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Heregoes
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Date Posted:10/12/2008 2:21 AMCopy HTML

Hi all

I'm not sure if this is a risky topic, have been mulling over whether to post it or not - but then I thought, well, why not?  Since leaving the RF 10 years ago, I have been attending an AOG church.  Over the last few years, I have been going through some great difficulties, and basically it has left me wondering about our theology on answered prayer.  It seems to me prayers aren't answered as much as we hear from the pulpit that they should be - if I was to be completely honest I would say prayers are rarely answered - and if they are, it is very random.  What I'm wondering is, what should be our theology on prayer?  Should we expect answers to prayers anymore?  I have always felt blessed to be "in the Lord" as we had the march on others "not in the Lord" (to use the good old RF jargon), in that we had the Lord to fall back on.  But now I'm not so sure - I have tried all manner of ways to pray for things and none of them have worked.  I have come to the point now, where I don't pray for things because one more disappointment will be too much. 

Any thoughts?  Have we been erroneously taught?  Do all those scriptures we quote "by His stripes you were healed", "ask anything in my name and you shall ahve it", "ask and keep on asking", "if any man is sick let him call for the elders......" etc etc really mean that?  Have we missed something?  i would love to hear your thoughts on this.
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:10/12/2008 2:37 AMCopy HTML

HG

Good post and I think you may have tapped into something that so many could be wondering about. I know it took a bit for you to write it.

I take your point. Were we led astray in RF on this doctrine - being 'the head' and 'not the tail' - we could ask anything in faith. Then again, there's an out -  if you don't get the answer, maybe you didn't have enough faith, etc.

Sorry if I came across glib on chat box before : the universal 'pray about it, sister' type comment.

Like you, I'd be very interested to hear others comments.

Chips
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:10/12/2008 4:13 AMCopy HTML

Good afternoon, Heregoes.

I'm not sure if this is a risky topic, have been mulling over whether to post it or not - but then I thought, well, why not?  Since leaving the RF 10 years ago, I have been attending an AOG church. 

To begin with, there are no risky topics, but I think you've just pointed out the first problem! You've chosen to fellowship at an AoG/ACC church, and that organisation's corporate position (and subsequent theology) on prayer is anything but useful.

Over the last few years, I have been going through some great difficulties, and basically it has left me wondering about our theology on answered prayer.

Sure, but whose theology on "answered prayer" are you referring to? The Revivalist version, or the AoG/ACC?

It seems to me prayers aren't answered as much as we hear from the pulpit that they should be - if I was to be completely honest I would say prayers are rarely answered - and if they are, it is very random.  What I'm wondering is, what should be our theology on prayer?  Should we expect answers to prayers anymore?

First, let me begin by pointing out that your church (the AoG/ACC) is quite well known for promoting an almost "candy-store" approach to prayer: if you pester God for long enough, being the indulgent grandfatherly sort that he is, he'll eventually give in and grant you your "three wishes"! By contrast, Scripture presents the idea that prayer primarily functions as a means by which we align our thoughts and will to God's thoughts and will. In one sense then, prayer, as with the other forms of Christian worship, is an obligation upon us given who God is. Now and with respect to us praying with the expectation that prayers will be answered, I think we should probably realign out thinking so that we have the expectation that our prayers will be heard (and I think of the apostle Paul as the perfect exemplar in this respect). There is a not-so-subtle distinction in intent between the two, which can lead to a difference in overall outcome. In any respect we certainly can, and should, petition God. Speaking strictly from my own experience, God does answer prayer. But the answer isn't always what I would prefer, nor are the overall results always as I expected!

I have always felt blessed to be "in the Lord" as we had the march on others "not in the Lord" (to use the good old RF jargon), in that we had the Lord to fall back on.  But now I'm not so sure - I have tried all manner of ways to pray for things and none of them have worked.  I have come to the point now, where I don't pray for things because one more disappointment will be too much.

Yes. Our time in "Revival" equipped us with a certain misplaced pride, didn't it? But do understand there is no formula or method to securing the preferred answers to our prayers. If you stop and think about it for a bit, such would equate to little more than an attempt at the manipulation of deity, and such defines magic better than faith.

Any thoughts?  Have we been erroneously taught?

'Yes' and 'yes'.

Do all those scriptures we quote "by His stripes you were healed", "ask anything in my name and you shall have it", "ask and keep on asking", "if any man is sick let him call for the elders......" etc etc really mean that?

I believe the most important point to prayer is the very fact of prayer. It's a volitional act on our part, and is simply a part of what it is to understand our position before God--one of total dependence. However, and addressing your proffered examples, let me state that the AoG/ACC has a somewhat deficient understanding of much of Isaiah's teaching with respect to the nature and the extent of the atonement, and quite frequently the specific contexts of many of the passages quoted from the pulpit on prayer aren't adequately considered.

In conclusion, and from my personal experience, I can categorically state that God does heal, that he does provide, and that he does answer prayer. But the flipside is that he's no "genie in a bottle", and neither is he a "tamed", "domesticated" and "indulgent" sort of deity! God is, and he remains, God.

Blessings,

Ian


email: didaktikon@gmail.com
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:10/12/2008 4:25 AMCopy HTML

Now and with respect to us praying with the expectation that prayers will be answered, I think we should probably realign out thinking so that we have the expectation that our prayers will be heard (and I think of the apostle Paul as the perfect exemplar in this respect). There is a not-so-subtle distinction in intent between the two, which can lead to a difference in overall outcome.
..........................................................................

I like this. Praying, simply because we are heard may, in itself, have a different outcome than praying for an answer? Do we set ourselves up for the fall time and time again? I think the fog is lifting.

Heregoes - does this seem to 'fit' just a bit even?

Chippy

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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:10/12/2008 6:16 AMCopy HTML

I have tried all manner of ways to pray for things and none of them have worked. I have come to the point now, where I don't pray for things because one more disappointment will be too much.
______________________________________________________________________________________

Hi heregoes,

Firstly, I agree totally with Ian that God is certainly not there just to answer our prayers and our every desire - He is certainly not the genie in the bottle! Prayer is not just an activity or an obligation - it is communion and communcation with our Creator. Prayer has the power to transform lives, change circumstances and give peace in the midst of trials. God instituted prayer - and all throughout the old and new testaments there are many examples of prayers offered AND answered.

The subject of prayer is something that I never really understood in my 'revival days' and am gradually beginning to understand the power and the purpose of it now. Back then, I believed that I could pray for anything that I wanted eg a healing, a job, financial blessing etc and I believed that God would 'grant' it - IF I had enough faith to accept it. Of course when He didn't, I'd just say ' oh well, next time'. In other words, I had no idea about prayer at all really and saw prayer as a last ditch effort to appeal to a God that I didn't even know! How sad!

I'm learning that (and I'm sure Ian will point out if I'm wrong here) it's not OUR will (or need) that we need to pray for. I now pray for GOD'S will to be done in my life and for him to use me to reach others and to make me a more compassionate person etc. I'm learning that it's not MY will that matters, it's HIS will that matters. And I have seen prayer answered in amazing ways, but when things don't turn out as I'd like them to, I still continue trusting in an amazing God that has a plan and a purpose for my life.

Heregoes, sometimes we (ALL of us at some stage) seem to go through a bit of a valley but be assured that the mountain top is not very far away. I wonder whether we sometimes need to 'learn' a little more about ourselves, our faith and our relationship with God before He reveals the next stage of our journey? I am confident that your husband will get a great job really soon and I WILL be praying for him. Sometimes we just need to be encouraged in our prayer life and then put our total trust and confidence in our heavenly Father.

As an example of prayer, I pray the Lord's Prayer often and use it as a basis for my prayer life - I just make it more personal and add my own words, thoughts and feelings when I'm talking to God.

Jesus was asked by His disciples how man should pray and He said "This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" Matt 6:9-11

God bless, Urch

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths.
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:10/12/2008 9:07 PMCopy HTML

Thanks all of you for your replies - much to think about.  I have lots running round in my head (scary thought) and will put fingers to keyboard later today with some of them, when I have more time.  Thanks again.
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:11/12/2008 12:36 AMCopy HTML

Hi Ian

Sure, but whose theology on "answered prayer" are you referring to? The Revivalist version, or the AoG/ACC?

Both - they're all I know!  Basically, if you keep asking, and it's within what God wants for us (health etc, not Ferraris), and we have faith, then we should receive it.

Scripture presents the idea that prayer primarily functions as a means by which we align our thoughts and will to God's thoughts and will.

But isn't it God's will that we be healthy and live abundant lives?

Now and with respect to us praying with the expectation that prayers will be answered, I think we should probably realign out thinking so that we have the expectation that our prayers will be heard (and I think of the apostle Paul as the perfect exemplar in this respect). There is a not-so-subtle distinction in intent between the two, which can lead to a difference in overall outcome.

This is very interesting - indeed sparked something in me, a totally different way of looking at it to what I have ever been taught before.  My currently cynical brain though immediately thinks "Yes, when I ask my husband to wash up, I know he hears me, but it's no comfort if it doesn't actually get done"!

In conclusion, and from my personal experience, I can categorically state that God does heal, that he does provide, and that he does answer prayer. But the flipside is that he's no "genie in a bottle", and neither is he a "tamed", "domesticated" and "indulgent" sort of deity! God is, and he remains, God.

You see, I just can't get my head around this.  Why is answered prayer so very random.  One person gets healed or an answer to prayer, for the exact same thing that the next person doesn't.  We are taught that God is no respecter of persons, you can't earn favour with God, there is no formula etc. But it seems to me that God does favour people.  Why would he answer the exact same prayer for some and not others?

So, does this scripture mean what it says?  "Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven."  James 5 V14-15.  Because in my experience it is one chance out of 1000 that you will be healed. 

I am not trying to be argumentative or difficult, just trying to understand.  Is healing/answered prayer etc not relevant today?  If we can't rely on God in that scripture, how can we trust him? How can we have faith if we don't believe anything will happen?

Again, I think I need to start learning all over again.  Sigh.

Heregoes.
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:11/12/2008 2:00 AMCopy HTML

Hi, Heregoes.

Scripture presents the idea that prayer primarily functions as a means by which we align our thoughts and will to God's thoughts and will.

But isn't it God's will that we be healthy and live abundant lives?

Spoken like a true Pentecostal! Theologically, God's will for us is that we render to him the worship that he alone is due. The problem, yet again, rests with intent. Pentecostals have this thoroughly annoying habit of viewing everything as if they (rather than God) were at the centre. This, of course, is a completely faulty perspective to hold.

Now and with respect to us praying with the expectation that prayers will be answered, I think we should probably realign out thinking so that we have the expectation that our prayers will be heard (and I think of the apostle Paul as the perfect exemplar in this respect). There is a not-so-subtle distinction in intent between the two, which can lead to a difference in overall outcome.

This is very interesting - indeed sparked something in me, a totally different way of looking at it to what I have ever been taught before.  My currently cynical brain though immediately thinks "Yes, when I ask my husband to wash up, I know he hears me, but it's no comfort if it doesn't actually get done"!

Sure. But remember, God isn't your husband, he's your God. Consequently, and to paraphrase JFK, "...ask not what your God can do for you, but what you can do for your God."

In conclusion, and from my personal experience, I can categorically state that God does heal, that he does provide, and that he does answer prayer. But the flipside is that he's no "genie in a bottle", and neither is he a "tamed", "domesticated" and "indulgent" sort of deity! God is, and he remains, God.

You see, I just can't get my head around this.  Why is answered prayer so very random.  One person gets healed or an answer to prayer, for the exact same thing that the next person doesn't.  We are taught that God is no respecter of persons, you can't earn favour with God, there is no formula etc. But it seems to me that God does favour people.  Why would he answer the exact same prayer for some and not others?

God does indeed favour certain people, those who are his, and some who are not. However, he's often quite 'rigid' in his expectations of the very same groups. Consider Abraham, for example, the "Father of faith". God made a number of notable promises to Abraham, one of which would be the possession of Canaan. But it wasn't until Sarah died, and Abraham needed to quickly purchase a plot of land in which to bury her, that this particular promise began to be fulfilled. But "Abraham believed God, and this was counted to him as righteouness". There's a powerful moral to that story.

So, does this scripture mean what it says?  "Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven."  James 5 V14-15.  Because in my experience it is one chance out of 1000 that you will be healed.

Let me share a very personal experience with you. A few years ago, one of the elders in the church my family was then part of approached me distraught. Her daughter had been diagnosed with uterine cancer a few years previously (she was in her early 20s at the time). She had received treatment, which she had apparently responded well to. Anyway, she had been feeling quite unwell for a few months, and was eventually convinced to return to her doctor for a checkup. Tests were conducted, of course, but the results weren't good. The cancer had returned, and had spread: affecting her ovaries, her liver and her lower spine. The net result was that she was given just a few short months to live. I was asked by her mother, what we should do. I suggested to her, and the other leaders of our growing church, that we should get her down from Sydney, and hold a "James 5 service". It was actually quite difficult to convince some that this was the appropriate thing to do. Anyway, we held the service, and with the exception of myself, my wife, and the girl's mother, very few in the room held out much hope (including the girl, herself). But we trusted God as best we could.

Three weeks later we received hopeful news. The latest battery of tests had shown that the cancer wasn't spreading further. It had simply consolidated. Subsequent tests a month later still showed that the cancer had actually reduced. Our hopes rose. Three months later and there wasn't a single trace of cancer anywhere in her body.

Four years ago our friend gave birth to a healthy baby. Today, she's well advanced in her second pregnancy.

Now ours was not a Pentecostal church. No-one laid claim to having the "gifts of healings" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Most of us were resigned to the fact that a dearly loved young lady would soon die. But she lived. She was healed, and then miraculously. And she's since become a mother herself, another miracle given the damage done to her uterus and ovaries from the cancer and its aggressive treatment.

I am not trying to be argumentative or difficult, just trying to understand.  Is healing/answered prayer etc not relevant today?  If we can't rely on God in that scripture, how can we trust him? How can we have faith if we don't believe anything will happen?

I believe both are relevant, today. However, neither occurs very frequently after the fashion that is often promoted within Pentecostal circles. My personal experience has been that the less "Pentecostal" churches often are the ones to see the greater "results".

A few things to ponder.

Blessings,

Ian






email: didaktikon@gmail.com
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:12/12/2008 1:02 AMCopy HTML

Hi Ian

Thanks for your reply.  The personal story you shared helps to illustrate my point.  I know of another very similar situation.  Friends of mine had a daughter that was diagnosed with cancer as a child. She subsequently went into remission, but the cancer resurfaced when she was about 16. The family are christians (not pentecostals at the time, though now are), very faithful, God fearing people.  They prayed and did everything we are told to do in the bible for 3 long years, while they watched her die.  She eventually died at 19 years of age. So, is the difference between them and your friends just random?  Is it something we can never know and shouldn't need or desire to know?  Do we just accept that God answers who he wants to, but not others?

Heregoes
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Re:Answered prayer

Date Posted:12/12/2008 2:33 AMCopy HTML

Hi, Heregoes.

Difficult as it often is for us to grasp, I think what we need to accept is that: (1) God is sovereign and that he acts according to his own plans and purposes. (2) That we must trust and have faith in spite of our often dire present circumstances. And (3) that we will never fully be able to reconcile to our satisfaction the apparently "inscrutable" nature of Providence, this side of the Kingdom.

Blessings,

Ian
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