14) Some people say that adding "if it be your will" is a cop out and a sign that we lack faith in God. What do you say?

We don't have to always say those words in a literal sense, but that should always express the deepest desire of the our hearts when we pray. Jesus hinted at the problem when he gave us the Lord's Prayer. Included in that model prayer were these words, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The basic difficulty may be easily seen if we lay it out in a series of logical statements:

  1. God has a will concerning my life.
  2. God's will encompasses His desires for my life.
  3. But I also have a will that encompasses my desires for my life.
  4. Those two wills will often (not always) be in conflict.
  5. When there is conflict, either God's will or my will must prevail.
  6. When I pray "Your will be done," I am asking that God's will prevail over my will.

That's the basic difficulty we face when we pray. When we ask that God's will be done, we are implicitly asking that our wills be overturned, if necessary. And that's how we should pray because He's God and we're not.

15) How does unconfessed sin impact my prayer life? What about an unforgiving spirit?

Psalm 66:17 says, "If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." See also Ephesians 4:29-32. It's not that we have to be sinless in order to pray, but we must not knowingly harbor bitterness or anger in our hearts and think that our prayers will not be impacted. Our sin can block the channel of God's blessing. When Jesus told us to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12), He was teaching us there is a vital connection between the horizontal and vertical aspects of life. See "Forgiveness and the Lord's Prayer."

The following are some of the questions asked by the conference attenders:

1) Will God save those He willed to have a hardened heart?

Romans 9:17-18 speaks of Pharaoh, whose heart the Lord hardened. But ten times in Exodus we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Nowhere in the Bible does God ever harden anyone who did not first harden himself against the Lord. It is not as if Pharaoh was on the brink of turning to God when God "hardened" his heart. No, not at all. The ten plagues, which were a sign of God's judgment, should have awakened Pharaoh to his own sinful rebellion, but instead he continually hardened his own heart against the Lord. To say God "hardened" his heart means that God did not intervene but allowed him to go his own way in continued rebellion.

2) I have been so richly blessed throughout my life... came from godly Christian parents, have enjoyed great health, have a wonderful wife, great children, a good home, for all of which I continually give thanks to God. Why haven't I experienced afflictions of any serious nature thus far?

If your life has been blessed with few troubles or afflictions, do not feel guilty. Instead give thanks to the Lord for his kindness to you. Troubles are not evenly distributed among the human race. We all know some Christians who seem to live for years in the Valley of Trouble. Others seem to have a much easier path. Both are from the Lord. So give thanks, take nothing for granted, enjoy the life God has given you, and understand that things could change with just one phone call.

3) Is it okay to look for the silver lining in every life circumstance -- it it theologically sound? I think I've found the silver lining in every cloud of my life.

I think it's healthy to look for the silver lining as long as you remember that you may not be able to find it very easily. The "silver lining" simply means that God is at work in every situation in your life for your good and His glory. Joseph could not see the "silver lining" in his brother's treachery until many years later when he realized that God had sent him to Egypt, given him favor, protected him in prison, and caused him to rise to become the Prime Minister of Egypt, all so that at just the right moment he could save his own family (Genesis 45:5-8). Sometimes the silver lining of life will be immediately seen, sometimes we must wait to it to appear, but if we believe in God's goodness, we know his purposes will be made plain eventually.