruce realizes that the city of Buffalo has fallen into chaos as the result of His divine yes to everyone. And Bruce Almighty learns an appreciation for the complexity of prayer.

God is not like a heavenly genie, ready to appear whenever we rub the lamp to grant our every wish. God cannot, and; therefore, will not answer all of our prayers in the way we desire.

Last Sunday, some of you were asking God to give victory to the Cleveland Browns. “Lord, You know that since returning to the NFL in 1999, our beloved Brownies have been the laughingstock of the NFL. They’ve finished with a winning record just twice in that span. The last time we were in the playoffs was 2002. So please make things right and let the Browns beat the Chiefs.”

But there were just as many people down in Kansas City praying for the same outcome.

What’s God to do? How can God answer the fervent prayers of both fan bases? Obviously, He cannot.

And so in these kind of situations, when God cannot answer every prayer, I believe that God will do what glorifies Him the most.

Which leads to the next point.

We should be at peace with the fact that God does not always answer all our prayers the way we wish because

God knows the future, including our future, and we do not. God chooses not to answer every prayer because He knows better than we do what is in our best interest.

Just ask Frank Slazak, who in the 1960s, was dreaming of becoming an astronaut. But, he kind of knew he didn’t have the right stuff so he became a science teacher, who hoped to instill the dream of space exploration into his students. Then in 1985, President Reagan announced a contest to send a teacher into space. Frank Slazak submitted an application, along with 11,000 others. Being a Christian, Frank prayed in earnest over every question on the application and asked God to guide every word of every answer. Then he prayed that God would work in the hearts and minds of the review board to accept his application. To his great joy, he passed the first round of cuts, then another and another. With each round of cuts, his prayer for a spot on that crew grew more fervent; “I want this so badly God, please let it be me,” he prayed.

Amazingly he made it to the final 100, but in the end a New Hampshire teacher, by the name of Christa McAuliffe would take the spot on the crew that Frank was sure God would have delivered to him. “I was sure that no one prayed for that dream more than I did,” he later wrote. “Why God, why not me? Why did my dream have to end when I was so close?” When Frank complained to his father, he said, “Everything happens for a reason.”

On Tuesday, January 28, 1986, Frank Slazak watched with the rest of America as the Space Shuttle Challenger abruptly exploded, killing all on board. Instantly, the words of his father came back, “everything happens for a reason.”

Today, Frank Slazak travels the world speaking to audiences of all ages about the lessons he learned from the loss of his dream and the realization of God’s greater purposes. 1

No doubt Frank Slazak would agree with the words of English poet and novelist Jean Ingelow, “I have lived to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered.” 2

If we could adopt that line of thinking, it would enable us to view our unanswered prayers in a different light. Thanking God for unanswered prayers would stir us to holy thinking and perhaps we would discover a rationale for God not answering our prayers.

But even if we don’t, in the end, the Bible encourages us to put our trust in God; that He is in control, that He knows what He is doing, that He knows what’s best.

Isaiah sublimely writes on God’s behalf (55:8-10), “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Paul received God’s no to his request for healing. After he cogitated on it for a time, he was able to write, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10).

Guidepost magazine had an article titled Five Classic Christian Prayers that included the following one written by an unknown Confederate Soldier:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for
but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered
I am among all, most richly blessed! 3

The great Country and Western singer/songwriter Garth Brooks gifted us with a Biblical truth in song: “Just because He doesn’t answer doesn’t mean He don’t care, Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

PRAYER

(Please pray as you are led by God’s Spirit.)

CLOSING SONG

I Will Not Be Shaken

Guerrero, Tony

My soul finds rest in You,
My Fortress and my Rock,
My hope for life, my hiding place,
My Refuge and my God.
In You I’ve found my home,
My shelter from the storm,
And I’ll pour out my heart to You
And lean upon Your throne.

I will put my trust in You,
I will put my hope there, too.
I will stand upon Your Word
And I will not be shaken.
I will let my praises show,
Holding on to what I know,
Because I know
You’re always there
And I will not be shaken.
I will not be shaken.

My soul finds rest in You,
My Fortress and my Rock,
My hope for life, my hiding place,
My Refuge and my God.
In You I’ve found my home,
My shelter from the storm,
And I’ll pour out my heart to You
And lean upon Your throne.

I will put my trust in You,
I will put my hope there, too.
I will stand upon Your Word
And I will not be shaken.
I will let my praises show,
Holding on to what I know,
Because I know
You’re always there
And I will not be shaken.
I will not be shaken.

I will not be moved.
I’m leaning on the throne,
Because You died for me
And called me to Your own.
And even when the strongest winds begin to blow,
I will stand my ground.
I will not be moved.
I will not be shaken.

My soul finds rest in You,
My Fortress and my Rock,
My hope for life, my hiding place,
My Refuge and my God.
I will put my trust in You,
I will put my hope there, too.
I will stand upon Your Word
And I will not be shaken.
I will let my praises show,
Holding on to what I know,
Because I know
You’re always there
And I will not be shaken.

I will put my trust in You,
I will put my hope there, too.
I will stand upon Your Word
And I will not be shaken.
I will let my praises show,
Holding on to what I know,
Because I know
You’re always there
And I will not be shaken.
I will not be shaken.

©2002 Maranatha! Music, admin by The Copyright Company/Butterfly Music, admin by Encouraging Music
CCLI License No. 1843349

BENEDICTION

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 13:15

1 Jack Canfield and ‎Mark Victor Hansen, A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul: More Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit, [Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, © 1996] Pages 225-229.

2 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/jean_ingelow_205647

3 https://www.guideposts.org/faith-and-prayer/prayer-stories/power-of-prayer/five-classic-christian-prayers

Randy K'Meyer

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