God Hears Prayers, but We May Not Like His Answers
God hears prayers, but we may not like His answers.
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
19 October 2014
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
God hears prayers, but we may not like His answers.
We hear people all the time saying that they don’t believe that God is listening to their prayers, but what we really believe they are saying is that God is not responding to their prayers as they would like Him to respond.
What these people are most likely looking for is a response from God much in the same way that we read about in the Hebrew Testament and the dramatic miracles Jesus and some of the disciples performed, but these responses no longer seem to be the case since after the time of Jesus and the disciples.
Today, God’s response seems to be through the unction of the Holy Spirit in the individual person who is to be a vehicle of the change that we are praying for.
God hears prayers, so we should never give up; but at the same time we are to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do.
In Exodus 33:12-23, we have an example of God hearing a prayer and responding directly, but He is still working through people like Moses in this recorded account.
12. Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, Thou dost say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But Thou Thyself hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Moreover, Thou hast said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’
These kinds of prayers come from our own insecurity, and we are asking for some personal assurance from God.
13. “Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation is Thy people.”
Before we go on, note the way Jesus answered a similar question from Philip in John 14:7.
7. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Note how God responds to Moses.
14. And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
But like many of us, Moses still has doubts.
15. Then he said to Him, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.
16. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Thy sight, I and Thy people? Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
Even a great leader like Moses, who actually is talking to God, seems to be losing part of his faith and trust in God.
It seems that if we could actually talk to God in this way, our faith and trust in God would never fail, but for some reason, this isn’t the case with Moses.
Nevertheless, God lovingly responds to him.
17. And the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight, and I have known you by name.”
But Moses seems to need more.
18. Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!”
So once again God lovingly responds.
19. And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”
We should all note very carefully that in His answer, God puts limitations on whom His grace and compassion will be shown.
We believe that this is because God sees the intent of the heart, and can separate those who are worthy from those who are not.
This is why you always hear us urging people to leave the wicked ways of this world with all its suffering, bloodshed, and death, and become the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God who help free creation from its present corruption.
Let’s return to our Bible passage and listen to God’s response to Moses.
20. But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
21. Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock;
22. and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.
23. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
This is an example of God’s love, grace, and mercy, for He knows that all humans are sinful, and that sin brings death, which is why we cannot look upon the face of God in our present bodies.
This is also why we believe that from the time of the Fall, we are no longer living in the image of God, even though God created us that way, for God is sinless, and we will not regain being in the image of God until we are resurrected into heaven, and finally leave our sinful bodies.
As we have seen, God hears prayers.
Let’s keep these things in mind as we look at 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10…
1. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
Paul and his companions greet the Thessalonians with a prayerful blessing of the gifts that God desires to bestow upon all of us, if we are willing to leave our former worldly ways, for if we are not truly willing to live in the heavenly will of God, we will never know His full grace and peace.
2. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;
3. constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,
4. knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
This is the hope God has for all of us.
5. for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
In other words, if we are to be believed, then we also must be a living example of the way God wants us to be living.
God hears prayers, but if we are not willing to live in His heavenly will, we cannot expect Him to answer our prayers in the way we would like.
Note what we are told in Romans 12:1-2.
1. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is when we receive the grace and mercies that Paul mentioned in his prayerful greeting.
With this in mind, let’s return to our 1 Thessalonians passage.
6. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7. so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
This is the way that God wants all of us to be, and this is also our hope and prayer for all of us, too.
8. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.
9. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
10. and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
This is the promise for all who truly live in the peace and love of the heavenly will of God.
This should also be our assurance that God hears prayers.
So, if we really want God to answer our prayers, a vital part of our prayers must come from a heart and soul that is living in the heavenly will of God.
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