It’s time to begin another series on a topic commonly found in objections to the Christian faith. In this introduction, we examine the object of prayer itself.
The issue of “unanswered prayer” is one I see a lot of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ struggle with. If an answer evades one’s prayers the person is often met with phrases from religious authorities such as, “It’s your lack of faith,” or “you’re not praying hard enough.” I’ve been a personal witness to the usage of these phrases and their burden bearing outcomes. On the other end of the spectrum, critics of the faith have seen this as a chance to jump in with their own reasons for unanswered prayer. Either God doesn’t exist or He doesn’t care enough to answer your prayers. The issue of unanswered prayer has left many to doubt or abandon the faith altogether. Unfortunately, both sides have presented prayer in a false light. This series will attempt to correct the common view of prayer, along with answering any objections that follow.
Before we get into the meat of the issue, however, we need to first establish who it is we’re praying to. What is the object of our prayers? The answer should be obvious to anyone with a basic grasp of Christian doctrine, that is, Jesus Christ. But there follows a disconnect amongst most in the faith when it comes to answering why we do so. In other words, we know the object of our prayers, but what is the objective?
The objectives are numerous, but the most common are finance and health-related. Essentially, prayer is widely held as the key to getting out of sticky and unfortunate situations. This is why critics jump on the issue of unanswered prayer and point it to an unloving God. If He doesn’t fix things, He mustn’t care. There have been numerous attempts to right the issue, the most common being that a specific prayer must not have lined up with God’s will, but without a correct view of prayer, these attempts fail. When it comes to the objective of our prayers (fixing broken situations) we’re completely missing the point of who God is. God is not one who remedies, He is the remedy.
This is something the ancients had such an immense grasp on. This is manifested in the OT sacrifices of burnt offerings. False views of the objective of burnt offerings have been claimed by many, including the idea that God takes the offerings and eats them (!). The real objective was that they couldn’t use it themselves. They were placing themselves under the authority of God their patron, trusting in Him to fill the need a lamb or goat would fill otherwise. It was them saying, “I don’t need this, I need you.”
Furthermore, Jesus affirms that He is the one who gives life in John 6:26-29,
“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
Further down verse 35 says,
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
In conclusion, a correct view of prayer can be held when we view God, not as the one who heals, but as the remedy Himself. Our prayers are often unanswered because we place dependence on their answers rather than on the one who answers.