February 8, 2010

Are Your Actions Sabotaging Your Prayers?

Early in the Christian walk, we learn to bring our burdens to the Lord in prayer. He welcomes our conversation and is eager to reveal Himself at work in our world. The pattern is simple and familiar; we have a need, we pray, we release the burden to God and then trust Him to exercise His power over our situation. He tells us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). If we are patient, then He moves in miraculous ways. This process is Biblical and typically a failsafe strategy to getting prayers answered.

This strategy works 99% of the time because you are correct to rely on the Power of God for your daily sustenance. You are correct to perceive yourself as dust and your successes completely creditable to God’s movement in you and through you. But on occasion, God withholds His response to prayer when a subtle sin is dominating the scenario; when you remove yourself from joining in the labors of the healing process and leave all the dirty work to Him. His power will not descend to provide help when laziness is passed off as reliance.

In college I remember learning this lesson. I loved a Christian guy who didn’t love me in return. Because we were friends and I was so willful, it was easy to misinterpret every exchange between us as a sign of something more than friendship. It took a couple years for me to grow to desire the honest revelation of God’s will over my own. I prayed and prayed, “God please heal my heart. Conform my heart to your will. Don’t let me pine for something you don’t will for me. Help me where I can’t help myself.” I would say Amen and immediately run to put myself in the path of the guy. Eventually I got frustrated with God because my emotional attachment wasn’t fading. One afternoon, as I continued my prayer plea, “Lord, Help me! I really want you to heal my heart! I don’t want this unrequited love to continue to wreck me!” it was as if God replied,

“Prove it.”

I had been praying this plea for years before God showed me that He wouldn’t lift a finger until I cooperated in action with the words that I expressed during prayer. Lip-service doesn’t fly with God. Pray all you want, but if your actions are sabotaging your prayers, then your prayers will be ineffective, just as mine were. I realized that I must show God with my actions that I wanted to be rid of the heartache. Therefore, for the remainder of my senior year I avoided that guy by my own strength of determination. It worked. God intervened, the desire died, and peace arrived.

This proposition of choice is similar to the story of the paralyzed man who Jesus met at the pools of Bethesda.

“Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"” (John 5:1-6)

When we are crippled and helpless, why must the Savior ask if we WANT to get well? Because in some cases you can't tell by our actions. We must be doing something to hinder our own healing.

The next time you feel like God is ignoring your prayers, ask yourself, “Have I done EVERYTHING in my power to prove to God that I want His help? Are my actions in any way contradicting my prayers?” Your actions are the sacrifice God expects to see when He is beseeched for help.

God helps those who help themselves is not a Biblical quote, but it is a Biblical principle. God won’t fight the enemy on our behalf when we are loading the enemy’s guns. Cooperate with the movement of God. Let your actions testify of your sincerity as you engage the Lord in prayer. Then watch God move mountains in your life.

1 comment:

Joy said...

GREAT post. It's easy to be too comfortable in our "pit" to want to change, even though we know change is the most God-honoring path. Sometimes our flesh wants to take comfort in the thought that "God didn't deliver me, so I'm off the hook."

Especially in our fast food, instant this, instant that culture, we don't like to do the hard work!