Early on in the course of posting email Q&A, I only posted snippets from the questions I received in the attempt to keep it anonymous. Once I got past my overprotective concern, I began posting the whole email sent to me minus any personal info. This is one of those Q&As I wish I had posted more of. Many one of these days, I'll go back through all the backup email I saved on floppy disks and update the early Q&A with more of the question. :)
I just have wrestled so long with questions about prayer. anon.
You know, it sounds to me as if all your wrestling has given you incredible insight into the matter of prayer. I say this based on your reply. I find your response to your friend's email as a gut-level expression of dependence on and confidence in the living God. Though his email is filled with many Bible verses referring to this matter of prayer, I see little confidence in it. How can I say that in view of all these things he presented? Simply by the fact that he is holding to these isolated Biblical claims amassed together in a desperate attempt to add more weight to something he really wishes would happen in his own life.
Do you doubt this observation? Notice how the verses he has thrown together are so carefully removed from the contexts in which they were recorded, and then consider how those contexts tell different stories. The contexts of those verses individually present a Christianity that is so, so different from everything our Christian culture implies. The stories behind those individual verses deny the desperate hopes our Christian culture ASSUMES as we have come to view success and God's will and answered prayer, and even prayer itself in a foreign way to the reality found in the living Spirit of Christ within us.
The systematized view of prayer we hold in our culture today attempts to ignore all the obvious lack of answers by chalking it up to a lack of faith or a lack of something else on our part. The systematized view of prayer in churches today is best summed up by the successful multi-level businesses so prevalent in the modern church. These businesses have found success in the two greatest DISAPPOINTMENTS in our modern Christian mindset ... which also happen to be the main two categories of most of the prayers uttered in our churches: Health and Wealth.
The first time I heard this stated so boldly was on a cassette tape from the wife of a successful husband/wife team who had built a specific multi-level business based primarily from among those in their denomination (though it had spread out from there). She claimed that this business answered those two main kinds of prayers that she had heard her whole life: health, through the nutritional supplements; and wealth, through the building of the business (So, if you ever wondered why these businesses have spread like wildfire in Christian denominations you need not wonder any more!).
I get very confused.
Your confusion is understandable because you are being bombarded on a daily basis to view the reality of Christ and of our communion and communication with God through the perspective of this contemporary aberration known as Christianity.
I have this friend who suffers from severe mental anquish. She won't go for help...due to money...doesn't know where to go etc. She has asked God to help her and he doesn't...she asks me why?
The problem is not with the answers, my dear friend, but with the questions. A friend of mine has often said, "Are we asking the right questions?" The apostle Paul DID receive an answer to his requests about his "thorn in the flesh", and the answer was really "YES"! How so? By discovering the real questions in the heart of the man who THOUGHT he was merely asking for physical relief. Paul really wanted SATISFACTION, but his requests came across as "please take this away". You see, as Paul said in Romans 8 that we don't know HOW to ask for what we should!
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:26-28
This is the basis of your reply to your friend. You really do understand so much more about prayer than you even imagine!! Otherwise, how is it that YOUR answer sounds so much more like the whole context of what Paul writes, while your friend's answer only sounds like a random quotation of verses that merely sound alike? It is only because of the conflict between the perspective of God and the perspective of the flesh that you find such confusion. Rest in the wonderful reality that God is indeed revealing HIS will to you.