I’m getting ready for my yearly prayer and study break which I usually take during the summer. While doing the church plant in CA I had the privilege to spend that time each year on Lake Tahoe which is one of my favorite places in the world. That was a HUGE blessing thanks to the ministry of the Barnabas Factor which offsets the cost for full-time ministers. I love the mountains. This year I will be headed to the Rockies around Denver and I’m looking forward to checking out and spending some serious solo time with God, His Word, and whatever else He has in mind. In preparation for this I got an email last week from a great guy who directs church planting in the Northern Plains of America named Mike Sojka. The link for his site is at: NPEA. Attached to his note he included a doc entitled “Reasons for Unanswered Prayers” which I’ve included below. I thought that was a great resource to help people get focused for such ventures. From my observation, we all need to take a moment from time to time to weigh our motives and this tool seemed like a good start. What would you add as a discipline or exercise in preparation for a spiritual retreat?
Pre Prayer Journey Preparation
Reasons For Unanswered Prayers
In the week before our prayer journey we would like the people going on the journey to consider examining their hearts so that they will be able to better listen to God and get answers to prayer. We would also encourage you to spend a day in fasting for further purification. Listed below are ten biblical reasons that prayers are not answered. Please examine your heart this week and seek God’s forgiveness. We want everyone to be as equipped as possible when they arrive for the prayer journey. All scripture quotes are NLT.
-If we have sin in our hearts God will not hear or answer our prayers. Psalm 66: 17-20: “For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw his unfailing love from me.” Please confess the sins you may have in your heart.
-If we are ignoring God, He may not hear or answer our prayers. Proverbs 1:24-28: “I called you so often, but you didn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you- when calamity overcomes you like a storm, when you are engulfed by trouble, and when anguish and distress overwhelm you. I will not answer when they cry for help. Even though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.” Please ask God to forgive you if you have been ignoring Him.
-If we are ignoring God’s word, He may not hear or answer our prayers. Proverbs 28:9: “The prayers of a person who ignores the law are despised.” Please ask God to forgive you if you have been ignoring His word.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we have an ungiving spirit. Malachi 3:8-9: “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you? You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Please ask God to remove the curse of an ungiving spirit if this applies to you.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we are hypocrites. Matthew6:5: “And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on the street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get.” Please ask God to forgive you if you have a hypocritical spirit.
-Our prayers my not be heard or answered if we have an unforgiving heart. Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Please ask God to forgive your unforgivness and forgive those people now if this applies to you.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we have a condition of self pride. Luke 18:10-14: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee, stood my himself and prayed this prayer: I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow saying, O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, and the humble will be honored.” Please ask God to forgive your proud heart if you have one.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we suffer from self doubt. James 1:5-8: “If you need wisdom- if you want to know what God wants you to do- ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They wave back and forth in everything they do.” Ask God to forgive you if you have doubted what He can and will do.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we are selfish. James 4:3: “And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong- you want only what will give you pleasure.” If you have a need to ask forgiveness for selfish motives do it.
-Our prayers may not be heard or answered if we have an unhealthy marriage. I Peter 3:7: “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard.” I believe this applies to the wives as well. Please ask God to forgive any unhealthy marital situation if this applies to you.
We devised this list in no way to be legalistic or to judge the hearts (only God does that) of those that will participate in this prayer journey. Our goal here is to give you some information to glean on and if it applies to you ask God to cleanse your heart. We want the people that formulate the prayer team to be the most effective they can be for God’s Kingdom. It is a big responsibility to plant a new church in a community, we don’t want to do it without God leading the charge (Psalm 127:1), and that is why it is very important for all of us involved to be able to hear his voice.