GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER PART 3

To get answers to prayer (1) there are things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray; (2) there are things God wants us to do WHEN we pray; and (3) there are things God wants us to do AFTER we pray.

We’re looking at the things God wants us to do BEFORE we pray. We said IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT. There are five aspects of being right. (1) In my last post we looked at being right with God. (2) Now, in the second place, we’ve got to be right with people.  

2. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT WITH PEOPLE

How you treat others has a profound effect on your prayers. IF YOU’RE NOT TREATING PEOPLE RIGHT, DON’T EXPECT GOD TO HEAR OR ANSWER YOUR PRAYER. HE WON’T.

Look at Zechariah 7:9-10 with me: This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.  (10)  Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. 

What the Lord wanted the Israelites to do wasn’t rocket science. He wasn’t speaking to them in tongues. The people understood full well what God was telling them to do. Start treating people right. Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, the immigrants or foreigners living among you, and the poor. Don’t be thinking of bad things that you can do to people. Treat everybody right. Don’t be messing people up.

Well, God’s people didn’t take God’s words to heart. Zechariah 7:11-12 records their stubborn response: Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing.  (12a)  They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.

God, in turn, got mad with His people (verse 12b). And in His anger, this is what God did: And it came about that as they would not give ear to his voice, so I would not give ear to their voice, says the Lord of armies (Zechariah 7:13). God, in a word, didn’t listen to, or answer, their prayers.

Isaiah 58 pretty much tells the same story. God’s people were boohooing on God’s shoulders, asking why God wasn’t paying any attention to them even though they were praying, fasting, and seeking His face. They were crying out to Him! But God wasn’t answering! Why not? He told them why in Isaiah 58:3-4, Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.  (4)  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

God says, Do this. This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  (7)  Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help (Isaiah 58:6-7).

And if we do what God says, this is what God does: Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.  (9a)  Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ He will quickly reply (Isaiah 58:8-9a).

Harboring unforgiveness and ill feelings towards a person has a hindering effect on our prayers: it’s like stuffing cotton in God’s ears. I love the promise of Mark 11:24, but Jesus quickly follows the promise with a command to forgive if we haven’t done that yet:  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  (25)  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:24-25).

God’s so concerned about how we treat people that even a man’s mistreatment of his wife is a cause for unanswered prayer: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Are you beginning to get the drift here? If we’re unforgiving, unloving, abusive, and malicious towards people—towards a person—whether they’re in the family or church, whether they’re a Christian or not; we’re putting ourself in a position where God won’t answer our prayer. GOD DOESN’T ANSWER OUR PRAYER WHEN WE DON’T TREAT PEOPLE RIGHT.

Friends, if you haven’t gotten an answer to prayer, or if your prayers are going unanswered; then it would be worth your while to examine the state of your relationship with people. If there’s  someone  that  you’re  not getting  along  with, someone that you’re harboring bad feelings towards, or someone that you’re hurting; then you’ve found the reason why your prayers aren’t being answered.

YOU HAVE TO TREAT PEOPLE JUSTLY AND RESPECTFULLY IF YOU WANT GOD TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS. If you want God to do you right, you’ve got to do people right. Treat them right first. Then ask God for what you want. That’s how you get answers to prayer.

Coming Up On My Next Blog In This Series. Being righteous. Think you can get answers to prayer without living the right way? Do you seriously think how you live your life doesn’t matter to God or affect His hearing? Wow, are you in for a surprise! Surf on in and God will have your surprise waiting for you.

JUDGE NOT PART 6

INTRODUCTION

As we saw in my earlier post from John 7:24, there are times when it isn’t wrong for us to judge one another (JUDGE NOT PART 2). Having said this, the prohibition against judging in Matthew 7:1 tells us that there are times when it is indeed wrong for us to judge people. Let’s look at a fourth instance when judging is inappropriate and is an act of disobedience to God.

IT’S WRONG FOR US TO BE UNMERCIFUL WHEN WE JUDGE

There are a lot of things wrong with a critical, judgmental person. (1) He’s hypocritical and self-righteous as we saw in the previous posts. (2) He’s partial and preferential. He’s unfair and unjust because he judges people by one standard but doesn’t judge himself by the same standard. (3) He’s critical in the sense that he’s focused solely on what’s wrong with people. And (4) a critical, judgmental person is a really harsh, unmerciful person. He’s got no mercy. No compassion. No understanding. No sympathy. No second chances. No chances to get it right. No forgiveness. No love or prayers for people who have problems.

A critic and a judge live by law: “you did this, you deserve this.” That’s all good and fine on the day of judgment or in a time of incurable hardening and unrepentance. But THE LORD DOESN’T LIVE EACH DAY IN JUDGMENT MODE. If He did, none of us would live another day. The Psalmist says it well in Psalm 130:3, If thou, O Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? The idea here is, if all the Lord ever did was make a record of our sins—gathering all the evidence needed to condemn us—who could ever live? If God lived this way there is no life after sin and judgment!

But the Psalmist goes on and gives us the hope of life: But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared, Psalm 130:4. The Judge could live every day in judgment mode if He wanted to. But He doesn’t! He made us! He loves us! Do you think He wants to kill and damn us? You’ve got God figured out wrong if you think so. Christ and Calvary are the proof of that and they are a resounding testimony of God’s love and desire to forgive and save, not record, remember, and damn. THE JUDGE LIVES EACH DAY IN FORGIVENESS MODE. He offers forgiveness and pardon so that we can live. God is not willing that any should be damned, but that all should come to repentance, forgiveness, and life (2 Peter 3:9). This is the heart of God and it’s the very heart that’s lacking in every critic. That’s every critic without exception.

A CRITICAL, JUDGMENTAL PERSON HAS A COLD, UNCARING, UNMERCIFUL, UNFORGIVING HEART. HE OR SHE IS INTERESTED IN KILLING PEOPLE INSTEAD OF MINISTERING LIFE AND HOPE TO THEM.

In Luke 6:36-37 Jesus links judgment with mercy and forgiveness. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  (37)  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.

A judge is given to the punishment of wrong: he condemns the people who are guilty and ministers death to them. But Jesus doesn’t want us to be like this. He wants us to be merciful and forgiving.

Now this is very instructive and enlightening. We are an imperfect people. We’ve got problems. We’ve got things that are wrong with us. We make mistakes. Critics use our imperfections against us to condemn and contemn us; to discourage and dishearten us; to make us miserable and mad.

But Jesus commands us to be merciful and forgiving! JESUS KNOWS THERE ARE THINGS WRONG WITH US. HE COULD CONDEMN AND BAD-MOUTH US. BUT INSTEAD OF MINISTERING DEATH, JESUS FORGIVES. HE’S SET THE EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW AND HE PLAINLY COMMANDS US TO BE MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING.

To me, the best example of a person who doesn’t have any heart or mercy is the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. You know the story. A servant owes his master a big sum of money. The master threatens to sell the slave’s family and possessions to recoup his loss. But the slave begs for mercy and patience. And the master ends up not following through on his threat because he’s got a merciful heart. This same slave, now forgiven, went out and found a fellow slave who owed him a tiny bit of money. The fellow slave begs for mercy and patience. But the forgiven slave refuses to show mercy and throws his fellow indebted slave into debtor’s prison.

Do you get the point of the parable? Jesus was real merciful with us as sinners. He forgave us and saved us. He wants us to be like Him, follow His lead, and be forgiving and merciful with people who have wronged us. And if we’re not, we’ll end up where the unmerciful, forgiven-but-unforgiving servant ended up: tormented.

Friends, IF YOU LIVE WITHOUT MERCY YOU’LL DIE WITHOUT MERCY. IF YOU’RE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS PEOPLE GOD WILL BE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS YOU! For he shall have judgment without mercy that  have shown no mercy, James 2:13.

A critic forgets how God has been so merciful, forgiving, patient and kind towards him. HE’S ALLOWED HATE TO FILL HIS HEART. AND HATRED ALWAYS LEADS TO DEATH. IT MINISTERS DEATH. 1 John 3:15 warns us that whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. A critic is harsh and hard on people because he’s got no heart for people. He may never admit it, but the truth is he hates the person he’s critical of.

A critic will likely never admit to wanting to kill a person. She won’t take a knife or gun in hand and kill the person she’s critical about. But HAVING A CRITICAL MINDSET AND TONGUE IS ALL THE SAME AS WIELDING THE INSTRUMENTS OF MURDER AND DEATH! God doesn’t see any difference between a critical mind and a gun, between a critical tongue and a knife, because they both produce the same result—death, if not of the body, then certainly of the spirit. The depression, discouragement, anger, feelings of resentment, rejection, unworthiness, and more; all the feelings and emotions that come with being criticized and condemned kill the soul. They sap the life out of a person. IN GOD’S EYES THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CRITIC AND A MURDERER. Now I’m really getting ahead of myself. More on this in my next blog.

Coming Up On My Next Post, Part 7. The final post in this series looks at God’s attitude towards a critic. And, as you would expect, He’s got some rather harsh words to say to the harsh. If you’re a judge drop by for your trial and sentencing before the Judge. You’ll get a taste of your poison and we’ll see how you like it.