You pray. You pray more. You pray more and more and more fervently and yet there is no answer. Help doesn't come. The streams of mercy appear to be running dry. It is as if you are talking to yourself. It is as if your prayer closet is made of some form of evil material that hinders all communication between you and the throne of grace.
Have you ever found yourself in dire straits like this? Do you ever wonder what is going on at these times? Maybe you even feel like questioning all those promises in the Bible about God hearing our prayers? You feel alone and miserable.
You may feel alone and miserable but you really aren't alone. We may all feel miserable but we certainly aren't alone. Unanswered prayer is an aspect of the Christian life that we wrestle with. That is what makes Paul Tautges' book "Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer" so helpful. Tautges searches the Scriptures to provide some reasons for unanswered prayer.
"Sometimes we’re tempted to wonder if God can hear. After months or even years of praying over a particular person or situation, we look for evidence God is getting our message or even paying attention, and we can’t find much. Why is that? Why do the heavens sometimes seem like brass? Doesn’t God love us and care for us? Isn’t he all-powerful? (Kindle Locations 171-173)
The book contains two parts.
Part one deals with the nature of the Triune God and specifically the role each person in the Trinity plays in our prayers. This part contains a very helpful overview of prayer and how dependent we are on the Triune God in our praying. Part one also includes a chapter on the Father's chastening love for his children. He disciples those whom he loves (Heb. 12:6).
It is this concept of the Father's disciplining love for us that leads into part two. Our Heavenly Father cares far more about our holiness than anything else in our lives (Kindle Location 547). If only we were as concered about holiness as God is. But we aren't. Sin abounds in our lives and it is sin in our lives that often hinders our prayers. Part two develops several areas of common sin in our lives that hinders prayer. These include:
- Pet Sins - These are sins that we cherish (Ps. 66:16-20). "To cherish sin is to look forward to doing what God forbids. It is the Old Testament equivalent of making “provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). It involves allowing certain thought patterns, habits of life, or questionable relationships to remain in order to provide opportunity for the satisfaction of fleshly pleasures." (Kindle Locations 744-747)
- Neglected Duties - These are passive sins. Tautges focuses on two areas of passives sins, delaying conflict resolution and withholding forgiveness. These are common within the body of Christ. "Unresolved conflict hinders our relationship with God, and this hinders our prayers." (Kindle Locations 864-865) Believers must aim for restoration and extend free and unqualified forgiveness to those who have wronged them. Anything less hinders our prayers.
- Religious Sins - these are sins that promote a false self-confidence. "Hiding beneath the cloak of our perceived goodness, religious sins are those that feed self-awareness of our spirituality. Instead of driving us to God in humble dependence upon his grace, they blind us, fuel self-righteousness, breed spiritual apathy, and often neutralize the Holy Spirit’s conviction." (Kindle Locations 999-1001)
- Inconsiderate Husbands - this deals with a very specific area, husbands and their relationship to their wives (1 Pet. 3:7). Husbands must learn to be gentle, considerate leaders at home or their prayers will be hindered.
- Stubborn Pride - these are the sins of the stubborn person. The stubborn person is slow to admit wrong, has a mule-like spirit, is marked by increasing disobedience to God, is resistant to correction, and demands their own way (Kindle Locations 1288-1293).
- Testing Our Faith - This is the category to focus on after the other areas have been examined. Perhaps the Lord's silence is meant to strengthen our faith in him. "As God performs his sanctifying work in us—conforming us to the image of his Son, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)—there will be times when answers to prayer seem out of all possible reach. When we try to discern the cause for this, we may find that self-examination doesn’t help. Maybe we have been diligent in trying to kick our pet sins out of the house, we’re unaware of any ongoing conflicts or offenses with other believers, and we’ve been fighting diligently against self-righteousness and an independent spirit. Nevertheless, it seems that God has closed his ears to our cries." (Kindle Locations 1401-1405)
Finally, the book ends with an appendix on "Ten Things that are True When I Confess My Sin."
Overall this was a very helpful book. I recommend this book to new Christians who are learning the ins and outs of prayer. I would also recommend this book to Christians who have questions about unanswered prayer - either they have encountered this phenomena for the first time or have been wandering in the dark deserts for a season. This book may prove helpful and encouraging to them.
You can buy a copy here or here.
While we are on the topic of prayer, the follwing links might be helpful and relevant: