Question:

Thank you for the interesting site. And I have fond memories of your lessons at Novosibirsk in 2011.

In one of your answers you have written: “It is God’s will for my children to be saved, and my faithful, unremitting, unselfish prayer will increase the chances that they will be saved.”
http://evidenceforchristianity.org/if-we-pray-for-things-that-are-gods-will-mark-1123-24-can-we-assume-that-he-will-answer-that-prayer/

What passages of the Bible are the basis for your confidence that your prayers will increase the chances that your children will be saved?  And more widely, what is the source of your conviction that God actively intervenes in our lives at the present age?  I’m asking this question, because I feel some difficulties with prayer requests, and at the same time, it’s easy for me to express gratitude in my prayers.

Answer:

I remember meeting you at that time.  I certainly loved my visit there.  Who knows… Perhaps I can come back soon.

Yours is a good question.   I believe that God’s response to our prayer cannot be explained as we can explain a mathematical equation.  I wish it was that simple, but both scripture and my experience tells me that it is not.   I believe that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”   This is a difficult but essential teaching.

Nevertheless, the Bible provides strong statements which we should take as assurance that God hears and answers our prayers.   In the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) Jesus tells us that if we are persistent in prayer—if we “cry out to him day and night” he does hear us and he does answer our prayers.  This does not mean that God will force people to become Christians, however.  God will not steal the free will of people in order to answer our prayers.   Exactly how will God answer your prayer for your children to be saved?  I do not know for sure.  Perhaps, because you ask, he will help you to change in ways that will help you do a better job as a parent to set a better example to your child.  Perhaps God will put someone in the life of your child to help him or her or will bring in some kind of suffering to help him or her come to his or her senses and be saved.  I wish Luke 18:1-8 was a promise that if we pray at least 547 times that our children will be saved, but I believe it does not work that way.  You need to be prepared, both to believe God’s assurance that he hears and answers, and to accept that the prayers may not result, ultimately, in your child being saved.   This is a hard thing.

There are many passages in which God promises that he hears our prayers and that he will answer.  John 14:13-14 is a very strong statement, which may be tempered somewhat by James 4:3 and 1 John 5:13-15.  When we pray for something, we should not “put God to the test” by demanding that he answer our request as we expect him to.  Paul pleaded three times for God to take away some sort of major difficulty in his life, but God said no to Paul’s prayer.  I am sure Paul struggled with this, yet he continued to believe the scriptures.  God has said, and he does not lie, that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16). 

God also assures us that he knows us and that he intervenes in our lives, as we see in Acts 17:26.  This assurance from Paul did not stop applying to us in the first century.   Sometimes we do not see God acting, but this does not mean he is not acting, but it does require us to have faith, which can be difficult.

I could move from the scriptures on this topic to sharing specific examples of God answering my own specific prayers, but this is a personal thing and such “anecdotal evidence” probably will not be convincing to you.  You need to put your faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead that, despite any feelings you have and even if you do not understand what God is doing, you need to do your best to live by faith and to believe that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  This is not an easy thing, but no one ever said that putting our faith in God was easy.

I hope this helps a bit.

John Oakes

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