THE PRAYER PROBLEM
Richard L. Shelton
August 31, 2003
I was reading the back cover of a book to get some idea of what the book was
about and in the promotional portion it said, " Finally, the answer to the
I thought to myself, "Prayer problem? What prayer problem?" I thought
of my wife, "Does she have a prayer problem?" I thought of my pastor,
"Does he have a prayer problem? Do I have a prayer problem?"
What exactly is a prayer problem? Is the writer talking about having a problem
getting to the place of prayer or staying awake during prayer? Does he mean
knowing what to say while praying or knowing when to pray or what to pray for?
What exactly is THE Prayer Problem?
While these questions were dashing through my mind the Lord spoke to me saying,
"You have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you
ask amiss," (James 4:2b, 3a).
Maybe the problem is in our failure to understand the concept of prayer. Even
those who know to pray often don't and those who are disciplined enough to pray
often pray for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons. They pray to fulfill
their greed rather than to fulfill their purpose. They pray that God will do His
job rather than for the strength and wisdom to do theirs. They pray that life
would be made easy for them rather than praying for the courage and stamina to
endure life. I say "they" as if I were not one of them, yet here I am
in the midst of them. I have often ignored that tugging in my heart that urges
me to "come away to the place of prayer." I often pray that the Lord
will "give to me" when at the same time I am refusing to give of
myself to Him.
I began to see The Prayer Problem from the Lord's perspective. He spoke another
verse of scripture to me. One that I was very familiar with:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:4
I know that when these words were spoken they were initiating a spiritual law
that would supersede a previous spiritual law, namely, the law of sin and death.
The Lord said, "For in the day that thou eatest thereof [in the day that
you sin] thou shalt surely die, (Genesis 2:17).
When the Lord spoke these words He set initiated the law of sin and death in a
perfect world. Man had not yet sinned. But man did sin and in doing so he
plunged all of mankind into darkness. God was once again without the pleasure of
fellowship with man whom He had created. Again, God was alone "for what
fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light
with darkness?" The heart of God was broken, not so much that He had lost
us but that we had lost Him."
What was God to do? He could not "take back" the law of sin and death
that He spoke into existence so many generations ago. His word endures forever.
His righteousness would not allow Him to ignore the sin of man. Man had
willfully caused a great chasm between God and himself, one that he could not
cross and could not close. Only God could build a bridge across so great an
abyss. He started by initiating a new law. The law of repentance that would
allow man to be lifted above his own sinfulness and once again enjoy fellowship
with God who created him and loved him.
But many would not. They did not understand the concept of prayer. "They
know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness," (Psalm
The picture is one of a man who has fallen into a deep pit. The pit is so deep
that he cannot climb out so God sends His Son who lowers a rope into the pit but
the man will not take hold of the rope. The Lord tells him, "Tie the rope
around your waist and hold on with all your might. I will pull you out,"
but the man will not take hold of the rope. Neither will he tie it around his
waist. Is he too ignorant to understand the concept or is he too stupid to
submit to the instruction of the Savior? I could have said "stubborn"
but in many cases stubborn and stupid are synonymous.
I began to see 2 Chronicles 7:14 in a way I had never seen it before. It was
like the plight of God. He was pleading with mankind:
If [only] my people, [would] humble themselves, and [earnestly] pray, and
[diligently] seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then [I will] hear
from heaven, and [I can] forgive their sin, and [I can] heal their land.
But they will not. Maybe they [we] are just ignorant and do not understand the
concept. Maybe they [we] are too stubborn to give up their will and accept the
will of God. But until we do God is, in effect, helpless and that is THE PRAYER