Questions and Answers: Unspoken Prayers

3349205988_f95fd8c813_bQuestion:

Often I see  on Facebook a request for unspoken prayers. Does God hear and answer unspoken prayers?

Response:

If you mean by an “unspoken prayer”, a prayer that is directed from a Christian to heaven  from the mind of a  man or woman without being audibly spoken, the answer is “yes”. God can hear your prayers without your saying them aloud. We learn this from Hannah in I Samuel 1. 

If, in reality, you mean by an “unspoken prayer”  a request that Christian friends pray for you  in general terms so that God can respond to the specific needs of your life without necessarily revealing all of those needs to the ones who may be praying, the answer is, again, “yes”. Surely God knows all of our needs and certainly, if a friend asks me to pray because some difficult things are going on in her life, I am happy to honor that request. I don’t have to know the details because the Father knows them and can respond in ways that are far superior to any solutions that I might have, even if I knew every detail of my sister’s struggle. Sometimes, women will call such a request an “unspoken prayer request”. They simply mean that the details of their needs are not spoken to those to whom requests are being made. 

If you mean, though, by “unspoken prayer”, a nebulous better-felt-than-told sort of heavenward inclination—a wish toward God that you don’t take the time or energy to articulate or speak to the Father—I do not believe we have any promise that he will respond to those wishes. He has asked us to make our requests known to Him with supplications (Phil. 4:6). Would anyone argue that God does not know the needs or wishes of His children without our speaking them? Of course, our Father knows our needs (Matthew 6:32). But He wants us to express, in words, our requests. He also wants us to give Him our thanksgiving. It’s not enough to feel thankful to God, even though He knows our hearts (I Thessalonians 5:17,18). So, if by “unspoken prayer” you mean a wish or feeling that you never express, vocalize or articulate, I do not believe there’s any Biblical evidence that God responds to such a “feeling”, particularly if a person is not humbly relying on the power of Biblical prayer in her life. Since Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6:9ff and Luke 11:2ff, and the pattern clearly includes very specific requests, we should utter, from our hearts, words that, to the best of our human abilities, express our needs before His throne.  

 

The Extraterrestrial…Really.

NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-EarthriseYesterday, I spent the morning with a group of about 100 of God’s women focused intently on the subject of prayer. I don’t know about the other ladies, but I was deeply affected. We read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars and clamor after tales that allow our minds to venture outside this box that we inhabit…the box of space and time. But we rarely appreciate the fact that there is one extra-terrestrial tale that’s not just a tale. It’s about a real place, with a real Ruler who has power and sovereignty over this universe and all that’s in it. And we are already part of that extraterrestrial world…involved enough that the Sovereign has already given the supreme sacrifice to bring us into His presence. And we can communicate with that Sovereign power; even influence His will, if we submit to His terms. It’s the most amazing concept we can ponder while still bound to this earth by gravity. And it’s real. It’s evidence-backed faith that takes us there. It’s the most authenticated book in history that reveals this other world to us. 

Today I had a chance to pray with a sister as she dropped me off at the airport. We prayed about our future ventures, especially about the venture we are both trying to accomplish, along with our families to the throne of God for eternity. Have you ever thought about the magnitude of that blessing?…I mean the sweet privilege of going in prayer, with a sister, to the throne of the Father you share…the Father who is the King of the universe?

In a few moments, I have a scheduled phone call with another sister in Christ. We will talk about the struggles and pain in her life and we will both be going before our Father’s throne with these particular sorrows. We both have the assurance that there’s somebody else, though not physically related, who shares the bond of the blood of Jesus, and who cares deeply about what’s going on in the spiritual journey of the other.

Over the weekend I promised to speak to some event directors about an internship for a young Christian sister and to recommend another sister for a scholarship. Those are small pleas to administrators for little positions and rewards. But as I left the room of sisters tonight to make the trip back to Huntsville, they promised to make requests for me to the supreme Administrator of all good gifts (James 1:17). We cannot do anything more important for each other than to plead each others’ causes before that Administrator!

Blood sisters share DNA that makes them have physical similarities because they were born of the same parents. Spiritual sisters share spiritual traits that make them alike in more important ways. They share traits that they will still be sharing in a million years, while those physical genetic tendencies will have lost all traceability. Physical kinship is tied to the genes. Spiritual kinship is tied to Jesus. The former is merely the handiwork of the latter. And yet the latter took on human DNA—had physical kin—so that I could be his spiritual kin and so that I could share that kinship with you.  He did this so that I could come boldly before the throne of grace for you and so that you could do it for me (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

I know that you already knew all of this. So did I. But meditating on it makes me love God more. It makes me appreciate the forever family more deeply. It makes me long for a time when that family will be inseparable.

Sister to Sister: Q and A…About those Imprecatory Psalms…

QuestionMarkQuestion: When the Holy Spirit was speaking in the Psalms was He speaking in EVERY instance of them? The verse referenced in the podcast was Matt 22:44 which comes from Psalm 110:1 like you said but I am not sure I understand why you are leaning toward ALL Psalms written being the words of the Holy Spirit rather than (in some instances) the emotions of David being expressed. If David’s will for enemy destruction is in fact the Holy Spirit’s writing (like it is when David prophesies about Jesus’ coming) then I know that it is okay. That’s because whatever God says is right and true and just because He is God. However, the law David was under says “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” in Exodus 21:24 so it doesn’t seem far fetched that he would want ill for people who want to destroy him which Jesus does NOT endorse in Matt 5:38-39. I am very sorry if this doesn’t sound humble… I mean for it to be humble. I just am not sure I fully get your reasoning on this point.

Response: First of all, let me say that asking questions like this very good and scripture-focused question is not prideful. Asking expresses humility, in my judgment. Acting like I have all the answers would be prideful, so I am not going to do that. I am going to give you my best judgment, and my judgment will, sometimes, not be right.  But talking about the scriptures is always a good thing, so let’s have a go at this. I think you are asking several related questions:

  1. Does the Holy Spirit speak in all the Psalms? I believe so. If we are free to decide, on our own, which words are inspired and which words are not, then we do not need the book of Psalms, for our learning. In fact, it would be detrimental. We would not be able to decipher, with any certainty, what is truth.
  2. What about the prayers for enemy destruction? Did the Holy Spirit inspire David to pray that? Yes. The Holy Spirit could, through David, perfectly, justly and righteously discern the appropriate measure of punishment for each enemy of the anointed of God and of God Himself. This is true in this case just as it was true in the cases of the destruction of the enemies of God as the children of Israel went into Canaan in the book of Joshua. God gets it right, every time.
  3. Could David have had God’s approval to pray for destruction of enemies because he was under the eye-for-eye law, whereas we would be prohibited from such a prayer because we are under a different law? I do not believe it was the eye-for-eye law that gave David license to pray for bad things to happen to his enemies; first, because verses like Psalm 59:13 are about totally consuming people and those people were wicked, but they had not necessarily totally consumed other people. Second, eye-for-eye is just that. Individual payment for harm was to equal the harm done in the crime in specific situations. (Check the context of Exodus 21:24–very different from people who are seeking to overthrow the anointed one of God, the King of the House of Israel, progenitor of the Messiah) Eye-for-eye law was applicable in Jewish court upon individuals who caused harm to others and that was not the situation the Holy Spirit is speaking about through David.
  4. Does Matthew 5:38-39, then, prohibit us from praying for the destruction of our personal enemies? I think verse 44 does, for sure. I do not have the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He does not speak through me. I do have the Spirit’s admonition that I should be in prayer for those who despitefully use me. I have the Spirit’s admonition in the bottom of Romans 12 about how  must I return good for evil, heaping coals of fire on the heads of  my enemies and leaving the vengeance to God. So I must want the best for my enemies, including (and foremost this should be) their ultimate turn to God and their salvation. But the thing about the Psalms is this: their ultimate author WAS God. God–the Holy Spirit– wrote the Psalms though the Singer of Israel and other men. So, every plea in that inspired book, unless the Psalmist was quoting  an uninspired man,  is  just and right. In the new Testament, the Holy Spirit promised that God will take vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the Gospel– in flaming fire, no less. He adds that these will be punished with everlasting destruction (II Thessalonians 1:8,9) Is it wrong for me to pray that the victory over Satan will be won, in the end, and that those who do not submit to my God will be punished–even destroyed? No, that would simply be praying the scriptures…agreeing with the Spirit.  But it would be wrong for me to pray for the destruction of my personal enemies because I am not the all-knowing, all just Holy Spirit.  David was the pen of  that Spirit. The  Psalms are inspired by the Lord. We even have the direct evidence of that in the very words of Jesus in the New Testament, as you cited.

Just because David prayed it doesn’t mean I can pray it in the same way. David was inspired. I am not. (David was also the anointed of God, so those who wanted his throne were rebelling against God himself.)  Just because Isaiah could foretell the future does not give me the ability or right to do so. He was inspired. I am not. In Romans 11:9,10, Paul quotes from Psalm 69, an imprecatory prayer, once again validating these Psalms as being fully and divinely inspired. The Holy Spirit would not be quoting imprecatory Psalms in New Testament  teachings if they were just the emotions of David.

My two cents on the question. Hope it is helpful. I’m sure there are many of you who can shed lots more insight than I can. The article we referred to on the podcast is here: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1156-do-the-imprecatory-psalms-and-christian-ethics-clash and it was very helpful to me.

Sister to Sister: For 32 Years I Prayed

Version 2It’s a few minutes past midnight on the morning of my son’s wedding day. In a few more hours he will be a married man. Tonight at the rehearsal dinner I got to hear our daughter, Hannah, reminisce about their childhood in our home and it was the best time a mother can have at supper. Then I got to hear Caleb play and sing a song he’d written for Rebekah.  Magical moments you’d like to extend. But they pass. And prayers answered make new paths and progress toward the goal. Below are two poems…the first, a prayer, written when Caleb was very young. The second is all about the prayer’s answer. It was written yesterday. God always hears us and he always answers. We, as His children, get to simply live out the answers to prayers. How blessed we are to know our lives are under the Romans 8:28 umbrella! Here. For Caleb and for God’s answer for his life, Rebekah.

God Bless my Baby

God, give him strength as he enters our lives.

Give us wisdom as parents as each of us strives

To make for him places in our world to grow.

Teach us Lord. We’re so small.  There’s so much we don’t know.

God bless him as he to your wonders awakes.

Bless him, dear Lord, when his first steps he takes.

He’s so small.  May his scratches and bruises be small.

May my kiss make it better each time he may fall.

Help him to learn, Lord, just what he should know

To take him in life where you want him to go.

But in all of this learning, may he never forget.

The One who has made him and walks with Him yet.

Give him courage when Satan first gets in His way.

May he stay near your word. May he fall down and pray.

May he put on you Lord.  That’s my most fervent prayer;

And for all of his days cast on you every care.

When the time comes, Oh God, that he must go away,

Help us to let go; but still hear us pray.

God, bless our baby.  Look down from your throne.

Watch over him gently, for still he’s our own.

Give him shelter, dear Lord, from this world’s raging storm,

In a place where your love shines; a place that is warm.

Give him people to help him keep you in his life.

Give him one of your daughters, oh God, for his wife.

And one day may they know the joy I now feel,

Of a life yet unborn, but so precious and real.

May something I give him while still he is mine,

Make him know that all life, even unborn, is thine.

So Father, my prayer is for a life you’re now giving;

And, yes, for a soul that will always be living.

My task is so great.  I’m so small.  Help me see

That through Christ I can do it, for He strengthens me.

cc

 

The Answer

God is so good to your parents tonight

He’s  answered the details of prayer.

It wasn’t our wisdom, but Providence

Not our work, but His steady care.

 

He gave you the songs you’ve been singing

He gave you the voice that you raise

He gave you the music that’s deep in your soul

And the skill to lead Christians in praise.

.

You’ve excelled in conviction and conscience.

You’re courageous, yet kind and forbearing.

Confident in truth, introspective,

Consistent, hard-working, and caring.

 

He’s answered our prayer for His daughter, too.

More completely than parents could plead.

Immeasurably more than we ask or think.

She’s everything He knows you need.

 

So we thank our Father each night for her;

For the path that brought her to your life.

For her honor, her humor, her love for our Lord

And that she said, “yes”…she’d be your wife.

 

So you both can go ahead and start praying now

For the sons who will fill up your lives.

For their safety in coming, their bruises and scrapes

For the ones who will raise up their wives.

 

And, Son, pray for daughters, for you know how to teach

A little boy to be the best kind of brother.

She’ll be holy and His and so pretty, to boot…

She’ll grow up to be just like her mother.

 

When the years and the tasks loomed so large, Son,

We prayed for this hour in your life.

We prayed that your heart and your hands would be strong

When they first held the heart of your wife.

 

And all through the years, Son, you’ve taught us.

But the greatest thing you helped us see

Was the extreme sacrifice of the Father

To give His one Son on a tree.

 

We know that He brought you together

That the Father is writing your story.

So glad for this moment when you’ll vow to give

Him a lifetime…as one…for His glory.

cc

 

About Those Poor Departed Souls

IMG_0756 (1)Glenn and I were rummaging through items at a yard sale in New England recently when I ran across this Purgatorian  Society certificate dated 1932. Someone actually bought this from the Catholic church during the hard days of the great depression with the full belief that membership in this society would benefit him personally as well as be of help to those “poor departed” souls in purgatory. Membership grants this certificate’s owner the right to participate in “the priceless and countless benefits of Eight High Masses offered daily in Redemptorist Churches, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of its members.” As benefactors of the Redemptorist Order, all members of the Purgatorian Society are privileged to share in the prayers and all other good works performed by the Order throughout the World.” This particular certificate was “Given at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help” in Roxbury, Massachusetts, under the “direction of the Redemptorist Fathers”, on July 15th, 1932. It was duly signed by the “Reverend Father Rector” and contained these words at the bottom: “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Eighty-three years after it’s first issuance, I gave two dollars for this at a yard sale. The proprietor at this yard sale was a woman who was ninety-three years old. She would have been ten years old at the time of its issuance, so it more likely belonged to a parent or grandparent. It belonged to someone who believed that in the purchase of membership in this society, the answers to  prayers of “Fathers” during eight masses each day would serve to benefit personally the owner of this certificate. The owner likely also believed that these prayers would aid in behalf of loved ones who had died and were being punished in Purgatory. The prayers of this “order” would help to shorten the time that loved ones who had died were being tormented for their sins. In all of the research that I’ve done about these societies, those suffering in Purgatory are usually referred to as the “poor departed souls.”

Several things come quickly to mind as I think about the ownership of such a certificate:

  1. The owner is deceased now and knows the reality of the permanence of the conditions of “poor departed souls”.  He would gladly give the price of tens of thousands of such certificates–yes, all that he ever had–if he could have just one chance to submit to the simple plan of the New Testament in order to be saved.
  2. The owner of the membership was content to rely on the prayers of lost men, when he could have, if he had chosen to be righteous, availed much as he, himself, talked to the Father in heaven (James 5:16).
  3. The owner of the certificate put His trust in the wrong “Father” when he purchased the document (Matthew 23:9).
  4. The certificate, once prized, has never actually been worth even the yard sale price. The frame (from a very old frame shop in Boston), that we threw away so that we could more easily ship it home, was the only thing of ANY value. In fact, the doctrine on the parchment was believed at great and eternal expense by the owner.
  5. When people in the Catholic faith, the Pentecostal faith, the Mormon faith, the Jehovah’s Witness faith– yes, any well meaning people of any faith–decide that there is more divine revelation than what we have in the Bible, there is no end to the fanciful doctrines of assurance that can be designed and believed. The authority principle (i.e from whence we derive authority for religious beliefs and practices) is a principle about which we must settle our minds in order to please God. If we decide that the New Testament is our authority for worship and practice, as it claims to be (II Timothy 3:16,17), there can be no room for men to devise alternate plans of spiritual benefit and societies to benefit “poor departed souls”. But if we do not accept it as the final authority from God, the door swings wide open for any human society, belief system, authority, and practice. Purgatory and any system of payment for “poor departed souls” is the product of a belief in continuing revelation. But then, so is the papacy, the acceptance of modern-day prophets and/or apostles, and actions based on what God “is laying on my heart” separate from the Word.

Someone, somewhere in Massachusetts took great comfort when he passed through his chamber at night upon retiring and saw the certificate guaranteeing him and his departed loved ones the benefits of eight masses each day by the Order of the Redemptorist Fathers. One night, he likely pillowed his head, never to rise again on this earth. But he still exists on the other side of time and He has tragically learned the truth about the piece of paper that I shipped home from New England.

Would you like to talk about the New Testament’s simple plan for assurance–for knowing we are saved–as we face death? I would love to talk about that with you. byhcontest@gmail.com.

Now, if you’re Digging Deep in God’s Word with us (https://www.facebook.com/groups/282349391779769/), don’t forget the podcast is tomorrow night at 7 CST right here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women.

Sister to Sister: Do You Phub?

images-17A neologism, by definition, is a newly invented word and one of the newest terms emerging this week in English is “phubbing”. To phub (from two words: “phone and snub”) is to give attention to your phone when you should be paying attention to a significant other…say, maybe your husband. To “phub up” a relationship is to damage or destroy it due to ignoring important aspects like conversation while you scroll or communicate with others via that hand-held device.

We do this, don’t we? I know I am guilty of phubbing at times. A study at Baylor University recently revealed that phubbing is a significant cause of unhappiness in marriages and sometimes leads to bigger breaches of intimacy and to significant problems in relationships (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/10/02/phubbing-ruining-relationships-study-says/.

As I was talking this weekend to women about treasuring the sisterhood, I first thought about this neologism in regard to our sisters. Do we sometimes get so “into” the superficial relationships with people we almost never see and hardly know that we neglect to capitalize on the times we could be spending with our local sisters? I don’t know, but it would be a shameif we let that happen. While it’s wonderful that technology has broadened our fellowship in some ways that make it possible to encourage sisters in other countries, it would be sad to be encouraging to sisters in distant places while hardly knowing those with whom we regularly worship. I want to be careful to treasure relationships with sisters with whom I share local activities and local evangelistic efforts.

But as I think further, the ultimate tragedy would be if a person phubbed God. Is that possible? Can a person spend inordinate amounts of time phone trolling, Facebook scrolling, skyping and chatting with “friends” while failing to communicate and develop a relationship with God?  I think so and I think many people do.  Are there practical steps I can take to be sure I don’t let devices subtly take the time and interest that I should be giving to God?  Can I even disrespect God by slighting my husband while communicating with others via phone? I’ve been thinking about this and here are a few things I want to incorporate into my personal habits to make sure that I never inadvertently give God (or His delegated authority in my life) the leftovers of my communication time.

  1. When God is talking to me (i.e I am reading my Bible or listening to teaching), I will attempt to have my phone silenced or at least ignore any calls that are not emergencies, no matter where I may be.
  2. When I am talking to God, I will not allow my phone to interrupt that prayer time.
  3. I will reserve time for study and prayer every day as a priority over time spent on devices.
  4. I will not look at my phone during mealtimes with my husband, who is the one I am to reverence (Eph. 5:33).
  5. I will not text others while Glenn is speaking to me.
  6. I will not be on Facebook when my husband prefers that I be doing something else with him.  This  would be next to impossible for some women I know who are very much addicted to Facebook  or Twitter or Instagram. It may prove to be harder for me than I think. It’s my challenge for the coming days. I don’t want to be a phubber! (It’s funny….The term is so new that “phubber” autocorrects to “chubbier”. I don’t really want to be that either!)