Last week I discovered that some correspondence that I had mailed “Special Delivery” was lost somewhere between here and Minneapolis. I’m told that this happens “all the time” but it was the first time in my experience. I was able to send duplicate copies, this time by courier, but now feel some anxiety about the reliability of delivery services in general and the postal service in particular. In fact, no matter what methods we use to communicate, all have some flaws or at least possibilities whereby our messages can be lost, or misinterpreted, or never received. Even prayer.
Prayer is simply communication with God, but like letters that somehow find themselves in the dead-letter office, prayers can sometimes just “bounce off the ceiling.” I did a quick Bible study to see what reasons are behind the kind of praying that never quite makes it, and these are samples of what I came up with:
1) Not praying in accordance with God’s will. 1 John 5:14. “ . . . if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” God is sovereign, and our prayers therefore do not “pull His strings.” So we need to find out what He wants, and how He plans to accomplish it, and align ourselves with it, especially as we pray.
2) Asking with selfish motives. James 4:3 says that we don’t receive what we ask for because we just want to satisfy sinful desires. These prayers are excellent “ceiling-bouncers.”
3) And speaking of sinful desires, if we know we have some, and prefer to hang on to them rather than confess and forsake them, then the Lord will not hear our prayers. Psalm 66:18. Our communication to Him must come from a clean heart.
4) Wrong relationship toward our spouse: 1 Peter says that if a husband does not honor his wife and understand her special needs, or if a wife does not align herself in harmony with the God-given leadership position of her husband, they experience frustration in their prayer life.
5) Sending it through the wrong courier system: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father but by me.” God is not obligated to hear the requests of anyone who comes to Him on the basis of their own merits, their religious performances, or any other reason. His heart, however, is always open to the cries of those who know His Son and pray in His name. Jesus Christ died on the cross so that access could be opened to the Father. Anyone who places their faith in Him, as Savior and Lord, can come “boldly to the throne of grace for help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Losing something in the mail can be serious, but far more vital to us and to God is that the avenue of communication that He has made available for us not be rendered useless because we fail to follow His guidelines. No prayer need bounce off the ceiling. God has made provision for us to be heard, and His love extends an invitation to communicate with Him.