On July 3rd, I preached a sermon entitled “Wanting a Prayer Answered But Needing Jesus” from John 6:
In my own life, I’ve often found myself to be confused about why God doesn’t seem to answer my prayers for people’s healing (or at least not in dramatic ways), yet I read about dramatic healing stories in the Bible and from other people today. As a pastor, I’ve talked to many people who also have prayed for healing, or for other help from God, only not to receive it from Him.
From these experiences, I have discovered a myth when it comes to miracles (miracles = any prayer we want answered)… We are often taught to believe that if we just have enough faith and pray boldly enough, that God will answer our prayer. There is definitely a tension in this topic that I am still attempting to find balance in, but the glaring fault in this ‘formula’ for answered prayer is that it treats God like He is our cosmic butler, or our genie in a bottle. That we can manipulate Him to do what we want if we only pray hard enough or frequent enough, believe enough, lay enough hands on, anoint with enough oil, etc.. If God doesn’t do what we want, we question His love for us, or we beat ourselves up for not having enough faith.
Since when was the point of prayer to get God to do what we want? Is not the point of prayer, and our entire walks with Christ to come to Him, asking Him what He wants us to do for Him? In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus says to seek first His Kingdom and “all these things” will be added unto you. I think if most of us were really honest about our prayer lives and the miracles we seek, we don’t give a rip about Jesus’ Kingdom, but rather are seeking the “all these things” to be given to us from God. The command in Matthew 6:33 is to seek His Kingdom, not to seek His provision of things (which is often how we like to read it). The seeking command of 6:33 is similar to what I preached on in my sermon from John 6… the difficult truth of the Gospel is that Jesus is all we need, and that what He can do in our hearts is the greatest miracle of all and is the primary miracle we should be seeking. He may occasionally use exterior miracles along the way to get us to this point, but we need to see the short-term nature of these and how overrated they are if they don’t produce heart change. I can pray for miracles, having full faith God can do them, but if He doesn’t, I cannot allow that to affect my faith in Him. If I do, God becomes my butler who’s slacking off, rather than my King who created the world and who died and resurrected to save me from my sins.
This truth is difficult to swallow, yet it’s one we need to understand and embrace to stop ourselves from leaving the faith due to a myth about a Vending Machine God who doesn’t really exist. Instead we are given a God who offers us love, grace, and intimacy with Him, which I hope we can understand even in the toughest of times, is not a consolation prize for what we feel we really need.