The Most Difficult Thing about Praying
Joe McKeeverJoe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
- 2017 Oct 11
“We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).
I know some things my pet does not.
My dog thinks he wants to fight that pesky cat next door. By his barking and straining at the leash, Albie gives every indication that chasing that cat would be the high point of his day. It wouldn’t. It would be his greatest nightmare.
That little cat sits on the driveway, completely unmoving when my dog walks within 10 feet, barking and snarling and threatening. The cat hardly blinks an eye. Another day at the office. Another house dog who thinks he wants a piece of me but has no idea the trouble he’s asking for.
I know what a fierce cat can do to a sweet little house-broken dog that has never been in a real fight in his life. I know his instincts tell him to chase the cat–that this is what he was put here on Earth for–but I know better.
I hold the leash and lead this lovely little canine on to other things, and as far away from that fierce little feline as we can get.
And just so does our Lord lead His children.
He knows better than we.
“He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3).
When we pray, we say, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” And we say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
We want what we want, but more than anything–am I assuming too much here?–we want His will. He knows what is best.
So, when we come to pray, we trust Him in answer in the way of His choice, not ours.
If we cannot pray and leave the answering of that prayer to the Father, accepting whatever He chooses to send as His will in that situation, if we cannot receive that with thanksgiving and believe that He has indeed heard us, we will quit praying.
Some have quit praying.
If we cannot keep believing in God when He delays answering our prayers, we will quit praying. Many have quit.
If we cannot keep trusting when God disappoints us with the answers He sends, we will quit praying. And many have quit.
God knows what He is doing. God has His own plans. He wants our faith in Him to be strong and steadfast, to endure the hard times and to be pure in the good times.
God is at work this very moment. He will do things in His own way and He will take His own good time about it.
If we cannot pray “Thy will be done,” we will quit praying and go away disappointed. Many have gone away disappointed.
Do not be surprised if God’s answer to your prayers is not what you asked or wanted or expected. But what you said you wanted above all was His will to be done.
Sometimes we live to see what the Lord had in mind.
Think of Joseph. Here is the skeletal outline…
Joseph is thrown into the pit by his brothers. (Genesis 37:24)
Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28)
Joseph is betrayed by his mistress and abandoned by his master and thrown into prison. (Genesis 39:20)
Joseph is still in prison two years later, betrayed by fellow prisoners who had promised to help him. (Genesis 41:1)
Joseph is made ruler over the land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. (Genesis 41:41)
God had been on the job all along, using these tragic circumstances to prepare His man for the pivotal assignment He had for him. Joseph trusted the Lord throughout all these ups and downs–mostly downs–and God exalted him.
At other times, we do not see the outcome of our faithfulness.
Think of Paul in prison in Rome. He has appeared before Caesar, on trial for his life, and is about to do so again. This time, he will not walk away. He says:
“At my first appearance, no one stood with me, but all men forsook me. Nevertheless, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully accomplished, that all the Gentiles might hear.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)
God was on the job, right there with me, Paul said. So why didn’t the Lord bring him out with a mighty hand, someone asks. Didn’t Paul have faith? Couldn’t he have rebuked the enemy and trusted that Christ was greater than the devil? (Just so do some of us reason with our poorly formed theology of prayer and faith.) But God was up to something and Paul wanted to see what that was. The Lord wanted those pagan rulers to hear the message of Christ.
Caesar ain’t coming to our revival, friend. So, the Lord needs someone to be arrested and put on trial and to appeal all the way to the top. Then, when old Nero calls the prisoner out and challenges him to “Tell us what you’ve been preaching in the marketplace!” the Lord’s servant is ready.
That’s how the ruling class first heard the gospel.
What did the Father accomplish that day? What did Paul’s death purchase? Answer: God knows. Only time and eternity will reveal the answer to that.
If we cannot walk by faith and believe by faith–a redundancy, of course–we will stop praying.
Some have stopped praying.
“Men ought always to pray and not to stop.” (Luke 18:1)
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
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