Why do our best prayers sometimes fail?

Back in mid-twentieth century, a psychologist named Klopfer made an amazing discovery. It came while dealing with one of his patients, a man named Wright.

Cancer had eaten up Mr. Wright, causing tumors the size of oranges throughout his body. He lay in the hospital, dying. Nothing could be done, except to make him as comfortable as possible.

But Mr. Wright’s hope flared a little when he heard of a new cancer drug called Krebiozen. He asked his doctors about it, but they wanted to reserve the experimental drug for patients who hadn’t progressed as far as Mr. Wright; they wanted to use it on those who would live longer.

But Wright insisted, begging his doctor until he gave one injection on a Friday, expecting him to die over the weekend.

Not only did Mr. Wright live through the weekend, but his doctors found him on Monday morning happily walking the halls and visiting with the staff. His tumors had shrunk to half their previous size.

Doctors excitedly began three injections a day for Mr. Wright, and within ten days he went home and back to his usual activities (which included flying his airplane).

However, it wasn’t long until the news media reported conflicting stories about the new drug’s effectiveness. Many said it was useless, news that put Mr. Wright back in the hospital where he reverted to his former critical condition.

At this point Dr. Klopfer intervened, telling Wright that the earlier drug had deteriorated in shipping and that a new, more powerful form would arrive soon. Mr. Wright took heart, and the Doctor began more injections… this time of nothing but fresh water!

Mr. Wright again recovered, leaving the hospital and going back to his normal activities in a few days. His watery injections had boosted him back to health… until.

Until the American Medical Association released a statement saying that Krebiozen was a totally worthless drug. His faith in the drug now shattered, Mr. Wright reentered the hospital and died within a few days. (See Dr. Bernie Seigel’s book, Love, Medicine & Miracles – Harper & Row; 1988, page 33.)

This amazing story reminded me of how Jesus emphasized the power of belief:

  • Jesus talked often about faith. He quizzed his disciples about it, pushing them to develop more of it. He often said, “according to your faith will it be done to you”, leaving life open-ended with few limits other than one’s lack of belief.
  • Faith amazed Jesus. To see time-bound mortals “get it” – to see them learn this God-like skill called faith – this excited Jesus.
  • He marveled at the Centurion’s astonishing faith (Matthew 8 ) and the iron-willed faith of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15), but he also stood amazed at the smothering lack of faith in his own home town (Mark 6:6).
  • Jesus went around looking for faith, evaluating each encounter with people, sizing them up and taking their measure, always with an eye toward discovering faith… faith in him and his ability to manifest God on earth.
  • He even said, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIV).
  • While we’re here on earth doing all this praying, he’s looking for faith. He’s evaluating our prayers based on their faith-content. Why? Because Jesus knows that even eloquent prayers spoken without faith are dead on arrival.

(Have you ever had a “Mr. Wright” experience? Tell us about it…)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24 NIV).


An Old Path To A New Revival


Many who are acquainted with church life would call ‘revival’  a series of meetings designed to draw unbelievers into the church.

But revival in the classic sense is much more. It’s the awakening – the reviving – of spiritually lukewarm Christians leading to a glorious, enthusiastic church that attracts a weary world to Christ.

True revival is what most preachers long for. So the lack of revival causes many pastors to grow weary. To wonder if they’re doing any good. To, in many cases, give up on their profession.revival

When churches rock along year after year in a deadening apathy, it crushes the spirit. One of the pastoral dangers of revival’s absence is that preachers often give up and sink to the level of the apathetic, rather than pulling the lukewarm up to a higher spiritual temperature. Having sunk to that level, many pastors never recover. They become the caricature of a ‘professional’ – working only to survive till retirement. They’re more interested in keeping the peace than in trying one more time to stir a heated revival.

So, how can pastors – and churches – see true revival? What prevents it? What causes it?

Most students of the phenomenon believe that true revival is a sovereign work of God. And that the only way to see that sovereign work is by prayer – by asking God to send His Spirit to revive His church. Note some of these quotes generated by the great revivals of the past:

The Great Awakening: “The faith and prayers of the righteous leaders was the foundation of the Great Awakening. Before a meeting, George Whitefield would spend hours–and sometimes all night–bathing an event in prayers. Fervent church members kept the fires of revival going through their genuine petitions for God’s intervention in the lives of their communities.” –Amy Puetz (www.christianity.com/church/church-history/the-great-awakening-11529421.html)

The Second Great Awakening“In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States. Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. All the churches adopted the plan until America, like Britain was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before revival came.” -J. Edwin Orr (www.churchplantingwiki.com/index.php/wiki/Prayer_-_J_Edwin_Orr_-_The_Role_of_Prayer_in_Spiritual_Awakening/)

The Third Great Awakening: “As the historian Timothy Smith showed in his book Revivalism and Social Reform, there was an earnest expectation of awakening, and much prayer in many places for it in 1857. In cities large and small there were interdenominational prayer meetings. One prayer meeting, held daily at 4 p.m. in Bethel, Connecticut, was attended by ‘farmers, mechanics, and storekeepers,’ and claimed 400 conversions. Many smaller towns had similar daily or weekly prayer sessions… In Chicago, the Metropolitan Theater was filled every day with 2,000 people. In Louisville, Kentucky, several thousand crowded each morning into the Masonic Temple, and overflow meetings were held around the city. In Cleveland, the attendance was about 2,000 each day, and in St. Louis all the churches were filled for months on end… In February 1858 James Gordon Bennett began to give extensive space to the awakening in his paper, the New York Herald. Not to be outdone, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, gave still greater coverage to the meetings, until in April 1858 he devoted an entire edition of the Tribune to a special revival issue.Other papers quickly followed suit in reporting the great numbers of people all throughout the nation attending the prayer gatherings and professing faith in Christ.”

It’s clear from these quotes – and hundreds of others – that, since only God can truly revive His people,  prayer will bring spiritual revival.

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” -Romans 13:11 NIV

(Here’s a place to find more great revival resources: http://www.revival-library.org/index.html)

Local National Day of Prayer Breakfast inspired us all

What an inspiring morning! Our local National Day of Prayer Breakfast today, sponsored here in our region by Community Prayer Partners, hit a new high watermark. The food was wonderful – but the spiritual uplift came froIMG_1258-2m our worship time… and from the prayers of nine people chosen from different denominations to pray aloud about our families, churches & government… and from an excellent Bible message from Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson. Willie challenged us not to be identified by our past sins, but by our position in Christ. And to keep praying together as a community. A community that he and his family love and serve.

It seems we had around 400 hundred who attended, yet the impact didn’t come from the number but the spirit of the event. Or should I say Spirit?

It certainly helps to have well-known speakers like Willie Robertson but, judging from the Spirit of the room this morning, God’s Presence shaped the whole event. His Spirit encouraged us to keep on praying. And keep on loving each other in unity.

I’m already looking forward to next year. Hope you’ll plan to be there, too!

And keep on praying for spiritual revival in this broken world!

Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson speaks at our NDP Prayer Breakfast

I’ve been a member of a local group of praying pastors and church leaders called Community Prayer Partners for over a decade. It’s inspiring to see so many different denominations represented as we pray for revival in our region.Willie Robertson

One of our annual events is the National Day of Prayer Breakfast which we host. This year Willie Robertson will speak at our NDP breakfast at Monroe Civic Center in Monroe, Louisiana on May 7th beginning at 6:30 AM.
Tickets are $10.00 each. Email me if you need tickets… kroberts@calhounchurch.org.

If if you can’t be with us then – pray for revival!

7 Great Prayers From The Bible

Sometimes my prayers come and go like variable breezes in spring. One day I’m praying faithfully, the next I just can’t make it happen. Why?

Well, here’s one thing I’m learning – reading about prayer keeps me interested and motivated. Especially reading prayers in the Bible. So, here are 7 great Bible prayers I’ve enjoyed reading and meditating:

  1. Abraham’s Prayer For SodomGenesis 18:20-33. This one is almost funny. Abraham hears God say He plans to destroy Sodom because of its intense wickedness, so he begins to tirelessly negotiate with God. Abraham won’t give up. It’s amazing that God sits still for this mortal to question Him about the planned judgment. Note how God takes man into His counsel and then makes a decision.
  2. Moses’ Prayer For Israel’s SurvivalExodus 32:7-14. After the famous golden calf incident, God had planned to destroy Israel and start over with Moses as the ‘new Abraham’. But Moses isn’t buying it. He intercedes fearlessly on behalf of his people, giving God reason after reason why He can’t destroy the covenant nation He created. This one will motivate you to stiffen your prayer muscles.
  3. Moses’ Prayer For God’s PresenceExodus 33:12 – 34:9. When Moses learned that God had decided not to go with Israel into the Promised Land (33:3), it so shocked him that he set out to change God’s mind. His touching prayers end in an amazing glimpse of God’s stunning glory.WhyGodWaitsCoverShadow
  4. Hannah’s Prayer For A Child1 Samuel 1:1-20. In a day when women found most of their identity in childbearing, Hannah desperately longed for a baby. She wanted to give her husband a child, but she also wanted to influence her nation’s history through her offspring. Watch how her intense pleading with God reached a breakthrough when she took her own selfishness out of the equation.
  5. King Jehoshaphat’s Prayer In A Crisis2 Chronicles 20:1-23. Faced with an invasion by a giant army of three partnering nations, Jehoshaphat immediately called a solemn assembly and the whole nation of Judah went into intense prayer and fasting. Receiving a prophetic message in their assembly, the king and his people marched out to the battle – with an amazing surprise ending.
  6. Jesus’ Prayer For His DisciplesJohn 17:1-26. Reading and meditating on this prayer is a life-long exercise. It is a simple prayer, but it’s as deep as you want to go. Jesus’ intercession for His disciples the night before His crucifixion reveals His Divine love for them… and for us. This is your chance to hear Jesus Himself pray aloud.
  7. The Church’s Prayer For BoldnessActs 4:23-31. Do you know any churches that need a little boldness? The ancient church, hunted down and persecuted by the authorities, came together and prayed with an intensity seldom seen. What they asked for is amazing… and so is the answer they received.

These prayers stir me up. And I think they’ll do the same for you.

Do you have other great prayers from the Bible that stir your prayer life?

7 Reasons Prayers Get Rejected

This is it. The most common question I get when teaching a prayer seminar.

“Why didn’t my prayer get answered?” Or “I prayed and prayed about ____________but it’s like God never even heard me”.

Why does that happen? Well, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are some I’ve discovered in the Bible

  1. Unforgiveness.Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” -Jesus (Mark 11:24-25 NIV).
  2. Sin that’s cherished. If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.” -Psalm 66:18-19 NIV
  3. Disrespect in the homeHusbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. -1 Peter 3:7 NIVWhy God Waits For You To Pray
  4. Evil motives. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” -James 4:3 NIV
  5. Lack of faithTherefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.-Jesus (Mark 11:24 NIV). Also –  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” -Jesus (Matthew 21:22 NIV)
  6. Hypocrisy. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other (the self-righteous Pharisee), went home justified before God.” -Jesus (Luke 18:13-14 NIV)
  7. Quitting too soon. Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (See Luke 18:1-8 NIV). Also – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.-Colossians 4:2 NIV

No – you don’t have to be perfect to get amazing answers to prayer… but you do have to be consistent. Since all our prayers come from inside the human spirit, and are filtered through our heart’s condition, prayers arrive at God’s throne with the imprint of our own discipleship.

Seven reasons prayers get rejected. I’m sure there are many more. Can you think of any?


Five Authentic Reasons To Be Involved In Church

I hear it a lot. “I can be a good Christian without going to church.” Or, “I’m a very spiritual person, I just don’t go to church.” Or, “The church is full of judgmental phonies, and I’m a much better person that most of those who go to church.”

But let’s look at the other side. What are some authentic reasons to be involved in church?

  1. Jesus was. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16 NIV)
  2. Jesus gave his life to birth the church, the ‘assembly’. Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.'” (Matthew 16:16-18 NIV)
  3. Jesus was intimately involved with serving his disciples – the ‘church’. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end… The evening meal was in progresshe got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5 NIV)
  4. Jesus commanded that his disciples love the church as much as he does. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
  5. Jesus said the world will believe on him if his disciples are a team, involved in each others lives. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.(John 17:22-23 NIV)

So, do you think Jesus requires his disciples to be involved in church?

A Dozen Scriptures Proving That God Answers Prayer

It’s common to hear people dispute the claim that God answers prayer. Usually it’s because some important prayer didn’t get answered, or because they can’t understand why God won’t immediately remove evil from the world.

So – instead of actually praying, we often debate about whether or not God answers prayer. However, if one believes the Bible to be the authentic voice of God then what his book says about prayer should be the final authority on the issue.

Here are a dozen Scriptures (there are many more) where the Bible proves that God answers prayer:

  1. Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.“–Jeremiah 33:3
  2. “He will call to me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.”–Psalm 91:15
  3. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”–Psalm 34:17.
  4. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”–Psalm 50:15.
  5. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” – I John 5:14.
  6. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”–John 15:7
  7. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.“–Mark 11:24
  8. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you“–Matthew 7: 7
  9. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.“–John 14:14
  10. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him..”–I John 3:21-22
  11. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”–Matt. 21:22
  12. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”–Luke 11:1

(All citations are from the NIV)

So -why not pray ‘as if’ He will answer?

Do you have a favorite Scripture on the subject?

Prayer changes nothing!… Really?

“Prayer changes nothing!”

Often attributed to Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, famous author and Bible expositor, that quote puts into words what many Christians seem to think.

In decades of teaching seminars & workshops on prayer, I’ve heard it often. “Prayer really doesn’t change circumstances, it just changes us.”

The problem is… that’s wrong. It borders on heresy, denying the personal working of God in this world today.

It’s wrong for these basic reasons:

The Bible contradicts it. Even though true prayer certainly changes the person doing the praying, that isn’t the whole story. Here’s a sample of what the Bible says about answered prayer:

  • Prayer gave Isaac twin sons even though his wife was barren – Genesis 25:21.
  • Prayer kept Esau from killing Jacob and caused the two to reconcile – Genesis 32:11 & 33:4.
  • Prayer freed the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage – Exodus 2:23-25.
  • Prayer saved the nation of Israel from God’s judgment and preserved their destiny – Deuteronomy 9:18-20.
  • Prayer spared Israel again and again during the time of Judges, until they asked for a king instead – 1 Samuel 12:6-23.
  • Prayer gave King Solomon his unique wisdom – 1 Kings 3:9-12.
  • Prayer saved King Jehoshaphat & his people from invasion by three armies – 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.
  • Prayer released Peter from death row – Acts 12:5-11.
  • Prayer led to Paul’s conversion & forgiveness – Acts 7:59-60 & 9:1-6
  • Prayer brought Jesus back from the dead – Hebrews 5:7.

And that’s just a small sampling. In Dr. Herbert Lockyer’s book, All The Prayers Of The Bible, the foreword says Scripture records 650 definite prayers, of which there are 450 specific answers recorded.

Besides that, faith contradicts it.

This doctrine – that “prayer changes nothing” – directly contradicts what the Bible says about faith. It’s a doctrine that negates faith. It tries to satisfy the natural man’s aversion to God’s supernatural working.

If God doesn’t answer prayer today, then one doesn’t have to worry about why specific prayers didn’t get answered. If prayer merely changes my attitude, then I don’t expect God to work in specific ways that can be seen and measured. If He doesn’t work in ways that can be seen today, then I’m not obligated to search out His ways.

Put another way – “Don’t expect anything and you won’t get disappointed.”

So, prayer does change things. It changes everything, including people, attitudes, circumstances, illness, the weather… if God can change it, then prayer can influence it.

As the Bible puts it – “You do not have because you do not ask God.” -James 4:2 NIV

I bet most of you reading this post have experienced at least one remarkable answer to prayer. Why not share it with us in the comments?

Why Spiritual Health Matters

Why does spiritual health matter? What is spiritual health, anyway? And why do so many Christ-followers struggle with it?

According to Scripture, we’re made up of spirit, soul and body: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thess. 5:23 NIV)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)Body Soul Spirit diagram

This means that you ARE a spirit, housed in a body and interacting in this finite world as a “soul”. If your life is controlled by the body, you’ll become obsessed with either abuse of the body (gluttony, sexual immorality, addictions, etc.) or obsessed with physical culture (exercise, your appearance, diet, clothing, etc.).

If your life is controlled by the soul, you’ll emphasize emotional well-being, education, the arts, entertainment, success, etc.

But if your spirit reigns, then Scripture, fellowship with other believers, true worship, prayer, etc. will dominate your life. And along with this, the fruit of the Holy Spirit will manifest, becoming the prominent feature of your personality (See Galatians 5:22-23).

So, here’s why spiritual health is vitally important: If your spirit is weak and anemic, your soul and body will take the lead and dictate the direction of your life. When that happens, disaster follows. Such people fill our churches. They’re self-oriented and world-oriented but not God-conscious. And, they’re usually harassed by the turmoil that comes with the flesh’s dominance (Galatians 5:19-21)

Example: Demas had the honor of working directly with the Apostle Paul, who labeled him one of his “fellow workers” (Philemon 1:24). Yet later Paul writes about him, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Timothy 4:10 NIV)  The English phrase “this world” comes from the Greek “this present age”. Demas’ body and his world-oriented soul had crowded out the influence of his spirit, which diminshed the Holy Spirit’s Presence.

Example: When the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in deep trouble, he diagnosed the members as spiritually anemic. His evidence? – chronic division in the congregation: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NASB). (Scripture often calls the twin tyrants of body and soul “the flesh” or “the carnal man”.)

So, how does a believer cure these spiritual illnesses? By spiritual exercise – prayer, Scripture reading & meditation, worship, and fellowship with other believers – all of which keeps us linked to His Divine Spirit. The Presence of God is the key. His Presence solves all issues.

If there’s no prayer, there’s no Presence.

By the way, what has helped you grow spiritually?