A popular joke tells us about a man whose neighborhood is flooding. The man climbs on his roof and prays that God will save him from the rising waters. Rescue crews come in boats and a helicopter to help, but the man is adamant that he has faith in God’s ability to save him.
The man eventually drowns, and when he arrives in heaven, he questions St. Peter about why God didn’t answer his prayer. Peter responds, “He sent you three boats and a helicopter – what more do you want?”
Does God Want Us To Pray For Money?
The Prayer Rug
Last week I received a strange letter in the mail. It contained a “prayer rug” that I’m supposed to kneel on while asking God to bless me financially, then return to the church. Oh, and I’m also supposed to send the church a donation to enable other people to receive prayer rugs. Now, I’m very supportive of diverse religious beliefs, and I would never dismiss another person’s faith just because it’s different from my own.
But seriously? A piece of paper is going to bring me untold riches, especially if I send money to a church that I’m not even sure is an actual church? Along with the prayer rug, I also received a pamphlet with testimonials from satisfied customers prayer rug recipients. Apparently one lady received $46,000 and paid off all her debts. Another person was able to buy 17 acres of land.
The pamphlet quotes Deuteronomy 28:6, “Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” I have to admit, I was kind of tempted to kneel on the prayer rug and ask for money, just to see if it worked. But then I felt like I’d be struck by lightning for treating God like a piggy bank. As I considered this odd letter, though, I realized that some people treat God and prayer that way all the time, only without a paper rug to kneel on.
The Purpose of Prayer
I’m not saying it’s horrible to pray for God’s help. We are all familiar with the apostle Paul’s advice to “pray without ceasing.” But some may be less familiar with Romans 8:26, where Paul states “We do not know how to pray as we should.” For many, prayer has become a self-centered list of all the things we want God to give us, like He’s some kind of genie or divine ATM.
Instead of being thankful for the blessing in our lives and praying for others, sometimes we have a wishlist that would rival a child’s letter to Santa!
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us how to pray:
- (6:9) We should give honor to God.
- (6:10) We should pray for God’s will to be done in our lives.
- (6:11) We should pray for our daily needs to be met.
- (6:12) We should ask for forgiveness for our sins, and forgiveness for the sins of others.
- (6:13) We should ask God to keep us from being tempted.
Now where does Jesus tell us to ask for money? Some would argue that verse 6:11 makes it okay; after all, we can’t meet our daily needs for food, shelter, and clothing without a way to pay for it. And I would say that it is perfectly okay to pray for help if you are going without things like food – this post isn’t directed toward those with major needs.
In my own life right now, I am fortunate to be able to meet my needs. The Lord has provided me with a job – not one that I love, but one that pays the bills. My son and I are healthy. I have money in savings in case something goes wrong. So if I prayed for money right now, what exactly would I use it for? To pay off my debt? That would be great, but I’m paying off my debt (slowly) already, and going into debt was a choice. To buy more stuff? That doesn’t really fit in the “needs” category. In my opinion, it would be a slap in God’s face to ask for more when I have so much.
Pray For Money: Why Ask for Something You Already Have?
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned a joke about a man who was so busy looking for God’s help, he missed the help God was trying to send him. Praying for money works the same way. I know what it’s like to wonder how to afford groceries after the bills are paid. I remember the days when I begged the power company not to turn off my electricity before I got paid on Friday. And I know how miserable it is to live that way.
However, I never once starved or went without. Why? Because I already had enough money to do the things I needed to do, and when pushed, I could find ways to access it by giving up non-necessities. God already gave me the skills and knowledge to get a job, as well as a paycheck every two weeks. Is it God’s fault that I was spending money on stuff I didn’t need? Nope.
When I had financial problems, I prayed constantly for something to change. At times, I became frustrated because it seemed God wasn’t answering me. But now I realize He gave me the answers before I even asked – I just had to look within myself to find them.
When I got serious about getting out of debt, I was already blessed in many ways before anything even happened. I was smart enough to figure out what got me into my financial mess in the first place. I was fortunate enough to have help from my parents. I was able to afford internet access, which allowed me to read personal finance blogs and devise a plan.
When I figured out I needed more income and was actually willing to do something about it, I was able to find a second job relatively quickly. Things like this were God’s answers to my prayers.
Back to Prayer
I’m not here to judge other people. I’m the first to admit that I haven’t always used prayer the way I should, especially where money is concerned. And I have no way to know who will read this and what your situation is. However, I can guess that you may be here reading Faithful With A Few because you are dealing with your finances in some way.
If you are going through a tough time, lean on God and your family until things get better. Try praying the way the Bible says we should – from our hearts, not from our empty wallets – and keep praying. I can almost guarantee you will never wake up to find a pile of money on your porch, but I know God has a plan in place to correct your money issues. He doesn’t need to send you a prayer rug or anything else! You have all the tools you need; just pray for the wisdom to use them in a way that honors God and improves your quality of life.
photo by Ambro
Have you ever known someone who really trusts God? When I was an atheist, I had a good friend who prayed often. She would tell me every week about something she was trusting God to take care of. And every week I would see God do something unusual to answer her prayer. Do you know how difficult it is for an atheist to observe this week after week? After a while, “coincidence” begins to sound like a very weak argument.
So why would God answer my friend’s prayers? The biggest reason is that she had a relationship with God. She wanted to follow God. And she actually listened to what he said. In her mind, God had the right to direct her in life, and she welcomed him doing just that! When she prayed for things, it was a natural part of her relationship with God. She felt very comfortable coming to God with her needs, her concerns, and whatever issues were current in her life. Furthermore, she was convinced, from what she read in the Bible, that God wanted her to rely on him like that.
She pretty much exhibited what this statement from the Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”1 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…”2
It may be because they don’t have a relationship with God. They may know that God exists, and they might even worship God from time to time. But those who never seem to have their prayers answered probably don’t have a relationship with him. Further, they have never received from God complete forgiveness for their sin. What does that have to do with it you ask? Here is an explanation. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”3
It’s pretty natural to feel that separation from God. When people begin to ask God for something, what usually takes place? They begin with, “God, I really need your help with this problem…” And then there’s a pause, followed by a restart… “I realize that I’m not a perfect person, that I actually have no right to ask you for this…” There’s an awareness of personal sin and failure. And the person knows that it’s not just them; that God is aware of it too. There’s a feeling of, “Who am I kidding?” What they may not know is how they can receive God’s forgiveness for all their sin. They might not know that they can come into a relationship with God so that God will hear them. This is the foundation for God answering your prayer.
You must first begin a relationship with God. Here’s why. Imagine that a guy named Mike asks the president of Princeton University to co-sign a car loan for him. If Mike doesn’t personally know the president of Princeton, that car loan is not going to happen. Yet, if the daughter of this president asked her dad to co-sign a car loan for her, it would be no problem. Relationship matters.
With God, when the person is actually a child of God, when the person belongs to God, he knows them and hears their prayers. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me…my sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”4
When it comes to God then, do you really know him and does he know you? Do you have a relationship with him that warrants God answering your prayers? Or is God pretty distant, pretty much just a concept in your life? If God is distant, or you’re not sure that you know God.
For those who do know him and rely on him, Jesus seems to be wildly generous in his offer: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”5 To “remain” in him and have his words remain in them means they conduct their lives aware of him, relying on him, listening to what he says. Then they’re able to ask him whatever they want. Here is another qualifier: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”6 God answers our prayers according to his will (and according to his wisdom, his love for us, his holiness, etc.).
Where we trip up is assuming we know God’s will, because a certain thing makes sense to us! We assume that there is only one right “answer” to a specific prayer, assuming certainly THAT would be God’s will. And this is where it gets tough. We live within the limits of time and limits of knowledge. We have only limited information about a situation and the implications of future action on that situation. God’s understanding is unlimited. How an event plays out in the course of life or history is only something he knows. And he may have purposes far beyond what we could even imagine. So, God is not going to do something simply because we determine that it must be his will.
Pages and pages could be filled about God’s intentions toward us. The entire Bible is a description of the kind of relationship God wants us to experience with him and the kind of life he wants to give us. Here are just a few examples:
“…the Lord longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”7 Did you catch that? Like someone rising out of his chair to come to your help, “He rises to show you compassion.” “As for God, his way is perfect…He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”8 “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”9
However, God’s greatest display of his love and commitment to you is this: Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,”10 which is what Jesus did for us. And so, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?”11
Certainly people get sick, even die; financial problems are real, and all sorts of very difficult situations can come up. What then?
God tells us to give our concerns to him. Even as the situation remains dismal, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”12 The circumstances may look out of control, but they aren’t. When the whole world seems to be falling apart, God can keep us together. This is when a person can be very grateful that they know God. “The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”13 God may provide solutions, resolutions to the problem WAY beyond what you imagined possible. Probably any Christian could list examples like this in their own lives. But if the circumstances do not improve, God can still give us his peace in the midst of it. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”14
It is at this point (when circumstances are still tough) that God asks us to continue to trust him — to “walk by faith, not by sight” the Bible says. But it’s not blind faith. It is based on the very character of God. A car traveling on the Golden Gate Bridge is fully supported by the integrity of the bridge. It doesn’t matter what the driver may be feeling, or thinking about, or discussing with someone in the passenger seat. What gets the car safely to the other side is the integrity of the bridge, which the driver was willing to trust.
In the same way, God asks us to trust his integrity, his character…his compassion, love, wisdom, righteousness on our behalf. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”15 “Trust in him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us.”16
God has offered to answer the prayers of his children (those who have received him into their lives and seek to follow him). He asks us to take any concerns to him in prayer and he will act upon it according to his will. As we deal with difficulties we are to cast our cares on him and receive from him a peace that defies the circumstances. The basis for our hope and faith is the character of God himself. The better we know him, the more apt we are to trust him.
Bible Scripture References
(1) 1 John 5:14 (2) 1 Peter 3:12 (3) Isaiah 59:1,2 (4) John 10:14,27-28 (5) John 15:7 (6) 1 John 5:14,15 (7) Isaiah 30:18 (8) Psalms 18:30 (9) Psalms 147:11 (10) John 15:13 (11) Romans 8:32 (12) 1 Peter 5:7 (13) Philippians 4:5-7 (14) John 14:27 (15) Jeremiah 31:3 (rsv) (16) Psalms 62:8
Do you believe God really answers prayer? Really and truly… that God hears your personal prayers and cares enough to respond?
Your answer to those questions probably dictates if, when, where, and how you pray.
You know, prayer can serve many purposes, but generally speaking, it’s an intimate conversation with God. Prayer involves Him stirring our hearts, us communicating with Him, and then listening for how God may respond to us.
Now, when it comes to prayer, there are a lot of folks who have the idea that God doesn’t want us to ask Him questions. But that’s not true! God delights in His children asking Him questions. In fact, God was asked questions… big and small… all the way through the Bible.
One of the people who literally put God “on trial” was a man from the Old Testament named Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet in Judah, and he felt the full weight of the problems, pressures, sins, and difficulties of his family and of his nation.
SEE ALSO: What Does God Promise You?
And although Habakkuk lived a long time ago, his story is extremely relevant…especially when you look at modern history and all that we’re dealing with in America and around the world.
In Habakkuk 1:2, Habbakuk asked the following of the Lord:
“How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”
This was one of those big, deep, tough, “life” questions that Habakkuk was asking God. In the midst of all the chaos surrounding his life, he was basically asking, “God, where were you when I needed you the most?”
SEE ALSO: How to Find God When He’s Silent
Habakkuk was grappling with something each of us deals with as believers: unanswered prayer. He was complaining about the silence of God… and in his heart he desperately wanted to know why God wasn’t answering his prayers.
I’m sure you’ve probably felt this way before. Anyone who’s been walking with the Lord for any amount of time has. We want answers when we pray! And it’s frustrating when it seems like God is silent.
If you’ve ever felt this way, or even feel this way today, I have a word of encouragement for you. God does answer prayer. But He does it in four different ways.
“I can’t hear you.” Sometimes the Lord can’t hear us when we pray. And it’s not because we need to talk louder or speak more clearly. Sometimes God can’t hear us when we pray because according to Psalm 66 and Isaiah 5, there is sin in our life.
“No.” Sometimes the Lord says “No” when we pray. And while this can be a very difficult answer to receive, it’s still an answer…regardless if we understand His decision at the moment or not. God is able to reveal His strength in you and me when we are broken and weak. So there is a purpose when God says “No.”
“Yes.” There is true power in prayer. And when we pray in Jesus’ name, He may also say “Yes.” “Yes, I’ll forgive. Yes, I’ll heal. Yes, I’ll step in to help.”
“Wait.” Sometimes the toughest answer to receive from God is “Wait.” When this happens, we need to remind ourselves that God is in control and can certainly handle our situation. We need to allow Him to continue working in whatever way He sees fit. And we can’t try to take back the situation, but must truly be patient and wait on God’s timing!
And this is exactly what God said to Habakkuk. He told him, “Even though you don’t think I’m listening, Habakkuk, I am working on a plan that is so much larger than you.”
The truth is, even though Habakkuk couldn’t see it, God was working the whole time! And the same is true in your life as a follower of Christ. If you’re in a holding pattern, trust that God is working, and that He is sovereign over all the details in your life.
God indeed does answer prayer…and, yes, your prayers!
There are many accounts of answered prayers in the bible. The fact is that God has always been in the business of answering prayers.
It is not uncommon for Christians ” even Christians with a long walk with God ” to feel doubt when praying.
No matter how many times God has come through for you in the past, it still seems doubtful that the Creator of the Universe would take the time to hear and answer your prayers.
Lets go over some stories of answered prayers in the bible.
Hannah Prays for a Baby
I Samuel, chapters 1 and 2
Hannah desperately wanted a child. In those days,
a woman could not go to the doctor to learn the reason for her infertility.
Instead, being unable to have a baby was considered a shame and a curse.
Hannah cried out to God in such a raw, emotional way that the priest who
heard her prayers actually thought that she was drunk. But she wasnt.
She was desperate, and she knew that the only one with the power to give
her the desire of her heart was the Lord.
God heard Hannah and her prayer touched the Lord so much that He was moved
to give her a child. As promised, Hannah gave her child back to the Lord and
Samuel grew up to become a great prophet.
Elijah Prays for God to Prove His Power
I Kings 18:20-40
Elijah was frustrated with those who worshipped Baal, and wanted very much
for the one true God to prove His power in front of the followers of Baal.
After those followers tried unsuccessfully to call down fire from their god,
Elijah prayed a very simple prayer. He asked that God would send down fire
and consume the altar.
God answered that prayer in a powerful way and all of the followers of Baal
who were present had no choice but to confess the power of the Lord.
David Prays for Forgiveness
One prayer that every Christian will pray at one time or another is
the prayer for forgiveness. This is also the type of prayer that can be very difficult
to believe that God will answer.
When you sin, it is easy to feel far from God, but looking to the example
of David can be a wonderful reminder about the power of Gods forgiveness.
David had committed adultery and then had a man killed in an attempt to
cover his sin. When he fully realized what he had done, he became broken before God,
and one of the most heartfelt prayers in the Bible, Psalms 51, was written.
God did forgive David for his sins, and David went on to live for God for
the rest of his days and remained, as the Bible called him, a man after Gods own heart.
Does God Always Answer Prayers?
While the above are good examples of God answering prayers in the bible,
it is important to remember that sometimes God says no.
This doesnt mean that he hasnt answered. It just means that He sees the
big picture and knows what is best for you in the long run.
God has always loved His people. Also, keep a journal about the prayers that
He has answered for you. All of this will work together to increase your faith
and make you even more pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.
Do you have a good story about god interceding on your behalf?