Too Good To Be True?
This is a book about prayers God always says yes to. Not prayers he says “maybe” to, “not now” to, or “no” to. Not prayers he says yes to sometimes, most times or once in a while. This book is about prayers God says yes to all the time . Are there such prayers?
You bet there are!
I know how hard it is for so many in our jaded, cynical culture to approach a book like this without rolling their eyes. But I assure you, this is not a joke or a gimmick. Nor is it one of those self-help books which preach all about personal development, the power of positive thinking, or the ability to “buy real estate with no money down.” This is about a spiritual treasure chest that is available to everyone—a treasure chest that few people ever open. This is about prayers that work —really, truly work.
Why don't people take advantage of prayers that work? One big reason is that they are so caught up in prayers that don't always work. All over the world right now, people are shaking their heads in frustration, asking the question: Why doesn't God answer me when I cry out to him?
Why didn't God cure my mother's cancer? Why doesn't he rescue me from this horrible job? Why doesn't he get me a raise at my job so I can pay my bills? Why didn't he save my wife's brother from that massive heart attack? Why doesn't he send me a husband, or even a boyfriend, so I don't have to be alone anymore? Why did he make my son autistic, when I prayed so hard for healthy children?
Why, why, why?
It's so hard to understand: A supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God—a God who made the sun, the moon and the stars, and has the ability to do absolutely anything he wants—and yet, so many times he seems to ignore our prayers, or even worse, turns us down, flat. Isn't there any explanation that can help keep us from getting angry at him?
There have been thousands of books written about prayer, and millions of sermons preached about it; yet the subject still remains very much a mystery. God's will is inscrutable, the Bible says, and to a certain extent, we have to accept that. Yet we want to be able to make more sense of it. In the face of all our problems, we want to know why God is often so silent. Are we really alone in the universe, as some claim? And if God does exist and is listening, why does he say no to us so often? How can we reconcile the idea of a God who says things like: “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you,” with the undeniable fact that this same God often refuses to grant us what we desire most?
Unfortunately, the answer is something we don't want to hear. God does say “no” to us an awful lot. Sometimes he says no to us when we come to him with the simplest request. Sometimes he says no to us when we are at our most vulnerable—when we have no one else in the whole world to turn to. Sometimes he says no to us when we get on our knees and desperately plead with him to help us.
Part of the reason for all these “refusals” is that we are looking at prayer in a distorted way. We're viewing it, essentially, with the same kind of consumer mentality that we view the rest of domestic living: we want this , that and the other thing , and we want it now .
But God is not some supermarket clerk, and the world is not some huge Walmart. As long as we continue to labor under this misconception, we will continue to get upset every time God says “no” to us. The harsh reality is that God has some very strict guidelines he goes by when “considering” our prayer requests, and they are sometimes difficult for us to accept.
To start with, there are requests God always says no to, no matter how earnestly we pray. For example, if we ask God for something that is obviously bad for our spiritual welfare, he is going to refuse us—period. If a person wants to lie to his friend, or embezzle money from his job, or commit adultery with a coworker, God is not going to give him any assistance. That doesn't mean he won't be successful anyway. He probably will. God hardly ever stops us from making the wrong decision—especially when we are in a rebellious state of mind. He has given us the awesome gift of free choice, and that includes the choice to do all kinds of terrible things. But the point remains: while God may allow people to commit crimes, break the commandments, harm their neighbors, etc., he certainly isn't standing by providing any divine assistance. A person may make all his lascivious schemes come true, but he will do so on his own—not because of any answered prayers from the Almighty.
Then there are prayers God says no to for reasons that are not so obvious, even when we try hard to understand them. There is an old expression that says “God gives us what we need , not what we want .” What this means is that when God decides to grant a prayer request, he uses a completely different set of criteria than we do. Like a good father, he is not concerned about gratifying our every wish. Instead, he is concerned only about one thing: our ultimate good, which boils down to whether or not we make it to heaven . Every request we make of God is “evaluated” by him in light of that long-term goal. When we ask God to grant us something, he says yes or no based on what he knows will happen to us in the future as a result of that decision. What direction, spiritually, are we going to go in, if he says yes? What will it mean for our soul, over the long haul, if he says no? Will we be more likely to be saved, or damned, as a result of getting what we asked for—or not getting it? Moreover, what will happen to the people around us—those who are affected by what we do and how we act? Will they be more likely to go to heaven or not?
Because of these kinds of global considerations, God sometimes allows things to happen to us that seem terrible, knowing that he will “ultimately” bring good out of them. In these instances, we say that God denies our pleas for help because they are “not in accordance” with his will.
Everyone who has prayed for any length of time has experienced the feeling of letdown that comes with God's refusals. I remember praying very hard once to obtain a certain job in the government. At the time I was in my twenties and not very religious. It was a great opportunity for me to enter the world of politics, and I had all kinds of dreams about running for office one day and making my mark in the world. Because the position was so important to my future, I spent several days and nights intently begging for God's assistance. I made all the usual promises to become a better person, give up my sinful ways, and go to church more often—if only God would grant me this one little favor .
As you might guess, I didn't get the job, and as a result, the door was closed to a whole range of career possibilities. I was very upset, and while I didn't stop believing in God, I certainly wasn't happy with him. In fact, I wasn't on very good “speaking terms” with him for a number of months. In retrospect, though, I realize that getting that job would have been the worst possible thing for me. Knowing myself and my personality, I can see that I was clearly unsuited to political life. Besides this, had God granted my prayer, I would have had to move far away from home. I would have ended up traveling in completely different circles over the next few years, and would never have become involved in the life of the Church. As a result, neither my first book nor this one would have been written. In short, my entire life would have been different —and not for the better.
Maybe you have a similar story. Looking back over the long course of our lives, it's sometimes easy to see why God has denied us certain requests. Other times it's more difficult—if not impossible. These are the hardest “no's” for us to accept, because we can't see God's “why.” When we pray to God for something, we don't have the luxury of twenty-twenty hindsight, nor do we have a crystal ball to look into the future. Naturally we have a difficult time understanding the wisdom of God's actions, or of his lack of action. We have to go on faith alone.
This is something we don't really want to hear. When we desire something with all our heart—like getting out of debt, or being cured of an illness—it sounds so empty and hopeless to say that God will only give us what's “best” for us. Most times we don't care what's best for us in the future; we want instant gratification. We want the answers that we feel we need—not the ones God deems necessary.
And so we stop praying, or we pray without conviction, or we begin to doubt the very existence of a God who is supposed to be listening to our prayers. So many people use unanswered prayers as a reason for not believing in God.
But do you know what? There's a flip side to all this. A remarkable and wonderful flip side.
If God only gives us what we need and what is good for our spiritual growth, doesn't it follow that there are certain things that he always wants to give us. After all, aren't there certain spiritual favors and graces that are always good for us and that we need all the time? And doesn't that mean, furthermore, that there are certain prayers God always says yes to—prayers that he grants at all times, and in all circumstances, because they are always “in accordance with his will”?
You see, there are certain fundamental spiritual needs we have regardless of what happens to us in the future. And there are certain things we can ask God to give us that are of great benefit to our long-term welfare no matter what the present situation—things that never conflict with God's will and that he is always happy to give us. Even allowing for questions about the unknown, unseen future and the mystery of free will, there must, therefore, be certain basic prayers God can always be relied upon to answer in the affirmative.
And indeed there are. Plenty of them! All one has to do is look to the Bible, the words of Christ, the writings of Christian theologians over the centuries, and the testimonies of thousands of people right now whose prayers are being answered.
God loves to say “yes” to us. Not only to “small” prayers, but to big, practical and profound ones as well. It's just that we don't usually think about these prayers because they are not of the “consumer” variety. We don't realize that if we simply made certain basic requests of God, they would be granted, automatically. And once granted, our lives would change—possibly overnight. In fact, our lives would be a hundred times more exciting and passion-filled than they are now; and a hundred times less stressful and anxiety-ridden.
Don't believe me?
How would you like to have incredible, unshakable faith—the kind that could withstand any crisis and any amount of suffering? How would you like to have as much courage and strength as the bravest war hero?; the wisdom to solve all the problems you'll ever face in life? How would you like to have peace—the kind of deep inner tranquility that can carry you safely and smoothly through all of life's problems?; to experience the most passionate feelings of love, intimacy and connectedness—no matter how alone you may feel now? How would you like to know your destiny—a unique destiny God has chosen for you from the beginning of time; a destiny so grand in scope and heroic in proportions that it dwarfs all your dreams—a destiny you can still have no matter what your age, job, or position in life?
All these things can be yours—and all you have to do is ask. If that sounds too good to be true, why not just give it a try? Instead of debating, denying or dismissing, why not just take me up on this challenge? Read a few of these chapters, and say a few of the prayers. Then, just stand back and watch the results.
I guarantee that before you even get to the last page of this book, your life will begin to change before your eyes.