The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer

Worship Service for January 31, 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

I want to remind you that Jim and Lindsay Brandenburg recorded a Christmas Album containing 15 songs. They are making it available to you for free in two ways:

  1. You can e-mail them and they will make you a CD or,
  2. click this link (https://jmp.sh/8cSGGr7) 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!

Thanks to Sheri Back, Alan and Vanna Robbins, Jim and Gale Arthur, and, of course, our resident chefs, John and Amy Topola, we were able to Share God’s Grace with our Community by serving people at Our Community Dinner this past Friday.

Today is Gather to Scatter Sunday. 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 today between 10 and 12:00 pm. Once again, a chance to fulfill our mission! Yah!!

Before I read today’s Call to Worship, let me ask you a very important question that was posed to me this past week by Sally Krall. “Were you aware that the oldest computer can be traced back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Surprise. Surprise. It was an Apple, with extremely limited memory, just 1 byte. Then everything crashed.”

CALL TO WORSHIP

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:12, 15b-19

OPENING WORSHIP SONGS

Amazed

Anderson, Jared

You dance over me while I am unaware,
You sing all around me, but I…never hear the sound,
Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You….how You love me.

You dance over me while I am unaware,
You sing all around me, but I…never hear the sound,
Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You….how You love me.

Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You….how You love me.

How wide…how deep…how great…is Your love for me.
How wide…how deep…how great…is Your love for me.

Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You….how You love me.

Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You….how You love me.

©2004 Vertical Worship Songs
CCLI License No. 1843349

For All You’ve Done

Morgan, Reuben

My Savior….Redeemer
Lifted me from the miry clay
Almighty…forever…
I’ll never be the same
Cause You came near
From the everlasting to the world we live
The Father’s only Son

And You lived and You died
And You rose again on high
And You opened the way
For the world to live again
Hallelujah…for all You’ve done.
My Savior….Redeemer
Lifted me from the miry clay
Almighty…forever…
I’ll never be the same
Cause You came near
From the everlasting to the world we live
The Father’s only Son

And You lived and You died
And You rose again on high
And You opened the way
For the world to live again
Hallelujah… for all You’ve done.

And You lived and You died
And You rose again on high
And You opened the way
For the world to live again
Hallelujah…

Cause You came near
From the everlasting
to the world we live
The Father’s only Son
Cause You came near
From the everlasting
to the world we live
The Father’s only Son

And You lived and You died
And You rose again on high
And You opened the way
For the world to live again

And You lived and You died
And You rose again on high
And You opened the way
For the world to live again

Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…
For all You’ve done.

This arrangement ©2008 Reuben Morgan and Hillsong Publishing
(admin in the US and Canada by Integrity’s Hosanna! Music/ASCAP)
CCLI License No. 1843349

OPENING PRAYER

Our Father, who art in heaven, we honor Your name, for You have done wonders on behalf of all those who embrace You by faith in Jesus, Your Son. In Him, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, the salvation of our souls. He has opened a way into heaven by opening our hearts to believe this good news of a great joy. This is why we are here. This is why we worship. This is why we offer You our very lives. Take our lives and let them be consecrated Lord, to Thee, in the precious name of Jesus we pray, 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 worship God through the giving of our gifts, here’s some encouragement from the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon was his name and in his Book of Proverbs he writes: “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great” (Proverbs 18:16).

PRAYER SONG

Hear My Prayer

Owens, Debbie

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
From the ends of the earth, I cry.
Your peace will lead me to
The Rock that is higher than I.

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
From the ends of the earth, I cry.
Your peace will lead me to
The Rock that is higher than I.

For You have been my strength in times of trouble;
A tower above my enemies;
And Lord, I will abide with You forever
In the shelter of Your wings.

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
From the ends of the earth, I cry.
Your peace will lead me to
The Rock that is higher than I.

©1993 Maranatha Praise, Inc.
CCLI License No. 1843349

MORNING PRAYER

Katie and Maylee Albright

Dear God,

We thank you for all that you have blessed us with. We thank you for always being with us and for giving us purpose and hope. We thank you for our friends, family and acquaintances and all the kindness and compassion they have bestowed on us over the past year.

We thank you for good health, our children, our jobs, and our church. We thank you for always being there to guide us if any of these get rocky. We are so incredibly in need of your power and your strength.

We ask that you would fill us with your spirit of love and unity. We need this to stir our hearts and give direction to our days. We are lost without you, God. Please help us to truly live out a life of love. We need more love in our world and we need more God in our hearts.

We ask for great miracles for this hurting world. We ask for grace and healing for all those who feel broken and are suffering. We need help! Help us to trust you more, to lean on you more, to cast our worries to you.

Forgive us for being too busy or distracted by other things. The struggle feels intense some days. Help us to remember you will never leave us and when it feels like no one else is there let us know you have our back. Thank you for the daily presence in our lives. We are safe in your care.

We love you, God. Amen.

SCRIPTURE

We are continuing our year-opening sermon series on prayer. I chose to start the New Year with prayer as prayer is the most vital aspect of our relationship with God. Our communion with God, or lack thereof, will make us or break us. And as I said on January 3rd, I am hopeful that every one of us will make prayer a priority in 2021.

Last Sunday was the first of a two-part message on Unanswered Prayer. Before we discuss The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer today, it would be well to recognize that although we have been using the term unanswered prayer, according to the Bible every prayer is answered. As pastor Bill Hybels wisely points out in his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, God answers every prayer with a ‘yes,’ a ‘no,’ or a ‘not yet.’ 1

We covered the yes’s in the first three messages in this series. Last Sunday and today, we did and will consider when God says, ‘No.’ Two weeks from today, we’ll conclude this series by taking a gander at the ‘Not yet’ aspects of prayer.

What about next week? I don’t want to give it away. You’ll just have to be patient and look forward to another aspect of the importance of prayer.

Today, I present to you the same text as last week, plus one more.

First, Mark 11:20-25:

The next morning as they passed by the fig tree He 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.

And then, John 14:12-14, where Jesus gives another version of His prayer promise:

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!

THE MESSAGE

Randy K’Meyer

The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer

A stranger approached a pastor after service and said, “Pastor, would you be willing to pray for my hearing.”

The pastor placed his hands on the man’s ears and said a passionate, earnest prayer for healing. “How’s your hearing now?” the pastor asked.

Looking surprised, the man said, “Well, it’s not until tomorrow.”

Last week, in a message titled Dealing with the Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer, we noted four Biblical truths:

  1. that there are many examples of people in the Bible who experienced unanswered prayers and whose faith was affected because they did,
  2. that not even God is able to answer all prayers, as in when many people pray that both the Browns and the Chiefs win a football game,
  3. that when these kinds of situations arise, God will answer prayers in accord with what brings Him the most glory and
  4. and that in the end we are given the choice to trust that God is in control and God knows what’s best for us.

Today, I want to deal with the mystery of unanswered prayer and approach this subject from a human point of view and still end with last week’s conclusion: regardless of whether or not we feel our prayers are answered we are encouraged to TRUST in God.

The question today is, do we, can we, have an impact on the way our prayers are answered?

Let’s begin by noting that some prayers go unanswered, or more precisely, answered with a ‘No,’ because our motives for asking are wrong.

The disciples of Jesus were not beyond making inappropriate self-serving requests with wrong motives. James and John requested the two best seats in the future Kingdom of God. Out of pride, they were asking Jesus to sit at the head of the table (Mark 10:37-38).

If Jesus’ disciples fell prey to inappropriate self-serving requests, so will disciples today.

Perhaps the most popular prayer of this type is, “God bless me; please help me win the lottery, please help me find a rich husband or wife, please help me get a raise, please help me get a full head of hair, please help me . . . (you fill in the blank).

A pastor might pray, “Lord, help our church to grow,” and we might think certainly God would want to honor that. But if the real motive behind that prayer is, “Lord I want to be the star of a big church,” I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer would be, “No.”

You might think I’m stretching it here, but when we read what James writes, (4:3) this principle becomes abundantly clear:

And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong, you want only what will give you pleasure.

Before bringing a request to God, we would do very well to think about our motives. Is this prayer request selfish? Is it only meant to satisfy my pleasures?

If that is the case, we shouldn’t be surprised if the answer is, ‘No.’

Am I saying an answer to that kind of prayer request will always be, ‘No?’ Despite the fact that there seems to be this principle, I can’t say that for sure. We don’t know the mind of God. That’s why I titled this the mystery of unanswered prayer.

Secondly, I think we should note that in the prayer promises of Jesus, the words, “ask anything” are modified by “in My Name.”

Yes, ask Me for anything . . . in My name, and I will do it!

John 14:13

To Old and New Testament people, one’s name was tied to that persons’ character and mission. In other words, the use of ‘His name’ presupposes that the person praying is requesting that which is congruent with the will of Jesus.

Jesus taught His disciples the same principle in other words, when He taught them to pray the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed (honor) be Thy name, Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Thus the “anything” we are invited to pray for includes all things that can be identified as advancing or enhancing or glorifying or bringing about God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven!

Therefore, this prayer promise is no blank check against which we can draw to satisfy our own personal desires. It is instead a promise that when we make Christ’s goals our own He will make all the resources of heaven available to achieve them. Such prayers are not selfish, but in the interest of God’s Kingdom. They are in accordance with God’s will, ever implying, “Not our will, but Thy will be done.”

To be sure, there are other kinds of prayers in the New Testament we are invited to pray.

Philippians 4:6-7 comes readily to mind:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

But notice that even then Paul doesn’t promise the answer we may be seeking; he promises God’s peace.

And so, as a general rule in making prayer requests, it would be wise for us to often ask ourselves will this prayer request bring glory to Christ?
Will this request advance His Kingdom?
Will this request help someone else?
Will this request help me to grow spiritually? (which leads to our next point)

The Bible indicates that we can get in the way of our prayers being answered.

In the midst of a jubilant Psalm of praise (66:18), the author says “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

The Book of Proverbs states the principle more bluntly: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (21:13).

The prophet Isaiah speaks for God when he writes, “When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims” (1:15). “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (59:2).

In his first letter, Peter urges husbands to be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect “so that nothing hinders your prayers” (3:7). And in Mark, Jesus indicates that harboring unforgiveness in our hearts toward another person can hinder our prayers.

The Apostle John sums up the relation between prayer and behavior: “We receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands” (I John 3:22). Clearly, there is a direct relationship between our behavior and the kind of answers we receive to our prayers.

When Norman Vincent Peale was a boy, he found a big cigar, slipped into an alley, lit up, discovered it didn’t taste good but it made him feel like a man. When he saw his father coming, he quickly tried to hide the cigar behind his back, and desperate to divert his father’s attention, he pointed to a billboard advertising the circus and pleaded, “Can we go, Dad? Please, can we go?”

His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. “Son,” he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.” 1

The way we live can have an impact on the answers to our prayers. Now we can take that in one of two ways. We can become discouraged and think, I mess up every day, so why pray, my prayers will be continually hindered. We can respond that way if we choose. Or we can allow this truth to motivate us to live well in Christ.

Even then, there is a mystery, a mystery we must learn to live with, as to how, why, and when God answers our prayers.

On the morning of September 27, 1991, Gerald Sittser, Professor of Religion at Whitworth College, prayed, asking God to protect his family as they took a little trip. But later that afternoon, a drunk driver hit him head-on, taking the life of his wife, his daughter, and his mother.

To this day I have been unable to understand what made that day different.
What prevented my prayers from getting through to God?
Did I commit some unpardonable sin?
Did I fail to say the right words?
Did God suddenly turn against me?
‘Why,’ I have asked myself a thousand times, did my prayer go unanswered?”

Then a friend challenged him with the thought, “Why not?” Rethinking his expectations about life and Christianity, Jerry came to realize that God didn’t promise him a pain-free life, but promised instead to be with him in his loss and suffering. He still cannot explain it, but concludes in an article on unanswered prayer “Jesus charges us to view life from a redemptive perspective.”

Let me insert a Phil Yancey quote: “It is important to remember that even when Jesus prayed to the One who could save Him from death, did not secure His salvation. Instead, He secured the salvation for the entire world.” 2

Back to Professor Sittser; “There is more to life than meets the eye when God gets involved. He works things out for good. We view unanswered prayer from the perspective of our immediate experience and our limited vision. But God is doing something so great that only faith can grasp it, wait for it, and pray for it.” 3

For a college professor of Christian history, there’s no logical explanation of unanswered prayer that will suffice. He must place himself in God’s good hands, trusting that God’s purposes will, in the end, prevail.

To cling to that belief may represent the ‘ultimate rationalization’ or the ‘ultimate act of faith.’

My hope and prayer for all of us is that we embrace the latter.

PRAYER

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

CLOSING SONG

Shepherd of My Soul

Nystrom, Martin J.

Shepherd of my soul,
I give You full control.
Wherever You may lead, I will follow.
I have made the choice
To listen for Your voice.
Wherever You may lead, I will go.
Be it in a quiet pasture
Or by a gentle stream,
The Shepherd of my soul
Is by my side.
Should I face a mighty mountain
Or a valley dark and deep,
The Shepherd of my soul
Will be my guide.

Shepherd of my soul,
I give You full control.
Wherever You may lead, I will follow.
I have made the choice
To listen for Your voice.
Wherever You may lead, I will go.

© 1986 Maranatha Praise, Inc.
CCLI License No. 1843349

BENEDICTION

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33, 36

1 Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not to Pray, [Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVaristy Press, 1988]. Page 74.

2 https://bible.org/illustration/norman-vincent-peale

3 Philip Yancey, Jesus Unanswered Prayers, Christianity Today, February 9, 1998.
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1998/february9/8t2152.html

4 https://www.familylife.com/spodcast/familylife-today/why-me/

Randy K'Meyer

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