Are Your Prayers Being Answered?
When Herbert W. Armstrong was just three years into his conversion, he came to this startling realization while in the midst of a sore trial: God was no longer answering his prayers the way He once did.
At that time, Mrs. Armstrong was pregnant with her fourth child and she was anemic. Her doctor pleaded with her to go to the hospital, but the Armstrongs couldn’t afford another hospital bill, having not yet paid the balance due for their last child. In the kitchen, the cupboards and pantry were practically empty and there was no wood left to fuel the wood stove.
It would have been easy to blame God during this hardship, but Mr. Armstrong didn’t. He knew the real cause of the problem had to do with his own weaknesses and sins—he just didn’t yet know what they were.
So, he decided to fast and pray until God showed Him why He wasn’t answering his prayers the way He used to! For two days of fasting, he repeated the cycle of one hour of prayer, followed by an hour of self-examination and then another hour of searching the Scriptures for answers, breaking only to sleep at night.
It was sometime in the middle of the second day that Mr. Armstrong finally could see what had happened—why his prayers weren’t being answered. After three years of conversion, the cares of this world had crowded God out of his life. The “first love” he had experienced in his conversion to God’s truth had worn off. He had become more excited about material things than he was about his relationship with God.
Just then, one of his daughters cried out, “Grandpa and Grandma Armstrong are driving into our driveway!” By this time, after two days of fasting, Mr. Armstrong had drawn close to God. Through his Bible study, he had become reacquainted with the many promises of God recorded in Scripture. He now knew that God would hear and answer his prayers.
So, he hurriedly knelt down before God and, for the first time during his fast, made several requests: He asked God to heal his wife, for wood to fuel the furnace, for food to eat, for enough money to pay their hospital debt, and for God to provide a replacement for his worn-out overcoat. He then concluded by asking God to provide whatever else their family needed. All totaled, he estimated the prayer to be about 18 seconds in length.
The moment the short prayer ended, God immediately started answering his requests.
As he went outside to meet his parents in the driveway, Mr. Armstrong noticed that his dad had loaded the car with firewood. His mom had prepared a hearty meal for their family.
Then, the following morning, God healed Mrs. Armstrong and her iron-depleted blood returned to normal. That same day, God provided enough income to pay the hospital bill and to cover the oncoming birth of their fourth child when Mr. Armstrong obtained a surveying job. It also covered his rent that was past due. And right before he landed the job, Mr. Armstrong ran into his younger brother Russell on the street. Russell insisted on buying Mr. Armstrong a new topcoat.
Make Your Requests Known to God
Prayer, more than anything else, is an act of submission to God the Father and His will. God knows what we need, but He wants to make sure that He has first priority in our lives. Mr. Armstrong had to re-learn that lesson three years into his conversion.
One reason we sometimes struggle with prayer is because we simply will not submit to God, and continually put Him first in our lives.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Careful in this verse means to be anxious. We should not be anxious for our needs, but have relaxed faith when facing a trial. Then, when we make our requests known to God, we must ask in faith and with an attitude of thankfulness.
In Luke 11, the disciples asked Christ to teach them to pray—they didn’t know how. We too must first ask Jesus Christ how to pray. Through the Holy Spirit, He will help us. He Himself was a man of prayer.
Christ further instructed His disciples not to use vain repetitions that mean nothing (Matthew 6:7-8). Of course, that doesn’t mean repeating a certain prayer is wrong—earnest, persistent supplication sometimes requires that we repeat certain prayers.
In Matthew 6:9, Christ offers a sample prayer outline, beginning with addressing the Father. God’s name and all that it stands for should be held in the deepest reverence. His name carries authority and rule. Beginning our prayers by giving great praise and adoration to God will fix our attention on the Creator, which is where our focus should be.
By praying “Thy kingdom come,” we are asking that God’s literal government be set up on this Earth (verse 10). We are focusing on the future.
The next part of our prayer is where we focus most on the work, while at the same time praying for God’s will to be working in our lives in preparation for that Kingdom. Verse 11 makes it plain that we should pray daily, and ask God to supply our needs.
Verse 33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” If we are seeking first the Kingdom of God, then we can go to God for our daily needs and ask with confidence.
Luke 11:4, the parallel verse to Mathew 6:12, says, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us ….” Realize your continual struggle against vanity and pride, and against the lusts of the flesh, and go to God in repentance so that you might be cleansed. But pray first that through God’s Spirit, you will forgive others who have wronged you (Matthew 6:14-15). God will not forgive us if we can’t forgive others!
God wipes away our sins upon repentance (Isaiah 1:18-19; 43:25). He doesn’t hold it against us—He forgets all about it!
“Temptation” is a bad translation in Matthew 6:13. It should actually read, “lead us not into a sore trial.” The course of our lives is in God’s hands (Jeremiah 10:23-24). Pray for Him to correct you daily so that we might be kept from having to go through a sore trial.
When we pray, “lead us not into sore trial, but deliver us from the evil one,” we are asking God to perfect us and to bring us to the place where such trials are not needed. Then, end the prayer with the same kind of praise and adoration with which you began it (verse 13, last part).
Remember the lesson Mr. Armstrong learned: After three years of conversion, the cares of this world had crowded God out of his life. Do whatever it takes to get your relationship right with God. Draw near to Him. And then, after that relationship is back to the way it should be, make your requests known to God.