In a Pit of Unanswered Prayers

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Writing a blog on prayer is tricky. Before I begin, I want it to be clear that I am a firm believer in prayer. I also want you (as a reader) to know that I raise questions solely for the purpose of opening up discussion about things we have always assumed to be true.

When one looks at prayer, it is quite ridiculous. You are speaking to someone you cannot see. You are requesting something from someone you cannot touch. It is like you are having a conversation with an imaginary friend and everyone around you thinks you have gone crazy. So when you are trying to defend prayer, remember those things.

We praise God when he answers prayers and we curse him when he does not. Non-Christians assume answered prayers are just due to the normal cause and effect of the world and unanswered prayers are further evidence that God does not hear prayers.

If we take the Bible at face value, we should be able to pray and heal people. We should be able to pray and cause miracles. We should be able to pray and accomplish anything to which we set our minds. But there is one small problem: most of the time we see nothing but unanswered prayers and a few answered prayers.

I’ve had people tell me that. I’ve had people tell me that I can accomplish anything with prayer. I’ve gone to conferences where they preach “Prayer is powerful.” I’ve been there. But I’ve also been trapped in a pit of unanswered prayers. I’ve been trapped in that place where I can’t figure out why God answers some prayers and not others. And not only has it made me feel like less of a Christian, it has also made me feel like less of a person.

It is hard to carry on a facade of faithfulness in a pit of unanswered prayers. People ask how we are doing and we say, “Fine. I just gotta keep praying.” In reality, we want to say, “I’m tired of God not answering my prayers.”

Some are quick to argue that God does answer all the prayers, just not the way we would expect it. That is a fine explanation to give to a mother who prayed unceasingly when her child was rushed to the hospital after what turned out to be a fatal car accident. What do you say to that mother? God needed him? The mother needed him. It was God’s will? God’s will is destroying that mother’s faith. What do we say to the unanswered prayers? Perhaps it is better to say nothing. Because when God doesn’t answer prayers, we don’t know what to say, either.

I am disturbed by how comfortable we have become with the cliche answers we give to the question of, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

In God’s time…

His will, not ours…

Maybe He did answer it, just not in the way you thought He would…

Just keep praying harder…

How do these help? These offer no comfort, no satisfaction, and no encouragement.

We have read countless books on prayer. There are even books on prayers to pray so that God answers your prayers. I find this a little absurd. “No wonder my prayers haven’t been answered! I’ve been forgetting to say, ‘In Jesus’ name!'” I wish it were that easy. I wish there was a formula that would always lead to answered prayers. Unfortunately, I have not found that yet.

What I want to say to you is this: You are not less of a believer if you doubt why God hasn’t answered your prayers. You are not less of a believer if you are angry at God for not answering your prayers. You are not less of a believer if you find yourself in a pit of unanswered prayers.

However, knock down the facade of faithfulness when you are really wanting to curse God for the answered prayers. Seek out your community to pray for you and with you. Will God answer then? I do not know. I wish I did.

When you are in your pit of unanswered prayers, just keep forging through it. There is not much else we can do. It is far better to trust in the maker and sustainer of all things than in ourselves. So continue. If you’re like me, you don’t have much faith that your prayers will be answered. However, keep praying. Keep hoping. Maybe you’ll get out of that pit of unanswered prayers.

Top Ten Ways to Get the Holy Spirit in Your Church

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Are you tired of going to church and not being able to feel the Holy Spirit?

Does it seem like your worship is empty and boring?

Is the preaching uninspired and emotionless?

Could your church benefit from the life the Holy Spirit brings?

If so, read the following ways that you can achieve exactly just that!

1.) Lighting. This is probably the most difficult for us to achieve. There are many churches that do not have the equipment necessary for accomplishing this. If you are one of those churches, I apologize. However, if you have the ability to lower the house lights to almost pitch black level (dark enough you can’t make out your neighbor’s face, but not dark enough to cause a lawsuit), then you can manufacture the Holy Spirit. Just lower those house lights and have bright lights on the stage going back and forth throughout worship. This does wonders for envisioning the Holy Spirit. The quicker you move the lights, the better. Periodic strobing is encouraged as well (not too much as this can cause seizures in some people).

2.) Play emotional songs with long musical interludes. Obviously you have to have a band to accomplish this one. This can be very powerful if done well. Make sure all the instruments are together throughout the musical interlude. It is preferable to use an interlude with a nice build. You want to go somewhere with the music. Make sure it is not too long, though, otherwise people will start sitting down or checking their text messages. If you see this happening, look at number 6 for some help.

3.) Speak loud and fast. If you are a preacher, this is a must. The louder and faster you speak, the better. Here is why: people won’t understand what you are saying and this allows you to say things that aren’t really powerful, but they are said in a way that causes people to think they are powerful. Also, if you speak loud and fast, it makes you seem more confident and full of the Spirit. This will excite people.

4.) Speak slow and soft with some emotional music playing behind you. This is especially beneficial during the invitation/altar call. It helps drive home a point with people. Without the music, people won’t attach to the points you are trying to make. With the emotional music, your points will become automatically powerful, even if they don’t make sense.

5.) Get the people involved by getting them to say “amen” frequently. The more you can get them involved, the better. “Amen” is a good one to have people say. I have also heard a church use “go God.” This seems like it gets the job done as well.

6.) Randomly say “Jesus” in a song. This will help you in moments that you see people zoning out during worship. It redirects them to who you are singing about. Give it a try. It works every time…because people can’t argue with Jesus.

7.) Use the phrase “God has laid it on my heart…” This is something else people cannot argue with. Oh, they might try, but if God lays something on your heart, then it is inarguable. This can give you the liberty to say anything. So use this phrase carefully. Don’t say anything that will cause you to be struck dead.

8.) Pray for “God to come and fill this place.” God has already promised to be where we are. And if God is omnipresent, then He is everywhere. So really, this prayer is asking God to do something that He has already promised to do. That is not the point, however. When you pray this, people will be able to feel God enter a place.

9.) Talk about hell. The quickest way to God is through fear.

10.) Eat a bad burrito the night before church. When all else fails and you can’t “feel” the Holy Spirit, eat a bad burrito before church. This will get your stomach stirring and you will definitely “feel” the Spirit by the beginning of service.

My hope is that these are beneficial to you. Put them into practice. You will not regret it.

**This is satire. Please do not take it literally. One does not need to manufacture the Holy Spirit. We would be better off if we stopped trying to create “experiences” where the Holy Spirit would move. The Spirit will move in spite of us and our efforts. We do not have control over that. Just because we create something emotional does not mean we have created a movement of the Spirit. So please, stop trying. Seriously. Stop.**

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Less Faith is More Faith

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“I wish I had more faith.” I have said that to myself so many times in the past year. But haven’t we all said that numerous times? I think many of us are afraid to admit that we want more faith. It is something we pray in the dark, but something we would never admit in the light.

But if someone were to ask me what I wanted from God, I would simply say, “more faith.” I don’t want a job, money, security, more friends, more knowledge, more power, health, safety, or anything else that I should ask for. Instead, I just want more faith.

I wish I had more faith in finances. As I was talking with friends who were doing a church plant, I told them that I wished I had the faith that they had to go out and raise their finances. They just packed up their lives, moved across the country, and trusted that God would provide. In reality, this is an idiotic concept. People who do this usually end up on the street. And in this economy? They must be asking for poverty. But sure enough, God has provided for them. Sure, it has been difficult, but He has provided.

I wish I had more faith in my prayers. When talking to one of my friends about prayer, she said that she prays for the impossible and God always provides. In reality, this is an idiotic concept as well. You are speaking to an invisible being? How is this different than a child and his/her imaginary friend? But sure enough, she has faith that her prayers will be answered. It would be nice to believe that prayers would be answered. But it is difficult to believe in answered prayers when all you can recall is unanswered prayers.

I wish I had more faith in my career choice. I speak with many friends/mentors who know that they are doing what they should be doing. They have received affirmation from other friends. They know because of how the doors were opened to where they are now. They know because of the impact they are making. But what about those who don’t have jobs right now? Are some people called and others aren’t? Is God looking out for some but not for others? Did some people pass God’s test but others didn’t?

I wish I had more faith in the Church. It is difficult to believe in the power of the Church when all you see is the failures of the Church. The bad always hides the good. How can I have faith in the Church when I constantly see people who refuse to go to church because of what the church has done to them? And how can I have faith in the Church when the Church’s response to those people is, “Get over it. We all make mistakes and we all have been hurt at one point or another.” How can I have faith in an organization like that?

I wish I had more faith in God. It is hard to believe in something that you cannot see. It is hard to believe in God when you haven’t seen Him work in a while. You begin to forget about all He has done and focus on all He has not done. A while back, I journaled this:

“God, I know I have seen Your works before. God, I know that you are still working today. But if you could help me out a bit and remind me of what it is like to see you work, I would appreciate that. Because right now, you seem like a vivid dream. I can’t remember if you really did what I think you did.”

That was a dark place. That entry still strikes a chord with me.

I wish this blog post was about how God showed me everything and now I fully believe in Him and will never doubt Him again. But it isn’t. I still wish I had more faith in God. If I had more faith in God, then I would have more faith in the Church, my career choice, my prayers, and my finances. Life would be a whole lot easier if I had more faith. But unfortunately, my faith is the size of a mustard seed…at best.

We have tried to tell people to have more faith in God. If you doubt anything, you just need more faith. In the dark moments of your life, you just need more faith. That is our prescription for everything. Have more faith in God. If I had a dollar every time I heard that, I would not have to have more faith in my finances. Christ tells us in Matthew 17 that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.

The reason we pray for more faith is because a mustard seed is too small. Or at least that is what we think. We are uncomfortable vocalizing our doubts and fears because a mustard seed appears small. We will pray for more faith in the dark but refuse to talk about it in the light. Instead, we put on a mask that we trust in God for everything. In reality, we may be hanging by a thread. We can’t let people know that, though. Otherwise, they will think of us as “less” of a believer.

It is hard to have faith. That is undeniable. Wishing you had more faith does not make you less of a Christian. In fact, it makes you more dependent upon Christ. You recognize your humanity. You recognize your fears. You recognize your inability to trust in something that God could do through you. So maybe less is more. Maybe those who say they have a lot of faith really have a lot of false faith. Maybe they have convinced themselves that they have a lot of faith but in reality, they are plagued with dark and restless nights that they refuse to bring into the light.

Perhaps less faith is more faith. Perhaps it is better to have the mustard seed.