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“When Prayer Fails, Try Praise.” Really?

2018-10-20T00:59:06+00:00By |0 Comments

Sometimes phrases just stand out on my screen and almost shout at me to think about them. These are “Really?” moments, and the title was one of these. Every day I look through a list of ebooks under the broad umbrella of “Christianity.” Usually there are 60 or more and sometimes up to 300. A thumbnail of the cover is shown, the title in large type and some lines of description.

man praying (B-C-designs)The quickest way to scan the list is by the title. One title, “When Prayer Fails, Try Praise,” stuck in my mind and started to concern me. I wondered how many Christians would take it as truth and not see any error there. It is a catchy title, and as an author I know the importance of a good title. Yet I can agree with only two words in it: “Prayer” and “Praise!” I believe in both of those wholeheartedly.

So as the modern generation of preachers would say, let’s “unpack” the title and see what it is really saying. Would it be good for all Christians to believe that phrase? Later we will see if that is what the author is teaching.

First let me remind you what is true prayer. I just love to ask for a show of hands in a seminar in response to the question, “Who loves to pray?” And then I quote a few words from Matthew 6:5, “For they love to pray…”, “they” being hypocrites. It needs the whole context, of course, but the people laugh and get the point I’m making. Hypocrites love to pray so that others see they are pious and Jesus said that the only reward they get is that of others looking at them.

So there are prayers that don’t even reach the ceiling! In the churches I was brought up in and in those denominations I served, written prayers also fell into that category too. Prayer had to be spontaneous and from the heart. For the sake of this article, let’s say there are true prayers and religious prayers.

In addition, Jesus taught that prayer was conditional: we have to ask “in his name” (John 14:13), his words have to abide in us (John 15:7), we have to “believe that you have received it” (Mark 11:24, Matthew 21:22), and the prayer must be “according to his will” (I John 5:14). So if God has promised something to New Testament Christians and they fulfill the conditions He laid down, then it is a true prayer to ask for it.

And if a statement of truth is made about New Testament Christians, such as “you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14), then don’t waste time praying about it; just accept that it is truth.

When Prayer Fails…” Book, chapter, and verse, please! The title implies that prayer will fail, sooner or later. My biblical question is, can prayer “fail” and is it inevitable that it will?

In the Old Testament, God said clearly, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24 ESV). Jesus said, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). In James’ epistle he writes, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16 ESV) and goes on to illustrate it with Elijah, who prayed for it to not rain, and a 3.1/2 year drought followed.

All these statements are absolutes; there are no “if’s, but’s or maybe’s” about them. If true prayer can fail then God fails, and that’s never going to happen. When I searched for the words “when prayer fails” on Amazon, there were six books, plus one titled “When Prayer Seems to Fail,” which gave me a glimpse of hope!

Then the second part of the title says “Try Praise.” It is the word “Try” that is out of place. I have even seen bumper stickers that say, “Try God!” and “When all else fails, try God!” Oh dear! Try everything else, then as a last resort “Try God.” It is not a case of trying to see if you have enough talent for the coach to pick you for the training squad. The nearest God gets to using the word “try” is in Malachi 3:10 when He says to Israel “put me to the test” by bringing My portion of your agricultural income to the temple and see if I will bless you.

God doesn’t work on “Try” but on commitment; the Bible says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5). “Commit” in the Hebrew text means “to roll your way” upon the Lord. The Amplified Bible reads, “Commit your way to the Lord

[roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.” God’s diagnosis is not to have you take this verse and check in with Me again next week! It is to trust Him completely and leave the problem with Him!

Now to the body of the book, to see if the author proves his claim in the title. English is obviously his second language. I have read the book completely, and in the first chapter the author repeats the words of the title, but it turns out to be only a poor choice of words. He really means “When prayer seems to fail.”

As I read through the book, the bulk of it contains biblical illustrations and personal experiences of the power of praising God. In the last chapter he writes, “God responds to only [sic] faith. Faith is what moves God. And praising God is an expression of our faith. That’s why God is moved by our praises and He response to demonstrate His awesome power.” Now that’s more like the truth. And we have to have faith as a component of true prayer.

I’m not suggesting you rush out and buy the ebook. I just want to reinforce the truth of the integrity of God’s Word. I once gave a teaching titled “Why pray when you can worry?” that was similar to the above. I have said for years, “If you’re having trouble with prayer, talk to God about it!” That’s the best advice I can give you, but read what the Bible says about prayer first!

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