Thursday, June 16, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Biblical reasons for why prayers aren't answered, part 1.

Angie and I exchanged a few more emails talking about our church background and such. Her answer to my last email was basically to say this:
In answer to your question, yes, I followed your argument (at least I think I did :). As for what I think of the methodology... I'm not entirely sure, but I will say that I'm not entirely at ease with it. In my experience, church leaders tended to de-emphasize reason (although not intelligence) and emphasize faith, so sometimes it's difficult for me to reconcile certain arguments with faith.
At some point I sent her an email dealing with the issue of faith and reason, but I'm skipping that, too. I went on to give some Biblical reasons for why some prayers aren't answered.

Okay, I guess I'll get back to the prayer thing. As I said, there's a few Biblical reasons for why our prayers might not be answered, and as I also said, I don't find them particularly satisfying.

There are three reasons off the top of my head--lack of faith, sin in our lives, and not praying according to God's will.

Regarding lack of faith, I find this one to be a little paradoxical. What is to be the basis of our faith in future prayers if past prayers haven't been answered? It seems like before there can be grounds for our faith in prayer, we first have to have prayers that have been answered. But according to the Bible, faith must come BEFORE prayer, not AFTER. That bothers me.

Regarding sin in our lives, this one make a little more sense to me. A lot of us want to think of ourselves as basically good people, because we're grading ourselves on a bell curve. If we are as good as anybody else, then we're alright. But the Biblical standards of morality are pretty high, and keeping God's law is so important that John equates our obedience to God with our love for God. A friend of mine who had been living with her boyfriend for a couple of years was complaining one day that God doesn't answer her prayers. I guess in her mind, living with her boyfriend wasn't so bad. I mean she wasn't committing murder or anything. She wasn't hurting anybody. But Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we ought to flee from sexual immorality, because while all other sins are committed outside the body, those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies, and our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Granted, none of us are capable of moral perfection, but in 1 John, you can see that what is expected of us is a much cleaner life than most of us are living. If anything, I probably ought to be surprised that God answered ANY of my prayers. I'm far from being a model of the ideal Christian life. He has answered some, though. I guess the objection that is most often raised to this argument is that a loving God surely wouldn't judge us. But if God doesn't hold us to any standards, who will? If God has no standards he expects us to live by, then for all practical purposes, there ARE no standards, except the ones we invent, and we can change those whenever we feel like it. But what do those standards have to do with God? God isn't just the big teddy bear in the sky. He's not just our loving Father. He's also the creator and sustainer of the universe. He's the king, the ruler, the governor, etc.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie:  Biblical reasons for unanswered prayers, part 2


daleliop said...

You haven't finished your response yet, so maybe I am getting ahead of myself. However, about the second reason - that God doesn't answer prayers due to sin.

Sometimes there is a similar reasoning among Christians that bad things happen to people because of sin in their lives.

This bugs me a lot because sometimes the nicest people you ever meet face the worst circumstances while nothing seems to happen to bad people.

ephphatha said...

Dale, Solomon noticed the same thing you did. He wrote, "I have seen both of these--a righteous man dying young in his righteousness and a wicked man living long in his wickedness," or something like that.

But on the other hand, the Bible does support the notion that sin hinders our prayers. I take it that these are general principles, not hard and fast rules. God isn't a purely mechanistic machine who can be perfectly predicted on the basis of our input. God's a personal being who makes judgement calls according to his will.