Friday, October 12, 2007

The Chronicles of Answered Prayer - "Excuses, Excuses"

The Chronicles of Answered Prayer
"Excuses, Excuses"

By Jason Ingram


In this article, I lay down some ideas about why Christians are to pray, and focus more on why we do not pray. I wonder now if there are Christians who read this and take offense thinking, "well of course I pray, who does this guy think he is trying to get me to pray more?" More prayer is not about getting more "brownie points" or striving to work at being more pious. I like to think about it as being closer to God, having more love, joy and more of the Spirit's power in your life. As you read, you will find that more prayer should not make you more weary, but just the opposite.

If you are someone who does not pray, or perhaps you feel that your prayers don't go beyond the ceiling, I hope you find out the reasons that are holding you back from a daily life of prayer and devotion. We all have excuses why we fail to pray, and I believe that this article is an attempt to expose some of those reasons why we don't pray, or perhaps we pray but are not making the God-connection that we need.

Shooting At Random:

I have a friend that I have known since the mid 90's that has a wonderful gift of mercy. You call him with any need, and he's there for you. That's his way of being an evangelist, and its a much better way to reach out to the down and out than by simply preaching. Before my trip to the mission field, he let me live with him for the few months when I was preparing. Much of my preparation was through extended times of prayer, and when he found out about it he felt convicted about his own prayer life. I guess he really did not pray at all privately, but maybe very little. When he did pray in church, it felt a bit "horizontal", meaning focused more on making a good prayer while in the presence of others as opposed to "vertical" prayers focused heavenward.

The result of his ministry seemed to me to be like he was firing randomly and hoping to someday hit a target. Let me explain: James 5:15-16 mentions that there is effectual prayer (so there must be non-effective prayer as well) and it makes "tremendous power available, dynamic in its working". No prayer, no power. There are times when you happen to be where and when God wants you to be somewhere, and a loving word and a helping hand can be enough to allow God to open ones heart, but only when that person is ready.

This dear saint seemed to be burned out much of the time, reacting to other's needs every day. He also got entangled in a lot of drama because of the type of needs of the folks he was trying to help. It was as if there were people who were ready to meet Christ all over his town, and yet he was reaching out to a lot of folks that were ready only for a handout. I remembered that very few of the many people he ministered to really stuck with the faith. One good example I remember is someone who was involved in the sex industry came to church for a few years or more and even had others come to church as well. All of a result of this man's ministry. I do not mean to criticize him, I just want to make a point that an effective praying Christian will be led by God about when, where and who to go to with the power of God to back it up.

I really do admire this man though. I have met many Christians that pray and pray but don't put "feet" to their prayers. I envision two folded hands in prayer with a pair of feet walking the hands to be the answer to the prayer. As silly as that image sounds, its a good picture of a Christian. Someone who prays and obeys. Giving action to the leadings of the Holy Spirit with the power of the Holy Spirit (through effective prayer). Sometimes we are the answer to our own prayer, and there are times when God will need to send someone else. Prayer brings God's plans and works to earth. If it were automatic, we would see spontaneous supernatural experiences happening all the time without anyone's cooperation.

My Personal Prayer Story:

When I first got a hold of this concept, I had been a Christian just over a few years and I began to really pray for my community and reach out. I would pray for about an hour or so, then get in my car and let God lead me. I ended up one time at someone's private studio where a lady was getting stoned. After talking with her, she shared with me about how Jesus had come to her recently and that she made some kind of vow to God. Not realizing what had happened to her, I was able to explain the Gospel. There was another time that I was led to go to two different places one night bumping into the same teenager who was running from God. One time while preaching in the smoking section of a Denny's in the middle of the night, a young lady told me that God had sent me as a sign to keep her baby that she was wondering whether to about or not. I have pulled a passed out Native man out of the snow in the woods, the man crying out to Jesus after I silently prayed for him. One time, after praying over my whole city block preparing for a home meeting, a drunk girl fell in the street as she got close to the house. As her friends and I carried her to the house she became conscious enough to receive Jesus. I saw her later at a Christian teen club wanting to live right. All of these experiences started with prayer, and there is no way that I could do any of this without God's help.

Since coming out in 2006, my prayer and devotional life has really changed. I see the first seven years of my Christian life as a continuous upward spiritual journey, getting stronger in spirit and knowledge. Then the following seven years were more of just the opposite. After returning from a successful overseas mission trip I had many brutal experiences where I felt as if I was crucified by the church. This was also a period in my life where I could no longer wear the straight guy mask and took an interest in my gay desires. Those seven years were a downward portion of my spiritual journey. Part of the problem is the church culture I was in was completely unaware of taking someone through a coming out experience and the gay culture was threatening to my faith. The church also painted a false picture of what it is for a Christian to be gay. I saw it through their eyes, that there was a paradigm of either straight Christian living, or careless godless gay living. Why I am going into this is simply to state that when I look back at the spiritual disciplines in my first seven years and my second set of seven years in Christ, the only real failures I have had were a failure to pray. The stories I shared above were in the heights of my Christian experience, and I owe it to the Holy Spirit's work. I also could not be a part of any of these experiences if I had not prayed accurately and fervently.

Prayer In Christian History:

Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure - DL Moody

There are many gifted and called ministers that don't have much of a life of prayer and devotion to God. Does God use them? Surly yes. However, without that daily connection to God, the minister will rely more on their own strength, instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian has a level of prayer they have in their daily lives. If you study much 19th century church history, you will read about the evangelism in what we call the Second Great Awakening. I have heard it said that the converts of Charles Finney stuck with the faith much more than Moody's who many of them seemed to fall away from the faith after conversion. I realize that this is a controversial statement, but I believe this to be true, and I will tell you why: Finney's ministry was noted with evidence of the workings of the Holy Spirit (although sometimes strange and hard to understand) and people in America had powerful experiences with God under his ministry. It is also noted what a great value prayer played in Finney's ministry. You find a Christian operating in the supernatural power of God, I will show you a Christian who makes prayer a priority in their life. Smith Wigglesworth from Wales, who ministered in his old age in the beginning of the twentieth century has been known to say that he did not go for thirty minutes without praying. I also heard that he prayed from four to eight in the morning.

Now I get to the main part of this article that answers this very important question:

"Why do Christians not pray?"

Here are some reasons that I thought of, however I am sure there are more...

Lack of Discipline:

Some people pray just to pray and some people pray to know God. - Andrew Murray

Just like any committed relationship takes consistent care and maintenance, so does a relationship with God. A loving relationship needs daily affirmation of love, clear communication and quality time. The key word here is daily. Have you ever heard about the story about the old couple where the wife asked the husband why he doesn't tell her that he loves her? He responded that he said "I love you" when they were first married and if he ever changed his mind that he would let her know. We are not to worship our loved ones, however we are to show that we love and adore the ones we love. Have you ever learned your partner's love languages? How about God's love languages?

Every religion has disciplines and learned practices, many have rituals and ceremonies that need to be practiced with precision. The Christian faith does not require outward forms of perfection, just a pure heart. A heart that has been cleansed by faith in the work of Christ and continuing to live out this inner purity.

The danger of discipline for the follower of Christ is that when you follow Jesus, He has a tendency to take you places you don't expect. So once you find a spiritual discipline that works, the Lord will want you to move on many times because God does not want us to put our faith in our devotions, God does not want us to become too familiar with practices least we forget Who we are doing all of this for. For example, when you find a way to get your prayer answered on Monday, you may find that God is leading you to pray in a totally different way on Tuesday to get the same results.

We must always remember that God is a Person, and not a thing. I do not believe that God is a mystical force, or that somehow "God" is simply the sum total of all matter in the universe including good and evil. God has feelings. God has a Spirit like we do. I will even go so far to say that God has a body, and I believe that body is Jesus Christ. When it comes to the Deity of Christ, there are many little variations in these doctrines, and its not a big deal. What I am trying to communicate here is that Christianity is about a relationship, not rituals. Prayer can easily turn into a ritual, and we need to be careful about that. What I am saying about God being a person is that this relationship demands that we take action daily to cultivate and grow in this relationship. This takes discipline, and the good news is that habits grow on us (some studies report about three to six weeks to form a habit) until after some time its not so hard after a while. In fact prayer is the opposite of someone addicted to drugs. It takes more of the drug to produce less of an effect. Every year of your life of prayer, worship and devotion; you in fact get more blessings out of less effort the more you live in the Spirit! The closer you get to God (and I'm not kidding here) the more "high" you get spending time in the heavenly bliss of the Holy Spirit. You can in fact form a spiritual habit, and even become "addicted" to prayer!


"I just did not feel like God heard me or accepted of me... I heard so much from the pulpit about how wrong it is to be gay that I gave up." Many of us in the lesbian and gay community can relate to this. I believe that this is the #1 reason why we don't pray. This paragraph is short because I have a teaching entitled "Not Guilty". This article goes into depth about how guilt and shame is such a hindrance into entering into the presence of God and how the gay and lesbian community can fall into a shame based self-image so easily.


There is a mighty lot of difference between saying prayers and praying. - John G. Lake

Many of us don't realize that we need to pray; and what is the eternal value of a life of devotion. Some think that prayer is not for them, that its only for nuns and monks. Some replace prayer with just doing mental practices. Others may think that they are not smart enough. Many use prayer only for emergencies. Some pray only out of prayer books, or in the presence of others like saying "grace" before a meal.

I think some of the most common misunderstands about prayer come from, I hate to say it: churches. I have heard a lot of prayers that are not based on Scripture but more on a particular denomination's tradition. Tradition is not wrong in itself, however we need to challenge any Christian tradition that does not meet the principals taught in the New Testament. What I mean by principal is to take what you believe was meant for us to practice instead of taking a passage literally or out of context. One example is what many call "the Lord's prayer". Jesus taught on prayer, gave an example saying that we were to pray "in this manner". Jesus never said for us to pray by quoting that passage word for word. There are many other prayers in the New Testament, my favorites being the prayers of Paul. We can also gain some prayer principals in the Old Testament as well, especially the Psalms. I personally love to study the prayer lives of great women and men in church history.
Some of them include: Saint Teresa of Avila (Spain, 1515-1582), Saint Columba (UK, 521-597) Aimee Semple McPherson (Canada/US, 1890-1944), John G. Lake, (UK, S. Africa, US, 1870-1935) as well as others I have mentioned and/or quoted in this article. Just like it takes knowledge in order to effectively communicate in a committed relationship, it takes knowledge to understand prayer.

This is another misunderstanding: It is that prayer is based only on sincerity. Praying with honesty and sincerity is essential for answered prayer, and we must understand also that we are required to have knowledge of prayer as well. That's basically what I am trying to do with my writings on prayer, to shed light on the subject of prayer in order to help equip the gay affirming church movement. Jesus said in John 4 that we are to worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Can this principal be applied to prayer? Worship and prayer are both forms of devotion, so I would say that worshipping in Spirit and truth applies to prayer. Just as we learn and grow in our knowledge of God and prayer, we should also not get too far off into our intellect, but get "into the Spirit". The Spirit is our destination, however it does indeed take some knowledge to get there.
"Emergence" 2004 -By Jason Ingram

The Flesh:

E. M. Bounds, who wrote many historic books on prayer (one of them I have been reading for about a decade it is so heavy!) said: "Prayer is the creator as well as the channel of devotion. The spirit of devotion is the spirit of prayer. Prayer and devotion are united as soul and body are united, as life and the heart are united. There is no real prayer without devotion, no devotion without prayer."

Prayer, as wonderful as it is can be taxing. Prayer can be hard. Prayer can seem to make no sense. Prayer can seem to use up our time and energy, however connecting with the strength of Almighty God can actually benefit us to where we find ourselves having more productive time and strength. I met a missionary who was back from India one time at a church and invited him over for some left over spaghetti. He mentioned that would pray himself to sleep every night. I would love to be there some day with that kind of devotion. It is so refreshing to associate with folks that challenge your Christianity.

The flesh is our body. In addition, I have heard it taught that the realm of the flesh also includes the human mind. Christianity can appear to the intellectual world as seeming anti-intellectual. If you read the works of C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and other great thinkers of Christendom, you will find that there is great room for intellect in the faith. Unfortunately, there seems to be not much room in much of Christian culture for intellectuals. Part of this comes from negative aspects of church leadership from the Dark Ages until now that have to do with control and keeping people ignorant. (I have been in the church since 1994 and honestly, its not nearly as bad as some have made it out to be!) Another reason why there is a sort of anti-intellectual thrust in much of the church is this principal of the "carnal mind" which Paul teaches in the book of Romans, as well as other portions of the New Testament.

The carnal mind, or what is also called the mind of the flesh represents thoughts and ideas that go contrary to our spiritual life. Romans 12:2 teaches about renewing your mind. Paul, writing to the Ephesians also uses the term to be "renewed in the spirit (attitude) of your mind. The flesh and the mind are connected. Imagine you waking up groggy early in the morning with not enough sleep. I guarantee your thoughts will reflect your body's feelings. The emotions, the body and the mind all control each other and influence each other.

I personally believe that when we hear the word "soul" in relation to the New Testament in a Christian context, that it refers to three components of self: the mind, the will and emotions. Emotions are real and important. We are not to pretend that they are not there, because emotions can be our warning light when it comes to things that need to be dealt with. The issue here is that emotions should not lead the Christian. The will is simply the final decision making process. Christian growth can be seen as a continuing surrender of the human will to the will of God. The mind in itself has a "default mode" that is not favorable to the life in the Spirit. In fact the Bible calls the carnal mind "enmity" with God. Yes my mind can be God's enemy if not spiritually renewed.

When it comes to prayer, this wandering mind of ours in its default mode will not want to pray. Everyone can relate to this. There is always something that the mind can find that is more important or something to do that makes more sense than praying. Also, the emotions in charge of our morning will not want to pray. "I don't feel like it!" That's the voice of emotion. "I just don't want to and I am not going to" can be the voice to the will. The flesh will suddenly get hungry or tired when it is time to pray. Let me say that again: The flesh will suddenly get hungry or tired when it is time to pray. Its so true when it comes to daily devotions! So there is nothing wrong with thinking, new ideas and being an intellectual, just as long as the ways of thinking are not in contrary to the Spirit.

Prince of the Power of the Air:

When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy. - Corrie Ten Boom

In the New Testament, the devil is mentioned as being "the Prince of the Power of the Air" which represents the invisible realm of earth. Also in 2 Corinthians 4:4 the "god of this world" can blind minds so they can see the truth. This is also true for believers. The devil can blind Christians from doing what God wants them to do. He uses distractions, thoughts, ideas and anything, even religion to keep people from God's best. His realm of operation is the mind. The mind works with the will and emotions.

Simply stated, if there is a devil, or a negative force in the world as some see it, this kingdom in opposition to the Kingdom of God will try to influence God's people to prevent God's kingdom from being established on earth. One of the primary targets this demonic operation will come against is effective prayer. If the devil can't stop you from praying, he may try to get you to pray ritualistically and ineffectively. He will try to keep you ignorant about prayer and use the ways of the flesh to try to daily sway you away from your "power time" with God in prayer. This may all sound paranoid, and I realize that there is a lot of stigma about folks that talk about "the devil! the devil!" being everywhere trying to get you. I personally do not think that way, and yet there is a principal in the New Testament that we are not to be "ignorant of his devices".

The more you study the Holy Bible, you will find the Christian has been given authority over Satan and his kingdom (more about this topic in my four part online video series "Bossy"). The subject of Demonology can be spooky, however if we keep our focus on God, and who we are as Christians "in Christ" like the New Testament says, we will see that we have the power because the Greater One lives in us!

Satan laughs at our toiling, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. - The Kneeling Christian


I have studied about Christian communities whether Catholic or Protestant, and one thing I see that is consistent in what I have found is that in these structured environments, people spend a lot of time in prayer. Some of these communities however, require strict times of prayer that it has a tendency to produce more of a "dead ritual" than a sweet communion that prayer should be.

I do see a positive thing about having others being involved in your prayer life is that you are accountable with your prayer discipline. I got the wonderful opportunity to live with a pastor couple on a ranch in southern rural Oklahoma. I was in a daze one morning and had one of those frustrated times in prayer that I had given up on. So I got up from the guest room to find the old rancher smiling at me and with his strong southern accent asked me, "did you pray through?" Praying through is an old Pentecostal term about when you spend enough time in prayer until you sense a spiritual breakthrough. I saw Kenneth E. Hagin describe it as hitting a "gusher". Brother Hagin began praying several hours a day until he prayed through. Then he said that as the weeks went by, it got easier and easier to get into the Spirit. Six hours turned to four, than down to one hour until he was able to maintain like a consistent walk in the spirit.

I am fortunate to have a loving partner who is sincere before God. When we first met, I felt ashamed of my life of prayer and thought that if I was in a gay relationship that I was somehow not supposed to pray. Because of that I would get so down and confused. Little by little I regained my prayer life until Tom saw how valuable it was to me. When I asked him if he ever wanted to join me in my daily devotional time, he already wanted to! We have been doing our devotionals since 2006 and it has become very important to him. We hear from God together, pray for each other, we pray for our friends and family and also intercede for our dear friends like you that we meet online. If one of us forgets or one of us just does not want to do it (yes me, the moderator of the Gay Prayer Resource does not want to pray at times!) most of the time the other will encourage the devotional time to happen.

"The secret of praying is praying in secret." - Leonard Ravenhill

The negative side of having others involved with your devotions, is that you may loose the joy of knowing that only God knows about your special time. You can still go over and above what others know about your prayer time. In fact, you may find that your secret times are your best times. Tell someone that you are going out for a long walk and find a secluded place somewhere and hang out with the Lord. You will love it!

There is another issue about why people don't pray and it has to do with mental issues. This is something I deal with on a daily basis, and is real to me enough to write an article on mental wellness and prayer. Wellness is not just about mental conditions (such as clinical depression) but also on emotional issues as well. I simply can't accuse a mental or emotionally suffering Christian of being a flesh ruled carnally minded person, just because of what they go through? How about someone who is mute? They literally can not say a prayer. I would love to do more studies about other ways of communing with God, but that's for another time.


I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. -- Martin Luther

With all of this said about why we are to pray and why we don't pray, I hope that all my readers can make an informed decision about what they are going to do with their relationship with God. We can simply look at this as two roads to take in our service to the continuing work of Christ: Are we to work out of our power (our human strength) and suffer burn out (and what I mentioned earlier as "shooting at random"); or are we to "suffer" (because it does indeed demand sacrifice of time and effort) in prayer and experience God's rest, God's refreshing, God's strength and direction. It is amazing how many Christian ministers and organizations get anything done without the power of the Holy Spirit, but I think there are many things done for God in human strength. It doesn't have to be that way though. In some ways I am grateful for my many weaknesses. Although I won't get into all of them now, I will tell you that I have enough about me now that nearly drives me to God every day. Some folks operate in their natural born giftings of leadership, abilities and a drive for success. They are more prone to error and pride. With having a musical gift, I admit that I can easily relate to this issue because I can so quickly rely on the gift than on God.

Christians that never pray are not doomed to eternal destruction just for not praying. Prayer does not make you more loved by God. You don't loose your relationship with God if you stop praying. God never forces us to pray. If you pray less that brother so-and-so, does that make you less of a Christian? No. Prayer is just one aspect of the Christian life, and it also happens to be the theme of this body of work, so its obvious that I will over emphasize the subject of prayer. However, with any good thing, we must not get lost in just one subject. Remember what a Christian is commanded to do: Love.

Earnestness is good and impressive: genius is gifted and great. Thought kindles and inspires, but it takes a diviner endowment, and more powerful energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to win estranged and deprived hearts to God, to repair the breaches and restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but the anointing of the Holy Spirit can do this. -E. M. Bounds

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