When God Seems Silent
Dr. Jim Denison
A friend sent me this essay. See if it is as true to your life as it is mine.
Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil demons, he said, “We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from conservative values. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, continual experience with Christ.
“If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time so they can’t gain that experience with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day.”
“How shall we do this?” asked his demons. “Keep them busy with the nonessentials of life and invest unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince them to work six or seven hours a day, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.
“Overstimulate their minds so they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or CD player wherever they drive, to keep the TV, the DVD player, and their CDs going constantly in their homes. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes and e-mail with junk, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotion.
“Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their holidays exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. And when they gather for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so they leave with souls unfulfilled.
“Let them be involved in evangelism. But crowd their lives with so many good causes that they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause.”
It was quite a convention. And the demons went eagerly to their assignments.
Has the devil been successful in his scheme? You be the judge. A recent poll reveals that while nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they pray to God, only one in four is “completely satisfied” with his or her prayer life. Only 60% of Protestants who pray are “absolutely certain” that prayer makes a difference in their lives. Most say they are too distracted to pray regularly.
They are the people I want to address today. The three in four who are not satisfied with your prayer lives; the 40% of you who are not certain that prayer makes a difference in your lives; those of you who are praying but not receiving; those who are so busy that praying is a struggle; those who are listening, but God seems silent.
We’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there. Some of you are there right now.
How to pray
So what do we do? Ask, seek, and knock, Jesus says.
Note the ascent. A child asks for his mother’s help. But he cannot find her, so he seeks her. He still cannot find her, but there is a closed door. And so he knocks at the door, hoping to find the one he seeks so he can ask for the need she can answer.
So with us. We ask, but it seems he does not hear. We seek, but it seems he is not to be found. We knock, but it seems the door is closed. But it is not. Your Father will always open to you.
But you must pray. How? First, with urgency. Jesus’ words are imperatives, commands. Clearly praying means something to God. And it must mean something to us.
Charles Spurgeon: “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all. We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire, if there is no fire in our prayers.”
Maltbie Babcock: “Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God.”
Spurgeon again: “The sacred promises, though in themselves most sure and precious, are of no avail for the comfort and sustenance of the soul unless you grasp them by faith, plead them in prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them with gratitude.”
And again he said: “Do not reckon you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer.”
Pray with urgency, and continually. Jesus’ words are in the present tense: pray and keep on praying.
Jesus prayed before light, after dark, all night long, continually.
His word commands the same of us: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
George Mueller, the great minister and man of faith, prayed patiently for five personal friends who did not know the Lord. After five years, one came to Christ. In ten more years, two more were saved. After 25 years, the fourth friend came to Christ. He kept praying for the last friend for 52 years, then died. The fifth friend came to know Jesus a few months afterward. Keep praying.
In Atlanta I met a non-Christian who came to our church with his believing wife. We spent several breakfasts together talking about his issues with the faith. When we moved to Dallas, I kept him on my prayer list for unsaved people. I have prayed for him daily across these years. Last week I received news that he has trusted in Christ. Now when I pray through that list, I rejoice. As do the angels in glory.
How do we pray with continual urgency?
Begin. Make an appointment to meet with God. I read this week about a man who put on his calendar each day, 7-7:30, prayer. But he kept missing it. Then he changed it to say 7-7:30, God. That’s harder to neglect.