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Luke 1:5-17 THE PROBLEM OF UNANSWERED PRAYER
Intro: Ill. All face common problem – Prayers that seem to go unanswered.
· Most prayers remain unanswered because they remain unasked. The prayer and the burden are in our head, but they is never offered to the Lord in prayer.
· Often, we are guilty of prayerlessness. Prayerlessness is a sin – 2 Sam. 12:23!
· We are commanded to pray – 1 Thes. 5:17; Luke 18:1; Mark 14:38.
· There is no substitute for prayer – Not eloquence, effort, energy, enthusiasm or intellect.
· When we pray, we are confessing our inability and reaching up to claim His ability. We are inviting God into the processes and problems of our lives. We are reaching out to lay hold on a power that we do not possess. (Ill. The message of Zech. 4:6.)
· Ill. POEM – If you are too busy to pray, then you are simply too busy!
· Prayerlessness is one reason prayer is not answered. God cannot and will not answer a prayer that is not prayed!
· This passage that relates the story of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and the birth of John the Baptist, reveals a few more reasons why prayer goes unanswered. I would like to preach for a while on The Problem Of Unanswered Prayer.
I. v. 6 SOMETIMES THE ANSWER IS DENIED
· There are times when God will say “No” to the prayers we pray.
· According to this verse, Zacharias and Elisabeth were on praying ground. That is not why their prayers went unanswered. Unfortunately, it is often the reason our prayers go unanswered.
· James 4:1-4 addressed a few of the problems that result in unanswered prayer.
Ø v. 1-2a – James is straight to the point – People fight on the outside because they are at war on the inside!
Ø v. 2b – Prayerlessness – We have already touched on this
Ø v. 3 – Selfishness – Prayer does not exist so that we can have our wants gratified. We can expect the Lord to meet our needs, but not to finance our greeds.
Ø v. 4 – Sin – God will not finance our spiritual adultery. He will not bless our efforts to run with the devil. (Ill. Wife asking husband for money!)
· 1 John 5:14-15 address another reason why our prayers are not answered. Prayer is not about getting our will done in Heaven, but about Him getting His will done on earth! (Ill. Sometimes God says “No!”
II. v. 13 SOMETIMES THE ANSWER IS DELAYED
· There are times when God says “wait” when we pray.
· The little verb phrase “is heard” can be literally translated “was heard and is still being heard”.
· Zacharias and Elisabeth had been praying and praying and praying for years. When they were young they prayed for a son. As they grew older they continued to pray for a child. When the angel appeared and confirmed the answer, Zacharias had even ceased to believe that his prayer could or would be answered, v. 18.
· This passage confirms the truth that his prayer had been heard and answered in the past. God had merely waited to the perfect moment to display His answer.
· Sometimes we think our prayers have gone unanswered. In reality, they have been heard and they have already been answered. It just isn’t God’s time to reveal the answer.
· This truth is illustrated in the life of Daniel - Daniel 10:10-14
· We are taught in the Bible to make our prayers in faith, trusting God to answer in His time – Mark 11:24.
· When God delays the answer to our prayers, He is merely waiting to a time when He can get the most glory – Ill. Isa. 30:18.
· Why does God wait?
1. To Display His Glory – v. 18 – According to Zacharias, if the Lord does it now, it will be a miracle. In other words, God will get more glory by doing it now. (Ill. Abraham and Sarah; Lazarus) God does what He does when He does it so that He might receive all the glory – John 14:13.
2. To Dispense His Grace – (Ill. Isa. 30:18) In answering the prayer of Zacharias and Elisabeth when He did and in the manner that He did God was dispensing great grace. They didn’t understand what the Lord was up to, but God did!
God used His delayed answer to bring glory to Himself; grace to Zacharias and Elisabeth; and to accomplish His eternal plan.
III. V. 15-17 SOMETIMES THE ANSWER IS DIFFERENT
· Sometimes God says “watch”. Sometimes He will take our prayers and make them better!
· They wanted a son in their youth; God gave them a son in their old age. They would have been thankful then, but God gave them something far better, Ill. V. 17; Matt. 11:11.
· Here is God’s promise to His people – Psa. 34:10; 84:11
· If He withholds something from us or changes it to something different, it is because what we asked for wasn’t good for us. (Ill. Ruth Bell Graham)
· Ill. An electrical transformer takes the energy in the lines and transforms into power that can be used in our home. Ill. What would happen if the transformers weren’t there? (Ill. My new toaster!)
· The Holy Spirit is God’s transformer. He takes our prayers and transforms them into what they ought to be, Rom. 8:26-27.
· God always gives us His best when we leave the choices to Him!
Conc: Keep praying dear saint of god! When prayer seems unanswered be sure that your heart is right with God, Psa. 66:18; and be sure that you are asking according to His will. If so, then keep praying – Ill. The widow in Luke 18:1-8; Ill. Luke 11:5-13.
Is there ever a time to stop praying? Yes! You can stop when:
1. When the answer is in your hand – Praise Him and report it!
2. When the answer is in your heart – Praise Him and wait for it!
3. When God reveals a better way – Ill. Paul – 2 Cor. 12:7-11 – Praise Him and accept it!
Until the answer comes, keep praying! God will come through in His time!