Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’ (John 14:23).
Scripture says the context of prayer is living interpersonal relationship with God (Jn. 14:23; 15:4-11). Prayer is one aspect of our relationship with another personal being. It takes place in a setting where on-going communication deepens and enriches understanding and develops intimacy, disclosure, trust and commitment. There is far more than conversation and petition going on in such a relationship. As does any truly loving father, God “listens” to the entire life of His child. (And none of us is an only child. God cares about how we treat our spiritual brothers and sisters: Mt. 18:21-35; 1 Pet. 3:7; 1 Jn. 3:16-23.)
In this relationship, sin grieves the Holy Spirit living in every believer. And it alters the priorities of the Spirit, who motivates and guides us in praying according to the Father’s will. Living in willful disobedience, we pray selfishly, seeking our will, not God’s (Jas. 4:3). Our Lord, who loves us too much to reward our rebellious independent spirit (Num. 11:4-33 and Ps. 106:14-15 are instructional), uses the discipline of unanswered prayer to stimulate reflection, conviction and repentance, as well as longing for fellowship and desire for intimacy. When His promptings are ignored, the Spirit is “quenched” and genuine estrangement results. Although the Father-child relationship is legal, eternal and unbreakable (Jn. 10:28-29; Rom. 8:35-39), the warmth of fellowship cools, and communication becomes strained and uncomfortable. Eventually we may avoid prayer altogether. Repentance, confession, forgiveness and restitution don’t instantly “fix” the relationship and immediately “switch answers to prayer back on.” It takes time to restore fellowship and intimacy, and to rebuild trust (reflect on Num. 12:13-14). Answers to prayer will follow, in proportion to the Father’s discernment of our commitment to the relationship and the priority of His will.
Loving Father, how I long to narrow the gaps of unawareness of Your presence living in me! Forgive me for the times I am disobedient to the voice of Your Spirit and attempt to go my own way. I don’t want to be estranged from You. Show me how to turn my back on the attractiveness of a culture that would pull me away from loving You and loving others above all other things! Guard my heart from a rebellious spirit and draw me close so that our fellowship can never be broken!
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 31, To Whom Does God Listen? by W. Bingham Hunter). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise God as the one who again has supplied you with all you have needed this week. Thank him for putting some of his resources into your care. Confess any waste or mismanagement of those resources this week. Commit yourself to sharing with God’s people who are in need (Rom. 12:13). Ask God to bring to mind the name of someone with whom he would have you share by showing hospitality (12:13).
Pray that your children and those of your friends learn principles of Christian stewardship from an early age. Ask God to make you an excellent example for them.