By Curtis K. Shelburne
By Curtis K. Shelburne
A “teaser” on the front of the little magazine touted an article inside: “How To Triple Your Answers to Prayer!” I’m wondering what might be prescribed.
Incantations? A caldron filled with a steaming potion featuring eye of newt, tongue of frog? Could I get more answers to prayer (answers that I like) if my technique was better or my recipe more precise? Is the bottom line the number of really “good” answers I get and catalogue?
I think I’d like the guy who said any Christian who says to another believer undergoing pain, “If you had enough faith, you wouldn’t hurt,” needs very badly to be hit over the head with a baseball bat to help him test his theory.
I believe St. James when he says that God’s people sometimes “don’t have” because they “don’t ask” or “ask wrongly.” A right attitude is important.
But the bottom line on prayer is nothing that can be quantified, measured, or catalogued. Thank God for heartwarming answers, but, most of all, thank God for the growing and soul-warming relationship time in prayer builds between you and the Father who gave you life and wants to spend time with you, his child.
To a skeptic watching you bend the knee, you’re just talking to yourself. Prayer is worthless, he thinks, because he sees it producing no practical results. But to you, child of God, and to your Father, it is precious and would be no more precious if you could accurately catalogue 143 direct “results.”
The same thing is true for the same reasons regarding our worship. In a society that values nothing unless it produces measurable results — the bigger, the better — why worship?
• To get re-charged spiritually.
• To have fellowship with God’s people.
• To be able to leave to serve.
• To fill up so we can do all sorts of obviously beneficial stuff and carry on all sorts of programs, the kind that can be measured and look good in church flyers and bulletins.
Well, I’m for all those “results” and more. But we worship for one reason that overshadows any other and needs no defense: We worship to glorify the God who is absolutely worthy and deserving of all praise.
An old kind of pragmatic legalism says, “You can only be saved if you do enough to be worth saving.” A modern kind just as seductively says, “Your prayers and your worship are only worthwhile if they produce visible and measurable results.” Both ideas are as wrong as they are, in the final analysis, cruel.
Our prayers and worship are precious to God not because they’re so good at producing impressive results. They’re precious to God because we’re his precious children, completely loved and accepted by our Father already.
In that knowledge, we worship and pray. And living in that knowledge, we find that God has indeed provided “in advance” plenty of good works for us to do, some of which can probably be listed in a church bulletin, but lots of which don’t look particularly “religious” at all. But the marvelous fact remains: God loves and accepts us before we’re able to do a single one.
Our Father is amazingly impractical that way.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at