How do you ensure your prayer is acceptable to God?
In his book on prayer, Jacques Ellul makes the point that many people don’t pray because they don’t have their prayers answered. Or at least, not answered very often. In other words, if there are no results, then why do it? This infers many people take a pragmatic approach to prayer; God is the cosmic genie who will grant the petitioner’s wishes merely because it has been requested. Rub here to get immediate results.
The problem, according to Ellul, is that “we no longer seek through prayer a conformity of our will with God’s will, which makes our speech true, hence efficacious. We seek, rather, to achieve direct results, without bothering about the truth or the special will of God, or with our own obedience.”
In order that the prayer shall be acceptable, the person praying must in every case intelligently and diligently use the means provided by God himself in the great framework of second causes and natural laws for the attainment of the end desired.
Our results-oriented climate leads many pray-ers to expect immediate answers to prayer, even though it is often taught God answers prayer in his own good time. This may be so, but Ellul suggests that prayer has been diverted. Now, prayer is “taken seriously only in terms of the results which it promised to bring about.”
In other words, when there are no results people stop praying. But this only leads to the question: What, then, is prayer that will will get results? What is prayer that is acceptable to God?
Perhaps our prayers remain unanswered because they are unacceptable to God. Then the question: What are the true conditions of acceptable prayer?
Woman, Predator or Lamb?
She slipped off her glove and reached over the fence to pet Bramble. In the cow’s mind, her hand was a white claw coming down on her from the fence. The fear in her dark, wide eyes told me she was envisioning a mountain lion dropping off a cliff or out of a tree, to land on her back. Death would be instantaneous, the cat taking her at the neck and biting it with a pressure equaling 400 pounds per square inch.
The cow backed away, snorting. Ms. F____ nervously drew back her hand and exclaimed, “See? She just does not like me!”
Now Ms. F____ had confused the cow. First, Ms. F____ had behaved as a predator, but now she was comporting herself as a beta member of the herd, the one everybody butts around. And butt, Bramble had tried to do ever since the men had left her with Ms. F____. She and her daughter had been unable to enter the pen without Bramble acting like an angry bull, snorting, kicking up dirt, lowering her head and charging after them. The cow-solution, in her mind, to such fickle and unpredictable creatures as Ms. F____ and her daughter, would be simply to keep them both out of the pen, whatever that should take.
Not knowing what we had to face with this cow, but certain we must rescue Ms. F____, before the cow injured her or someone else, I had called on my sons to help us. They are big, strapping, muscular men who know livestock and have wrestled down cows before. If Bramble became too agitated, they would be able to handle her.
Hearing Directly From God Makes a Difference.
We all long for direct instructions from God. This seems a little easier than trying to make decisions when we are uncertain of our knowledge and the outcome. This story, then, might interest you.
I worked with a client in San Antonio, Texas. A Christian couple, they had moved from Florida about six years earlier to start a business. Initially they moved in with her sister, then with his.
But things were not going well. So the husband decided to return to Florida, leaving his family in San Antonio long enough for him to reestablish life there. He was getting ready to depart within a few days.
Then came the knock at the door. A stranger.
This perplexing question is answered in a book by former Michigan Congressman, Mark Siljander. It’s an interesting proposition.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Siljander in 1991, when he attempted a new run at Congress from the state of Virginia. He was not successful. But he has been successful in the diplomatic front in some interesting ways.
Now, in a book entitled A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman’s Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide, Siljander tells us of his own theological journey. He started with the idea that Islam was the antithesis to Christianity, but has ended with the idea that the Muslim’s Allah is the same as the Christian’s Jehovah, and it is merely that our understanding of God is different, but we’re all referring to the same Person.