Thursday, 30 July 2009

Unanswered prayer!

A fortnight ago saw the beginning of a Sunday ferry service from the Scottish mainland to Stornoway (about forty miles from where I live in the Outer Hebrides). The press saw it as the possible beginning of the end of the so-called Lewis Sabbath (we will have to wait and see if that will be the case).

Prior to the beginning of the Sunday service, there were various meetings connected to it, including public prayer meetings that God would prevent the ferry sailing on Sundays. It is evident that God chose not to give a positive answer to these prayers, and it must be appropriate for Christians to consider possible reasons for this outcome.

It is often suggested that if Christians come together in unity, then God will answer their prayers. This issue did bring Christians of several denominations together (if not physically, at least in spirit) to pray that the ferry would not sail on Sunday. Yet their unity did not bring about the desired result.

Of course, others will say, correctly, that we should pray in submission to the Lord's will, and many will have concluded that, for reasons connected to his own purposes, he chose to allow the ferry to sail. Others will say that his allowing of the Sunday ferry is an indication of divine judgement on a community that is despising their spiritual heritage, and that may be true, although it is also the case that judgement often begins with the church.

Whatever may be the reasons for the current situation, my concern is with the reality that earnest prayer was not answered according to the desire of the petitioners. Further we know that it is not the only earnest prayer that has not been answered. Christians in Scotland have prayed for years for God to send revival, have prayed for churches to grow, have prayed for converts. Sometimes such prayers are answered, and we are grateful for these occasions, yet in the main we see little spiritual progress as far as our communities and country is concerned.

Denominations have weekly public prayer meetings, and some of their members also have private prayer meetings etc. The problem is not, as far as I can see, in a lack of prayer meetings. Yet I do notice two differences between what happens now and what happened thirty-five years ago (when I became a Christian). One is that then the prayer meeting was a priority for all Christians and the other is that many intercessors I heard prayed with tears of concern for those for whom they prayed.

Obviously we are in a serious situation as churches when prayer, a reality to which many divine promises are connected, does not get answered. God has not lost any of his power or any delight in keeping his promises. So why are our prayers not being answered? If anyone has any advice on the matter I would be grateful for it.

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