When Prayer Seems Pointless

“The Ministry Minute: For when there is only a minute for ministry”                                                         Dr. Ross Riggs – True North Ministries           https://docriggs.wordpress.com/

Prayers in crevices of Western Wall

It appears that, as 2012 begins, there are circumstances surrounding this world that are so large the solutions are evasive at the least and totally inapprehensible at the worst. Events and forecasts paint such a dismal picture that, to even the most stalwart of Christians, prayer almost seems pointless. An anathema to make such a statement or more likely the lie that Satan would ask us to believe? Can Christians find themselves at a point where they wonder if their prayers are futile? Sadly, many Christians do get to that point in their journey of faith; and even sadder is that there are few brothers or sisters in Christ that truly offer some legitimate reason these suffering saints should carry on in prayer even when it seems that all hope is lost. With worn out clichés about praying harder or admonishment that their faith just isn’t strong enough, the struggling saints seek refuge in the solace of a plethora of ‘Christian self-help’ books that find answers everywhere except in the Bible. In this Minute, it is important to examine the issue.

The economy:  The US has its highest unemployment in decades, “…nearly half of all persons under 30, did not go to work today… If the American Church was healthy and strong – faithfully walking with Jesus Christ, obeying the Scriptures, preaching the gospel, and making disciples –wouldn’t the American society be stronger and healthier?”[i] The prayers of the faithful seem to lack results and the actions of those faithful seem to do even less.

Israel – Iran: “We better keep praying for peace, while preparing ourselves for war.”[ii] Within 9 to 12 months, according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak; Iran’s nuclear program will enter what he termed, the immunity zone. Barak defined the immunity zone as a point in the development of Iran’s nuclear capability after which they will be immune, or almost immune, to attack. Any attack after that point would not have the debilitating impact on the nuclear program that is necessary for Israel’s and the region’s protection.  “And the Israelis are trying to warn that if a decision is not taken during this time, from now until the mid or end of 2012, then it would be too late to (make) a decision.”[iii] Even with all of the rhetoric, international investigations, sanctions and covert military action; the Iranian nuclear program continues its juggernaut toward the goal of attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon.

Dr. Ronan Bergman author of ‘Israel Will Attack Iran in 2012’ published in the New York Times, Sunday January 30th, said: “…even that most of the leadership of Israel, including Mossad’s current assessment, military intelligence and others, all of them agreed that the timeline is very different, that Iran would be able to produce the first device within a year, and that sanctions… or the combination between sanctions and covert actions are not significantly effective.”[iv] Praying for the peace of Jerusalem has brought only millennia of war. Even now, in a dark hour, prayers of the thousands who have carried their petitions to the Western Wall; Protestants, Catholics, Baptists and, of course, Jews seem to hit that hard wall and go no farther than the pieces of paper with prayers scrawled on them stuck in the crevices by worshippers. Recently, a Jewish guide quipped to his gaggle of tourists that Jerusalem was the only place in the world where you could call on God or send Him a fax, referring to the prayers on paper that fill the small spots in the wall daily and are later taken by rabbis and ceremonially burnt as a prayer offering to God. It seems the fax machine’s line is down.

Cancer – human disease and suffering: A dear wife struggles to care for her husband of so many years as he battles daily to breath and to take even the most basic nourishment. The doctors say his cancer is in remission but the cancer has taken away his ability to eat and the pain he struggles with is debilitating. This wife, a life-long companion, mourns for a relationship that is a tattered veneer of what it once was. Their own priest looked at her when she asked for his help and he proclaimed that he ‘didn’t have a magic bag of tricks in his car.’ Her prayers seemed to go no farther than the ceiling and her faith was barely enough to get her out of bed in the mornings.

It does not matter that prayers do not ‘go beyond the ceiling.’ A Christian counselor can share this truth while being careful not to sound callus like the priest who had seemed flippant to her. It is not to heaven that her prayers must ascend, but rather to the nearby ear of a close friend who loves her more than a brother. God’s ear is described in Scriptures as inclined toward His children awaiting their next word of prayer. A prayer must travel only as far as one’s own heart where the Holy Spirit resides, for those who love God, with those who are called according to His purpose. The Bible assures believers that the Holy Spirit communes with their spirit, giving words to their feelings that they cannot find. As intimately as one’s own spirit communes with them; the Holy Spirit communes with God the Father and God the Son as One. Heartfelt prayers need travel only as far as one’s own heart and there find the ear of God waiting to acknowledge the deepest emotion and calm the worst fear. The Holy Spirit stands at the ready to make intercession for believers. Paul, in his letter to the Romans wrote, “In the same way, (referring to understanding that hope in the unseen is faith), the Spirit helps us in weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.[v]

If the struggles in this life such as the global economy in a death spiral, the desperate position of Israel surrounded by her enemies seeking nuclear warheads, and the pain of a life-mate battling cancer every minute of every day were not so overwhelmingly large, then man would not need a big God. It is true… if mankind can solve something alone, most likely he will do just that and take all the credit too; even when both the mind and skills are also gifts from God. God is big enough to speak the universe into existence and close enough to hear the soft crying of wounded hearts. God always answers prayer, and true, sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ God always hears, He always cares and He always knows what is best for His children. The world will continue along the path He has set for it whether it is the economy or in war. Israel will always be the chosen people and God will fulfill for them all that He has intended. Each individual believer has a path, carefully designed by God and in that path may He show and teach, direct and guide until finally His creation is with Him forever more. As John Stockton was traveling by ocean liner to England in the early 1870’s with D.L. Moody, he gave thought to changing a rendition of an old well known hymn from the church. The title of that hymn is perhaps the best response: “Only Trust Him.[vi]

[i] Rosenberg, Joel C. Blog: State of the Union: Is America at Risk of Implosion? 25 Jan 2012

[ii] Rosenberg, Joel C. Blog: White House Makes 2 New Mistakes on Iran 16 Jan 2012

[iii] Bergman, Dr. Ronan: Interview Transcript NPR Radio http://www.npr.org/2012/01/30/146093304/op-ed-israel-will-attack-iran-in-2012 accessed 1 Feb 2012

[iv] Ibid.

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