A Prayer Always Answered
My favorite Scripture that deals with last day events and prophecies is found in 1 Peter 4:7-8. First Peter is the apostle’s letter to the Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He is writing this letter to them to strengthen their courage and faith as they endure suffering and persecution.
In 1 Peter 4:7 (NLT), Peter announces, “The end of the world is coming soon.” Peter is letting the readers know that their plight is temporary, that the second coming of Jesus Christ is not far off. He then continues with admonition on what to do between now and the coming of their Savior. “Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.” He continues in verse eight, “Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
Peter’s advice can be summarized with two words: Pray. Love.
When I first entered the ministry as an associate pastor five years ago, my senior pastor and I had decided to do a sermon series based on prayer. It was my week to prepare for the sermon for the upcoming Sabbath, and the Spirit led me to preach on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. As I was studying and preparing, I looked for a video clip on YouTube that would illustrate the importance of prayer.
In my research, I stumbled across a video of an agnostic sharing his thoughts on prayer. In the video, the agnostic man has designed an “experiment” to disprove the necessity of prayer. He takes a quarter, and prays to the supposed God (in his mind), asking God to allow the quarter to land heads. After praying five times and after each prayer flipping the coin, the final outcome was three tails and two heads.
He argued that he could have gotten the same three tails and two heads if he hadn’t prayed. His final conclusion was that not getting all five heads meant that prayer was useless, and ultimately God either didn’t exist or didn’t care about humanity.
The question that came to my mind after watching the video was this: should we measure the effectiveness of our prayer by the answers we get or don’t get?
Let me ask this. If you wanted to measure your height, would you grab a bathroom scale? Or, if you wanted to measure your weight, would you grab a tape measure? The obvious answer to both questions is no. Why not? Because you would be measuring a given quantity with the wrong units. You can’t measure weight in inches and you can’t measure height in pounds. Similarly, I don’t believe you measure the impact and effectiveness of prayer solely based on whether or not you get the answers you are praying for. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays for His believers to be united, to be one. Do you believe that prayer has been answered today? Does that mean Jesus should have disregarded prayer since His people still behave in ways that depict disunity?
Prayer goes beyond getting the answers and solutions we seek. This does not mean we should not pray to God for answers and solutions to our circumstances. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In Matthew 6:11, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus counsels the disciples, saying “Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”
What really strikes me is Luke’s account of Jesus’ counsel in Matthew 7:9-11. In Luke 11:11-13, we see almost the same counsel from Jesus word-for-word, with one major difference. He ends the counsel with “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
God can give us good things, but the best thing He can give us is Himself, via the Holy Spirit! Whether or not you get the job you’ve been praying for, or the pregnancy you’ve been praying for, you will always receive the Holy Spirit from the heavenly Father, if you ask. God wants you to have Him, to dwell with Him, to get to know Him, and it is through the Holy Spirit that we can do this. And as we ask for the Holy Spirit daily to fill our hearts and lead our lives, Romans 5:5 tells us that God’s love is “poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
What does this love look like? Galatians 5:22 tells us that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The word “fruit” is singular, so the actual fruit of the spirit is love. The rest of the fruits are God’s love expressed in different ways. Donald Barnhouse is famously quoted capturing the essence of this truth:
Love is the key, Joy is love singing, Peace is love resting, Patience is love enduring, Kindness is love’s touch, Goodness is love’s character, Faithfulness is love’s habit, Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness, and Self-Control is love holding the reins.
Paul and Silas were joyfully singing in prison, an environment that usually evoked despair. Jesus rested peacefully in a boat being rocked by a chaotic storm. Stephen showed the goodness of Christ that resided in him by asking for his attackers to be exonerated of their guilt.
It is only through the Holy Spirit pouring God’s love in our heart that we too will be able to sing joyfully while suffering, rest peacefully amidst chaos, and exhibit goodness through mistreatment.
This is why Peter reminds his audience that in treacherous times, just keep praying! Through earnest daily prayer they will be filled with the Spirit, who will fill them with God’s love to face the challenges before them, not just surviving, but thriving! This message is for us, too!
Chris Morris is the Associate Pastor of the Burleson Seventh-day Adventist Church. He lives in Crowley, Texas with his wife, Cesiah, and two children, Miles and Carissa.
I don’t believe you measure the impact and effectiveness of prayer solely based on whether or not you get the answers you are praying for.