FAIL Month: Failed Prayers

May 26, 2010

Monday’s post was a huge failure.

Actually, I was pretty blown away by many of the responses as usual to the question of “what makes you feel like a failure.”  Turns out that, as usual, I was right and a lot more people feel like failures than internet chatter would have you believe.  All the boasting and bragging just makes a lot of people feel like they’re the only “failures” out there.

I think failure is such a big topic that I’m going to run with it.  Let’s talk about mistakes and failures and faux pas we make as Christians, ministers, parents, as people. 

Today’s fail topic is this:  Christians love to “hear from God.”  That means we pray to God, we sing songs, and we hope God will speak, tell us what to do, confirm something, “open a door” or give a blessing.  We think God is talking to everyone, because there’s so many people who seem to hear so clearly from Him, just like on Monday we talked about how God seems to be blessing everyone but us.

I’ve already told you that I think God is not giving out life plans like magic beans.  But I also think a lot of us are hearing less from God than we want to admit.  And because of that, we feel like failures.

Well, turns out God told me three things when it comes to hearing from Him.

Commandment #1: Shut up

I really think this should’ve been the first commandment.  As a teacher, I love kids.  But I cannot believe how convinced children are that they need to run their mouths constantly.  How can they believe that what they are saying is so absolutely important that it must be spoken right this moment, and very loudly?  I think today’s children have lost the fine art of their ancestors of “being seen and not heard.”  Sure, we say that silence is golden, but we don’t teach children the value of silence.  Every toy a child possesses is now able to speak inane, repetitive phrases indoctrinating them with ideas that Disney characters somehow love them.  Somewhere, a scientist is developing a set of Lincoln Logs that talk…and have googly eyes for some reason.

And for many children, the habit never dies.  Their mouths are constantly open.  You may think I’ve just been ranting about schoolchildren, but I do have a point here.  Oftentimes, I think our prayers, programs, schedules, sermons and even worship is so loud, so constant that God can’t get a word in edgewise. 

Even our begging God to speak is too loud.  God will speak when He’s good and ready.  Sometimes, I think God is just about to speak, and then He gets cut off with a “Speak to me, Lord!”  And it’s the last interruption He can take, so He just gives up on talking for another hundred years.

What is a normal conversation with God?

Okay, you can’t expect God to follow a pattern and speak to everyone the same amount.  But we’ve got to get over the idea that God is obligated to speak to us every day.  When we look around and believe that everyone is hearing from God on a daily basis, we feel like failures.  Either my prayers aren’t “working” on God, or God has just given up on me because I’m such a failure.

Look at King David.  Did God talk to David all the time like a talking Elmo doll, whenever David pulled the string?  No.  David talks all the time about how he feels God is ignoring him!  When David’s life goes all Jerry Springer with Bathsheeba, God certainly talks then.  He puts David in his place for acting like a hormonal teenager, and after God spoke to him…twice!

Twice?  God spoke to David twice?  And that constitutes a relationship?  Yep.  Turns out God talked to Abraham, and then didn’t show back up for twenty years.  Talk about an awkward pause.

If you asked your preacher how often he hears from God, and he said he’s heard from him twice in his whole life, you would tell him he’s a failure.  Chances are, there are some of you who can’t remember the last time you heard from God, so you feel like failures.

God doesn’t use Twitter.

Know what else grinds my gears when it comes to kids?  When they’re constantly asking questions that I have no answers or interest in.  I give them one answer.  It isn’t good enough.  They throw it away and ask another question.  I know, learning is a miracle.  But I think God wants us to dwell a bit on what He says before we move on.  God doesn’t use Twitter.

What do you want God to say?  Has He already said it?  Like, I don’t know…in the Bible?  I think God got sick of repeating himself back in the Old Testament.  If He’s already said it, don’t ask him to say it again.  He probably won’t.  Then you’ll start to forget what He said to begin with, and you’ll feel like a failure.

What did you do the last time God spoke?  If I know God, chances are He said something you didn’t like.  I don’t like half the things God says to me.  Do you talk to people who argue with you all the time?

Obviously, God isn’t the greatest conversationalist in the world.  A first date with God would be pretty slow.  But I think that’s just the way He is.  And people who claim to hear Him constantly blabbing on and on about God-knows-what are probably talking to themselves a bit.  You ever met one of those people who only hear what they want to hear?

So, I don’t hear from God every day.  Most days, He lets me go on my merry way.  But I do feel self conscious.  When I meet a Christian who seems to hear from God every day, I flip out a little bit.  I wonder why God is playing favorites.  Or I wonder what I’m doing wrong.  Basically, I feel like a failure. 

What about you?  Has it been a while since God talked?  Do you feel left out?  Can you remember the last thing God said to you?

20 responses to FAIL Month: Failed Prayers

  1. I went through a time where it was over two years between times when God spoke to me. In that time I was laid off from my first teaching job and was trying to decide on whether to go to graduate school or just get back into teaching. As I worked at a mind-numbingly boring job in the mean time I got the feeling that God had forgotten about me. When I finally did get my job and everything fell into place, I spent some time asking Him why the long silence. As you can guess, I never got an answer.

    Best part was the small group meetings when I’d get asked this question. When I’d tell them I’d usually get the “Did you ask God if you had any sin in your life?” questioning with requisite insinuating eyes. I usually responded by saying He hadn’t gotten back to me about that either, which blew a couple of people’s theologies out of the water.

  2. There is the possibility that God speaks to “the other guy” more often because that guy is more likely to veer off the path, that, in fact since you are following the direction God last gave you it is unnecessary for Him to be constantly poking you. Just saying.

    If we aren’t listening to/following the directions the Lord gave us in His Word, we need to start there before expecting “new” directives.

    • An excellent point that I had not thought of! I recall the story of Jesus taking just three disciples up on the mountain – which happened to be the three that needed “remedial” classes – while the others were out preaching already.

  3. I think you have some good points here, however I don’t think I agree with you on others. I agree that the Bible is God’s word. And so often the things we ask are already there. I agree that when we talk to God, we easily forget to listen.

    Where I differ, is that I would say that we can ‘hear’ God everyday. Every time we open our Bibles, we hear God’s word. God gives us wisdom to make wise decisions in our day-to-day life, and we also have the Holy Spirit to discern good from bad. I think I see (?hear) where you are coming from, in that we don’t ‘hear’ God in terms of major answers to prayer, or signs etc every single day, but we do have God’s written word, which is sufficient and complete.

    We need to remember that God hears and answers prayer, but it is not always answered in the way we expect or the answer we want.

    • Fiona, I think you and I are on mostly the same page. I think we run around looking for a word from God, when He’s already said it – in the Bible! But we often disregard that and hope we’ll get a ‘special’ word from God, and thus think God is being silent, when He really isn’t

  4. Sometimes we are so caught up in hearing a direct message from Him, that we miss many daily lessons in our lives- he “speaks” to us through laundry,while sitting in the dentist’s chair, caught in traffic etc.
    He rarely says to me ,”Lo, daughter…”. I can usually tell where He’s been by His signature handiwork.
    I think He speaks to us daily (as He did with those you mentioned) just not audibly.

  5. I can’t think of the last time I really heard from God and I’m tired of crashing and burning when I step out and think that I have heard from Him. In all honesty, it’s put me in neutral because I don’t want to step out into some kind of ministry only to have it fail again. I’m almost 40, feel I’ve wasted pretty much all of my life on things that don’t matter and God’s not helping me step into something that does matter.

    I could just step out and do something on my own but we all know what happens when you just do something without God being in it.

    But other than that I’m not a failure at all.

    • I know how you feel. But I also look at the guys in the Bible who God purposely led into “failure.” It’s just hard to guage what “God is using” because sometimes He is using what we consider “failure” for good things.

  6. Hearing from God, as random an act of Heaven as it may seem, can be cultivated. After all it is a relationship, one which grows by the investment in time, passion and resources. It has been my experience that God’s voice is loudest in the quietest places. Creating an environment in our lives to hear God is not easy for the average go-to-work-come-home-be-with-family type Christian.

    Certainly the ability for others to hear from God on our behalf has been given to the church (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4). As a body we desperately need others to pray for us, to bear our burdens, and to hear from God for us.

    In the end, I hear from God when I need to – sometimes in dreams, sometimes from others, and sometimes that still small voice. I don’t always hear from God what my I think the pressing issues are, but I often get a next step for something that is meaningful. I hear from God more often when life is moving along and I am focused on Him. When I am just going through the motions, it seems to be a lot less.

    I have written about this many times on http://www.fireandgrace.com . We can’t be led by the Spirit if we never hear from God.

  7. When I had cancer I never felt so removed from people and God. And as sincere as people in church would be in asking how I felt, I knew that they really didn’t understand. I took comfort in knowing that God understood. But I don’t recall him speaking to me (other than reading the bible) in that time, I just took refuge in him.

    Great point on all the toys that talk. When we have dinner my daughter sometimes interrupts us when me and my wife are talking. It’s like, “You don’t have to talk 24/7!”

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  8. Good job, Matt. I especially like Commandment #1. I will be practicing that today. :-).

  9. “What do you want God to say? Has He already said it? Like, I don’t know…in the Bible?”

    Love this! :)

  10. Oh well, that’s not really all I had to say. Sorry for taking up two comments. I really struggle with the “not hearing God” thing. I read all these amazing stories in the Bible and in other countries about Christians who experience amazing miracles and hear from God.

    I often wonder, why not me? What am I doing wrong? Do I need to move to Burma or something? Silly. But, I wonder.

  11. The only time i really felt “God spoke” to me was when i was 18. I wanted so much to be a mama & my life just wasn’t on that track. I was praying about it & really felt like he said, “You will be a mama.” And i let it go. Although i was angry & hurt my life wasn’t going where i wanted it to go & i made some really bad choices after that.

    Twenty + years later it hasn’t happened. Well, i’m mama to 3 in heaven. So, did i derail my life by making poor, rebellious choices for several years following? Or did i only allow my brain to tell me what i wanted to hear?

    I’ve a friend who lost her husband about 10 years ago to a brain tumor/cancer. They had a world wide following, encouraging folks to follow their story ’cause “God had told them” that E would be healed. He had a lot of emotional healing before he died, but, he died. She decided the emotional healing was the outcome of their “promise.” Was that it, or did they believe & encourage others to believe what they wanted & where they wanted their story to go?

    In both these cases, IF God spoke, he seemed to be saying what we wanted to hear & it was a lie.

    I can’t help wondering that when folks say “God spoke” to them or that they “feel God leading” them one direction or another, are they really experiencing the direction of God, or are they “reading in” what they want to hear/where they want to go.

  12. I haven’t stopped by here in some time and I am glad I did today. The post and all the comments really gave me a lot to think about.

  13. Pardon the dissociation of the paragraphs, it’s hard to place it in a logical flow sometimes..

    What did it for me, was the day I said that I believe I can hear God. It’s scary, and I think I’ll sound a bit like Joan of Arc, but instead of hearing of God like in the booming one sentence that renders me speechless, it has become like a conversation that goes on the whole day. Sometimes it’s mundane stuff like, ‘Good morning, time to wake up’, ‘Cmonn you said you wanted Me to wake you up last night’, or the big stuff like ‘Go talk to that stranger’, ‘Go pray with this friend’.

    I agree with your point about not just hearing from God, but to actually listen to what He is saying. And after listening, to actively obey and not harden our hearts.

    And yeahh, not to limit the ways God can speak to you. God speaks through others, through His creation, through the bible, through worship songs and sometimes any audible voice or visions or dreams; if you don’t limit Him, you might be surprised where you might hear Him. But I think it is to learn to differentiate His voice from your own, the devil’s and the world’s voice. And it comes easier when you know Him better – Jesus said that His sheep knows His voice.

    I might not get a rhema word everyday, but I know that there are things He says everyday – “my mercies are new every morning”, “I love you”, “I will never forsake you”, “You are worth it”.

    Here’s my more-than two cents worth. Hope it speaks to someone out there today.

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