within our lives
A guide to
recognising God’s presence
within our day-to-day lives
through the practical use of faith.
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE
clear that belief in God can
only come from our own individual experiences. It stands to reason that
faith cannot be built on my
experiences. That is why it is
highly unlikely that a believer can walk up to an atheist and
her that God does
exist. This article refers to building belief in God’s
existence by recognising his
presence within our day-to-day lives.
Although the article is written from a
Christian perspective, please don’t get the impression that I am intolerant
towards the other monotheist
religions of Judaism and Islam. A lot of what is written in this
article will apply to followers of those religions as much as it does
to Christians. The essence of Christianity is explained in the article, “Christianity
Essentially, the use of faith in everyday
life, within every
aspect of our lives, can provide us with the opportunity to witness God’s
presence there, as he attempts to provide loving care to each of us.
(Undeniably, to those who really know him, he is a God of action.) And when we do use faith in that way, our lives will tend to be far more contented and filled with purpose. A great bonus, eh?
You may wonder at this point whether, as Christians, we can ignore the Church, that is if it is possible to build our belief in God by recognising his presence in our
day to day lives? The answer is a firm "No" from my point of view.
I have explained my reasons later in this article. Also, please see the article,“God within the Church”. But, getting back to the subject matter of this article, how do we start this use of ‘faith’
within everyday life? Initially, and most importantly, we
must just take the first step, no matter how small it may be.
that God is there,
and then gradually move on to fully using the two-way personal
we eventually find
is available to us. Basically, we look for God within our lives; fully engage with him. And when we do, his
power will be released there.
As I have stressed in the Lead Article
(“How to really believe in God”)
of this section of the website, genuine
belief must above all else be based on a sound body of evidence. The
two common areas where God’s
most obvious to us within our daily lives is through recognising his
guiding, helping hand and through the beneficial use of prayer.
These areas, then, are
where we firstly look to find evidence of God’s presence. I have also included some
advice on how to hear God’s own ‘still small voice’ later in this article.
So, let's get into it!
A GUIDING, HELPING HAND
God’s presence in our lives can
become evident, when time is taken to evaluate his influence over
of our lives – both when helping us to make right choices in life
and then by
assisting us after we make decisions that are based on that guidance.
As I have already indicated, I am sure that God
tries to guide all
humans, unbelievers and believers
alike, down their right path of life – knowing what is best for
each of us, and
others who will be affected by our actions. From the Christian (pre-Jesus) Old Testament:
I will instruct you and teach you in the
way you should go;
counsel you and watch over you.
guidance from God will be applied towards all
important elements of our lives: spiritual path, family life,
relationships, education, career,
helping others, even issues like acquiring important assets such as the
family home etc. God provides guidance through a number of methods, and
as explained below these are all recognisable and can also prove to be most
helpful during life’s journey. Some methods are more definite and
noticeable than others. Others are more subtle and flexible.
should really be able to
recognise, in retrospect, that God was
present there in our lives even though we may not have realised it at
time. Now, it is likely that older people, because they have had more
life experiences, will retrospectively see more examples of God’s
methods of guidance within their lives. But even younger people should still be able to
locate some examples there. Remember again, as I have said
already it does nor matter whether you are an atheist, God will still
try to guide you, out of his love for you.
2.1 Opening and
God knows what gifts and abilities we each
possess. He knows our personalities and where we should be headed in
has a plan in mind for each and every one of us. (He also has a plan
for humankind in its entirety as well, but
although that subject is fascinating in its own right it is
the scope of this article.) God
does know what is best for each of us, with his view of life on Earth
outside the constraints of our space/ time continuum. And
some areas of God’s plans,
for each of us, appear to be so important that they are virtually
non negotiable. Whether we like to believe it or not, God has sovereign
power over all his creation. Although he may use this power sparingly
in our lives he can, through seemingly normal events, adjust our
direction in life. For example, our plans to significantly deviate from his own are simply blocked by God
through his ‘arranging
of circumstances’, unbeknown to us at the time of
I refer to that guidance method of God as “roadblocks”
in the Lead Article, “How to really believe in God”.
other words, if some direction in life is vitally important to us, even
though at the time we
may be ignorant of it, God will prevent
us from heading away from
that direction! Of course, on the other hand, he can also open the way
to a life direction in a fashion that cannot be closed. Christians refer
to this guiding power of God in life as “opening and closing doors”. These words are from the Christian New
Testament (the Jesus bits):
These are the words of him who is holy
the key of David.
opens no one can shut,
he shuts no one can open.
Some examples of ‘closed doors’ in my life relate to personal relationships. I can look back, to a time when I was an atheist myself, and now recognise God’s
guiding hand in me finding my partner for life, i.e. my
wife. There were solidly closed doors placed in my way to steer me
away from, and out of, relationships with other young women who in hindsight just would
have suited my path in life, and into that long lasting, satisfying
and successful relationship that we share. As an important starter in God’s plan, my wife was a Christian
before I met her. Although I remained an atheist for ten years or
longer, after commencing our relationship, her faith proved to be
immense support to
me after I did come to ‘see the light’.
I can now understand this was an area of life (my faith journey) that would become
increasingly vital as time past, where God’s
plan for me was not going to
be thwarted by my ill informed choices.
though I was an atheist at the
time of the events, please understand that I was at least capable of
recognising the sudden preventative circumstances and their outcomes:
the very unlikely odds of them occurring and the end of any further
opportunity. And I
could recognise that it always happened regularly in the perfect order
of sequence ... bang, bang, bang ... end of story, as it were! Yes,
I could at least recognise the incredible
timing and nature of what actually happened at the time, which is why I
can now analyse it in hindsight and see it for what it actually was.
Now, this is not
to say, of course, that God will ‘arrange
circumstances’ to influence your
love life. It is just that for me he knew that my life direction would
be heavily impacted by my wife to be!
hindsight, there are a very small number of these closed doors in my life
well ... spooky. As in my example above, they were just so obviously well
timed and orchestrated by God! But,
I can now honestly admit that God
clearly knew me better than I
did on those occasions. If you too look back over your
life there is a very good chance you will recognise similar instances
there. For example look for obvious
turning points in your life, or where you became locked into a
certain critical direction in life (relationships, education,
etc), resulting from ‘pear shaped’ events,
where you can
your blessings. Possibly,
you will see a trail of impacting events, one after the other
defying the laws of probability. When you get in touch with
them; the way they just happen
times in life, then they really do prove themselves.
course, it is unlikely that any of these examples, you might
in your life, will in isolation prove that God exists to you, but
recognising them will start to build that body of evidence you need for
‘believing’. So, read on please.
Clearly not all areas of God’s
plans for our lives
are so ‘set
in concrete’, as it
were. Probably most are not. Simply, we are normally left to just get
on with our lives to the best of our ability. God knows the ideal way
for us and he just shepherds
us with hints one way or another as he sees fit, but leaves us
with our free will to
make final decisions. He is simply providing directions via our minds,
quietly suggesting we follow his
will. His hints within day to day life are most
definitely recognisable, particularly when we ‘twig’ to his presence
there. And when acted upon appropriately, these hints can make life a
lot more ‘stress free’ as a
For this God is our God for ever and
be our guide even to the end.
As Christians, we should know to look for obvious
warnings from God. He invariably piles up ‘warning signs’
or omens in
front of bad choices in life. What I actually mean by warnings (or omens) are
odd little things that crop up unannounced more than we would
expect, creating difficulty – preventing us from easily moving
forward in a direction that we are
planning to commit ourselves to. The test comes when we really
want to commit to it (i.e. it may even have become an obsession) and then
we start getting these ‘vibes’ that we shouldn’t
go that way!
Of course, God does not just provide negative
leadings, he also just as effectively provides positive
well. If one direction planned in life is becoming difficult
to pursue and its alternative appears easier, then God may be
indicating that the alternative (which may not be as desirable mind
you) is the better choice. In the analogy, God is squeezing the door on
the wrong direction in life and widely opening another one that is more
suited. The easy route is often the right one, in other words.
days of trialling its use, it is wise to really apply adequate thought to what
be God’s leadings. But
once we get a better understanding of God’s
method or ‘code’
for leading us, that he
establishes with each of us as individuals, then its reality becomes
much more concrete and extremely useful.
It is a significant benefit for each of us to have a 'guide' on hand, who
always knows what will work or fail in our lives; what might harm us or those close to us.
The significance of these
‘leadings’ throughout life are again well
above what could be accepted as mere chance. It just happens too often
and when you get in touch with it, then, it really does prove
Like me, if you think back in time, you may
overriding some of those more significant signs or ‘leadings’
– on occasions – and
making bad choices anyway. That
is, going against strong ‘gut feelings’
that are often brought on by obstacles,
or possibly a series of obstacles.
can remember examples, you will probably also recall the consequences.
may not be good memories. I know I ‘blew it’
with a couple of major
family asset purchases over the decades for example, despite leadings
to act differently. On those occasions, this led to a level of
financial difficulty which negatively impacted quality of life for my family. It took a while, but I eventually
learnt to take stock of such leadings.
Please also read the small article titled, “The will
for a better understanding of that well known term and its relevance to the present topic of leadings. The
terms are, of course,
interchangeable at least as far as life circumstances are concerned.
put, as I have already alluded, it means doing what is essentially the
best in the long
term for all those
To my mind, God’s methods for deterring us can actually offer
of the strongest evidence of his existence. For example, his
disapproval at our seriously inappropriate decision-making – that
may actually harm
others (either directly or indirectly)
become increasingly obvious as he tries to deter us. Self-destructive
behaviour, i.e. ‘bad
habits’ also fits into
category. Warnings of this nature from God, whilst
normally starting out at a subtle level, may eventually
obvious and maybe even embarrassing (as he possibly tries to shame us
out of them). Does it sound like I have been on the receiving end of
this sort of treatment? Yes ... that is why I can vouch for it!
is not to be seen as cruel or harsh in these actions. No, he
it because he loves us! He wants us all to have meaningful
lives, and doesn’t want us lost in some mire that we
cannot dig ourselves out of. If we do get lost, then the
possibility of an effective
relationship with God is extremely limited. The underlying cause of the
will most likely dominate our thinking; our very identity, and
thoughts for others and God, often making us lost even to ourselves.
means that the most
that God wants of us are severely compromised.
Bear in mind though, there is a limit to God’s
attempts to put us on
the straight and narrow. God does not normally force
himself upon us, and when
the wrong things in life present too much of an obsessive interest to
us, he may
well withdraw. In other words, he respects our right to ignore him, at
our own peril of course. Inevitably, in such circumstances, we suffer
the full consequences of those poor decisions. But, while there is life
hope (as the saying goes). God will always use our mistakes to
we re-join our true path.
2.3 Advice from
too, God guides us with advice through the
mouths of others. First and foremost we are expected by God to
seriously listen to people’s
advice. Now obviously not all advice received from friends and
family etc will be sound, so we do need to use some discretion here.
But if advice offered provides sensible alternatives to our own
thoughts on something
important in life: spiritual journey, family life,
relationships, education, career,
helping others, acquiring necessary family assets etc., then it pays for us to consider it seriously. From my past experience, there
is something just a little special, some thing that can be recognised
there, in those messages which have been influenced by God.
relevant quote, again
The way of the fool seems right to him,
wise man listens to advice.
And 'wise counsel' often arrives whether we ask for it or
not. I really don’t know the exact
mechanism God uses. Maybe, he gives such people the courage to
advise us in a way that they normally would not. In any case, these
take note when advice on a particular subject of importance to my path
in life comes unexpectedly from someone I know.
I learnt the hard way not
quickly discount advice like that. I
gained my first lesson about not listening to such
advice thirty odd years ago, and the words echoed in my head for a long
after, in view of the prophetic message I ignored. There were
Now after years of observation, I almost
certainly know when to take heed of advice on life issues.
words are driven (or encouraged) by God they actually ‘resonate’ in
my mind, sufficiently for me to realise that the
advice is genuinely challenging a decision I have not yet acted upon. I
know in effect that the ‘words’
intended to highlight a wrong choice.
As you can tell from my admissions on ignoring
forms of leadings over the years, learning the hard way many times
over, I have a somewhat impetuous nature (that I
regret) and I am definitely a slow learner. I sincerely
hope you, the reader, can learn from my lessons.
2.4 Trusting his
should, after analysis, recognise that all guidance from God
is for our own benefit. So, why not start to look out for it whenever we face
new challenges; even ask for
it especially when it is for our benefit. Of course this takes us into
new territory. This is
the advanced stuff that ‘believers’ get to use. It is an example of really using
faith to our advantage in our everyday lives. Admittedly
it takes some time, as beginner Christians, to relax into this
of faith and openness. It is here that we are placing ‘trust’ in God’s
From the Old Testament:
Many are the woes of the wicked,
Lord’s unfailing love
the man who trusts in him.
we are confronted by important decisions that are hard to make we can, as believers, simply ask for guidance through prayer (the
subject of the next sub section
of this article). It
is then just a matter of recognising the
guidance – which is
generally made quite clear to
us – when God replies. Again from the Old
the morning bring me word
have put my trust in you.
the way I should go,
you I lift up my soul.
How then, as
Christians, do we expect God to guide us after praying for it. Firstly,
we might hold
up the logic behind our plans, with our hearts and
minds open to him.
That is, after the prayer, we wait for strong feelings one way
or the other. This process is known by Christians as “discernment”.
of Biblical scriptures, in the case of longer term
Christians, assists in this discernment by highlighting Biblical indications of what is right or wrong in
expectations. In the words of the Psalmist [119:105], “Your
word is a
lamp to my feet and a light for my path”.
Secondly, not surprisingly,
we would look out for advice from people we respect, especially
Christian friends. Thirdly, and again not surprisingly, we would look
for positive and negative
offer another example of God’s
guidance in my life. My career was certainly a
vital part of my walk with God after turning to Christianity. I came to
recognise him there guiding me,
as in other important areas of my life. I can say with confidence that
he led me from a career direction of safe and secure boredom with
satisfaction to a path where my abilities were
value and I gained high job satisfaction. I accepted some hard
leadings as I went though. I
example, led to apply my skills within
government agencies that delivered health and welfare services. To do
so I had to accept positions of higher responsibility yet less pay
other ‘cushier’ job options available to me. My confidence in
God’s guidance, and my trust in him, gradually grew stronger as I
continued to put faith to the test.
the best way forward in my job, to deliver positive outcomes for my
agency and its clients, also became much more obvious under his
leadings. As my career
progressed further I came to completely accept that
I could count on his assistance, i.e. I trusted him implicitly.
I was sufficiently confident to lead my staff towards complex
yield approaches, though risking failure, if I was sure I was being led
that way. We succeeded. I found myself at local and interstate
talks on my methods. I even had the odd long distance international
presenting engagement. When it came to accepting God's guidance, in my job, I am not saying
that I switched off my reasoning powers under these circumstances. It
was just when the going got tough – for example when making
close, unpopular or high impact decisions, maybe under negative peer
pressure etc –
I closely watched for guidance before making a final decision.
Christian-based ethics played a role in decisions I must
I am certainly not trying to present myself
special, because I know that I am not. Rather I am hoping to
demonstrate how God can lead an ordinary person to fulfill their
potential. With regards to career
choices, I emphasise that it does not
matter what our job might be, as long as it adds some value to the
God will assist in it.
For the final words on guidance I offer this
Biblical quote from the Old Testament:
Your ears will hear a voice behind you,
is the way; walk in it.”
2.5 A helping hand
you, even after choosing the right
path, it is not always going to be easy. There may well
work ahead. But if you have recognised the way God wants you to go, and
go with that, then he will assist by supporting that right path:
in all your ways acknowledge him,
will make your paths straight.
will note a ‘parting of the waters’ clearing that
appropriate direction before
you. If you have a strong
a direction in your
relationships, marriage, family life, education or career, work
projects or doing good deeds
for others etc – which
just and appropriate for you in
God’s view (i.e. the will of
he will remove barriers to assist you. This is the stuff that
is made of. It is also noteworthy that providence is more
precious than guidance. I believe that I am right in
saying that whilst
God attempts to guide everyone, unbeliever and believer alike, he only
provides a helping hand (providence) to those who have faith in
him. I think this is because God uses it to provides
us, the faithful, with further ongoing evidence of his presence and
That additional assistance could not be recognised by an unbeliever,
even if God gave it, because their minds are not open to it. It
certainly reassures us
believers that he will
support us where possible on our path of life. From the New Testament:
And we know that in all things
for the good of those who love him.
really make the effort to recognise providence
at work in our
lives. Its power will yet again clearly raise it above sheer luck.
providence will include unforeseen assistance, unplanned meetings with
who can help, and, material things arriving without prior knowledge. It
even occur through anticipated events ‘falling through’,
Later in hindsight it will be apparent that the unexpected events (or
even lack of
expected events) suited the end result.
Essentially, when trying to use providence to
advantage in our endeavours, it is just a matter of warily ‘going
with the flow’ –
not getting unduly enthusiastic when we are on a roll,
or getting distressed when things are not exactly going according
to plan. The intended end result is the focal point, not the
we are travelling at any one time. We re-adjust efforts as
either ‘doors are squeezed’ or
‘doors opened wide’.
Going with the flow is something that we get better at as we get used
As with God’s guidance, providence
was an indispensable aid to my
career (and other areas of my life by the way).
I surprised the heck
out of my
and skilled staff when I successfully ‘rode the back’ of
providence, time and
time again, to get successful outcomes that were, as far as I was
concerned, stress free. This occurred in a politically oriented
environment where contradictory or hidden agendas were often held by
management peers. Those readers with relevant work experience will know
that things are often not what they appear to be within civil/ public
service management circles. I guess similar challenges would be
apparent in the corporate world.
can, as I have indicated, add great power and
sanctity to our lives if we can
get fully in touch with it. (More on that in this section’s
Lead Article “How to really believe in God”.)
OUTCOMES OF PRAYER
is undoubtedly the ‘foundation
block’ of faith. As in any relationship, communication is a must. Time should be
set aside on a regular basis to talk with God. This may feel unusual at
first. I mean, you
even be sure whether you are just talking to yourself – can you?
To the experienced Christian,
prayer has many forms: requests for
help for ourselves and importantly for others in need; thanks for what
of God; just plain enjoying his loving company. We
can use prayer in the full spectrum of our lives. For example, prayers
help can be applied to our spiritual direction, challenges
to our faith, personal
relationships, family conflicts, physical health issues, emotional problems, education
and work issues,
addictions and bad habits, family financial needs,
etc. Simply put, God’s power can be applied to almost any difficulty
dilemma we may face in life... if we ask for it!
in mind it is much more
likely that God will
assist within our general day-to-day lives and related
rather than perform miracles or the like. I elaborate on that matter
later in this article.
Of course, if prayers are not successful then
our faith is weakened. So, it is at least useful to have some
knowledge, based on a sound religious footing, before
embarking on the practice.
3.1 Prayers of
Firstly, do not worry too much about the fact
that scientific studies have demonstrated that prayers don’t statistically
work etc. The
problem with such studies is that God will
never allow himself to be known scientifically. I explain why in this
Lead Article “How to really believe in God”. I can say with complete confidence that prayers definitely do
increase the odds in our favour when we utilise them appropriately. I
have seen some incredible stuff come off through prayer during my
thirty plus years of Christian faith, trust me. The potential power of prayers of request, and
do indeed provide strong proof of God’s presence in our lives.
Open your mind to the likelihood that God awaits your requests
assistance and I do not believe you will be disappointed. From the New
So I say to you: Ask and it shall be
given to you;
you will find;
the door will be opened to you.
everyone who asks receives;
him who knocks, the door will be opened.
You do not have, because you do not ask
Do not be anxious about anything,
everything, by prayer and petition,
thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
“ask and you shall
receive” is the
Bible’s promise (although, ‘conditions apply’ as I
explain later). AND God will, if the conditions are right, grant
answers to our
prayers. Once again its power will, after sufficient evidence is
clearly elevate it above sheer luck.
it sounds a bit selfish to use faith to gain assistance from
ourselves in our day-to-day lives through prayers of request, it has
positive results. Firstly,
allows God to
prove his unconditional love for us, and I can only assume that God
greatly enjoys doing so. As I often say, he is a God of action. He can
make life a lot easier than
be as a result. Secondly, by proving his presence in our lives it
belief to grow.
3.2 The best
method, attitude and conditions for success
note that the above heading contains the word “Best” rather than “Only”
No one can pretend to provide exact
guidelines on what God actually expects from us during prayer in any, let alone all,
circumstances. He is always there ready to listen to us; to care for us. I
have merely presented advice here based on related Biblical verses, my
experiences and the experiences of other Christians with whom I
have discussed prayer. I would request that you read on in that
is certainly useful, before commencing prayers of request
to get into the correct mood: relax and open yourself to the situation. A
quiet place to pray is always an
advantage. Of course this is not always possible, particularly
if praying ‘on
We should next set our mind on God’s
greatness. We do this for three reasons. Firstly, it is right to recognise the
omnipotent power of the God we are praying to. Secondly, it lessens our mindset
on our perceived needs. Finally, it increases the power of our prayer when we
accept his greatness.
It is normal for many of us
Christians to pray to God
the Father: “Our
Father in heaven”, “Heavenly
Father” or even “Father God”.
how do we ask things of God? Well, we keep it simple. As best we
we just ask for what we need. There’s
no need to start with, “If you
mind.....” etc. There’s
no need either to choose every single word carefully. God knows
exactly what we want before we say it, of course, but he needs to hear
ask. That way he can make it clear, through answered prayers, that he
is present in our lives.
the stronger the faith
used by us when praying, the greater
of success. “Faith” simply equals “confidence
in success” when praying.
As Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, if anyone
says to this mountain, ‘Go
throw yourself into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will
happen, it will be done for him.
[Mark 11:23] Now that is a pretty clear statement about faith-filled
our mind’s eye, as we pray, we should endeavour to see
the positive outcome of our request. Again in Jesus’
own words, “
...believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
In effect we are opening the situation in
question completely to God’s boundless power through our prayer; faithfully trusting
in his willingness to
Again, importantly, it is ‘best’ if prayers are powerful. Jesus,
although giving all credit to the Father,
powerfully commanded results. (For
an understanding of the Father and Jesus, within the
concept of the Holy Trinity, please
the articles, “Christianity explained
simply” and “The Holy Trinity”.) As for ourselves, I stop short of
results. But we should
still pray with the
If the issue being prayed for is important
enough in your
life, then it is also a good idea to pray for it regularly as well.
However, beware of
an unhealthy obsession or preoccupation
with the object of prayer can lead to poor results. In effect the
of prayer then becomes a ‘false
is, it is of greater importance to us than the God on whom we are
results. This will normally doom the prayer to failure.
A balance of confidence in
receiving a successful answer to the prayer (i.e. trusting in God’s ability and readiness), together with a lack
results, is therefore ideal. No request is too huge for God to
are told. As I have already indicated it pays to concentrate on
that advice, just before a prayer of request. Simply pray with
expectation of an answer, then switch your mind off the subject leaving
it to God alone to follow through.
Another way of increasing the power
of prayer is through ‘group
prayer’. Two or
more people constitutes a group, and the more involved the better. One
person leads with
Verbal support or affirmation from other participant/s is
also desirable as it amplifies faith and confidence in the process,
i.e. it adds greater power.
(Prayers in church services fit into this category of course.) Also, to my
mind, group prayer works well because God can, by answering these
prayers, touch the hearts of a whole bunch of people and
demonstrate that he is indeed present within each of their lives.
Again, many Christians conclude their prayers
of request with the words, “In
Jesus’ name, Amen”.
Why add the words, "In Jesus’ name"? Well, he suggested we make our requests that way in John 15:16 (in the Bible’s New Testament). The word, “Amen” means something like “May it happen”
or “I really mean this”.
The Bible also makes it clear that
our own generosity, or lack of selfishness, towards our fellow human
relates to what God will give us. From the Christian New Testament:
Give and it will be given to you.
measure, pressed down,
together and running over,
poured into your lap.
measure you use,
be measured to you.
for example, the more we help
donate to charities and the Church,
the more generous God will be to us in return. And that is
true, as I
have experienced. Some of God’s greatest generosity in my life
after I had given time or money that I could not really afford at the
time. Of course I am not saying that we should enter into giving to
others with the prime intention of receiving more in return. It is just
that it often turns out to be the case.
Let me please also say that the suggested
prerequisites mentioned by me, to this stage, don’t
always have to be in
place to ensure the success of prayers. (We do have a loving
after all.) For example, a personal request for inner strength
physical, emotional or spiritual pain always has a high chance of
success no matter how we ask for it.
3.3 Prayers that
as there are best methods, attitudes etc to get good results with
prayer, there are also conditions that work against success in our
prayer lives. It is a fact though that God will
answer all our prayers. Despite
the Bible’s broad promise
on answers to prayers, logically, we will not
get everything we
for. There will be times when we want something badly and
God just won’t
grant us an answer!
For example, like
a good parent, God won’t give
us something that is not in our best interest or will negatively impact
others. Not many parents for
example would give their child a dangerous gift, despite all the
Unfortunately, we cannot share God’s view of life. Although he is
certainly present within reality and our lives, he can see beyond the
restraints of time and space in which we exist. Again, in
normally come to understand why prayers have not been answered, or not
answered in an expected manner (explained below). A good many of us
believers are capable of
analytical thought, so don’t think that a strong element of
‘blind faith’ or,
as I have alluded, justifying any
outcome is a
prerequisite for being a believer. A lot of atheists have this view I
am sure, but it is in error.
do not think that
God will always overrule
the laws of
nature that he designed, every time you ask it of him. God
does not normally dabble around
with these laws. Although he underpins the
laws of cause and effect, for example, he lets them run their course. Natural disasters will happen. People will
possibly our loved ones which can include the most vulnerable:
young and the old. The rolling dice of chance can bring accidents,
illness or suffering to any of us on this day or any other. I am not
suggesting here that we do not pray in dire circumstances. e.g. when a
dear one is diagnosed with terminal disease. We do have to try and try
hard with serious prayer in these circumstances. I will say
that prayers like this are best applied in church with prayer groups or
the whole congregation (see examples within the
article, “God within the Church”.
miracles still do happen – I am confident because I have
witnessed them: see my examples in the above mentioned article – it is unusual for them to occur
regularly. Unfortunately, that is not what life is all about. All
people must die sooner or later, and we cannot expect that to happen
‘healthy old age’, without ever having suffered a day of
ill health or pain beforehand. If every prayer to prolong life was
answered there would soon be no room on our planet for the newborn.
discussed the issues of suffering
and God’s role within them, more fully in an article of
Essentially, we must accept that
emotional and physical suffering, and eventually death, are
inevitable in life. Then,
we can more readily rely on
God’s love and support to get us through it. The subject of Christian
healing and other ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ are again discussed within the article, “God within the Church”.
That article may shed some more light on this area of prayer for you,
especially why miracles do actually occur sometimes. Also bear in mind
that the ‘downs’ of life are much easier to cope with if we are
and greed may
to be barriers to
receiving answers to prayers. We really need to examine the
motives behind prayers that have not been answered. As an obvious
“Make me rich and
famous” have little chance of success. Asking to receive
something at the
expense of someone else is similarly too selfish as a rule. It is also
unlikely that God will just send us riches that can be squandered
on our material wish lists (the latest television set,
abroad etc). From the New Testament:
When you ask, you do not receive,
you ask with wrong motives,
may spend what you get on your pleasures.
It appears too that – as with God cutting us adrift when we disobey
he may not assist as strongly with answered prayers if we willfully
follow a way of life that we know he forbids (i.e. sinful).
For the eyes of the Lord are on the
ears are attentive to his prayer,
face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
inappropriate behaviour should be clear to us, and he
will make sure of that! This does not mean that he loves us any the
less, it is just that if we choose to live a life that offends him then
he uses the tools that are available to him (e.g. reducing his
care and support within our lives) to coerce us back to a life that is more
rewarding anyway. I do not believe, even then, that he cuts anyone
completely adrift in life. If
you know in your heart that ‘sin’ is the reason for your unanswered prayers,
then it may be time to rethink your life. Probably, like me, you will work out that
your failures to God, changing your ways, then again moving forward in
him is the
best decision. God
knows our weaknesses and I would guess is well pleased if we at least
try to change. If we fail again when tempted etc, he expects us to
try yet again to beat it. With time and practice we get better at
staying on track in life.
Another issue with sin, that is done willfully by us
(i.e. we know better), is that it distances us from God within our own
thinking. In this regard it certainly weakens the strength of any
prayers that we make, especially if they in regard to something that is
genuinely required by us. That attitude of weakness on our part
during prayer may well also impact its success as well.
Enough said on sin within this article
can read the articles, “Christianity
explained simply” and “Rules
to get a better understanding of sin and its effect on life,
death and our relationship with God.
Recognising answered prayers
Answers to prayers are not always instantaneous
therefore be missed when they do occur. Indeed, answers for any
prayers, particularly those for inner strength, can be
overlooked. As an example, God has
been particularly gracious with me
when I have asked for help with handling stressful interpersonal
situations (e.g. work colleagues, friends and family). I have often
thought after those types of events, “Wow, that
went better than I expected! ”
Then, it would occur to me that I had prayed about them earlier.
journals are useful to
discussions with God. Prayer requests should firstly be 'stated and
dated'. Then we subsequently use these
‘journals’ to log God’s
eventual response. Looking back occasionally over past
prayers is necessary if we are to fully understand what God has done in
to our requests. This is all the more important when starting out as a
beginner on the road to faith.
importantly too, we must also look closely for unexpected or alternative
answers to our prayers. These may only become noticeable through the
passing of time, if we follow up on prayers. We come to more easily
realise why prayers have been answered in unexpected ways as we
mature in our thinking and knowledge over time. Again, this has nothing to do with
wishful thinking, or desperately trying to explain away unanswered
is also important, once again as in
any relationship, to offer thanks
God when requests are answered.
3.5 Responding to
Let’s now examine reasons for prayers
going unanswered for lengthy periods.
Firstly, be aware that God
most definitely knows the best time to answer prayers. So it may be the
case that a prayer has not been answered because the time is
A major piece of advice is: when things
just not working out on an issue
that is ‘big time’ in our lives, despite our continued prayers
and waiting in vain, then it
is appropriate to accept that a simple
answer to those prayers is just not possible. Many of these
issues revolve around expecting God to change someone else for
better. He cannot be expected to overrule anybody’s
free will and alter their judgement, behaviour or
attitudes etc, as such. They must learn lessons for
themselves and thereby want to change first. Of course, as already
explained, God will attempt to highlight the error of their ways to
where prayer is just not working, what we need to do is to sacrifice
our concerns, as it were, and hand over the whole issue to the Lord in
faith. At ‘the
end of the day’, there is no value in stressing ourselves
unduly over any issue.
Sure, what I am
talking about here is a ‘place’ of deep faith and
also accepting just what
power we all have at our disposal as a result. Again, I am
talking about trusting
in God. If you can get your mind
to this place, and thereby shrug off the fear and anxiety caused by the
issue, then God will
truly bring about the best possible option for all concerned.
Essentially, what is called for here is faith and
patience. I will go out on a limb and state that when you
actually do look back on the situation ‘after
the dust has settled’, you will know that you have not
been let down by our loving
God. I won’t say reaching this level of faith when praying
is easy. This prayer of faith and hope
relates to “going
with the flow” as mentioned under the minor
heading, “A Helping Hand”
in the previous section of this article.
Although it may feel risky to just leave these things up to God
rather than ask for (or expect) specific outcomes, God is obviously
in a position where he knows better than us what is best for
all concerned in the long run.
3.6 Mature prayer
As our relationship develops with
God, and its intimacy matures, it becomes easier to move into
advanced prayer. I
will say that the
this happens, the better, because stronger
faith is an outcome and this relates directly to other areas of prayer
life and its success (as I have already mentioned). The power of prayer is definitely all the more
obvious in the lives of those who are willing to spend more time in the
presence of God.
If you are a beginner Christian, then it may
take time to feel comfortable coming to that position. Don’t
worry, if so, we have a loving God who will always listen to us as we
grow in faith and commitment. But when it comes time, and you
know God is nudging
you to grow closer, do it and you will benefit in many ways I can
assure you. For a deeper understanding, read the Lead Article of this
section, “How to really believe in God”.
The last four sections of that article are particularly applicable. Fundamentally, it is about contentedness with life itself.
Mature prayer includes both praying for the needs of others and
I am saying here is there is nothing wrong with praying to get things
for ourselves but
bear in mind that prayer, from
whatever religion, was never intended to be totally self oriented.
Praying out of concern for the plight of others, for example, ensures
one’s mind is
outward looking and not overly self-indulgent. Such behaviour is
expectation of Christianity. Although
I know that there are many factors (including genetic and
environmental) that lead to mental illness, I fear that it will
continue to spread in the West as long as individuals in society are
overtly encouraged, especially by the media, to centre their
on their own wants. Praying for those less fortunate than
is one ‘sure-fired’ way to place our own problems in
perspective. And there is just so much satisfaction available to us by
bringing positive changes, through solid prayer sessions, to all sorts
of life issues faced by others.
And it is right to just give time to the Lord
in prayer, because no relationship should ever be based on
just receiving; expecting all favours to just come our way. Although he regularly demonstrates his love for us
through his gifts in our lives, God definitely
desires a two-way
relationship with each of us. That said, the idea
of devotion, adoration or worship for anything outside
ourselves really is a bit foreign to many of us these days. If we
believe the hype we are offered, we are a special and lucky
species: potentially in control of our own boundless destinies. And sure there can be periods of success,
fulfilment and happiness in our lives without God. But ah, life has a habit of eventually
‘biting us on the bottom’; proving
to us in no uncertain terms just how vulnerable we are to misfortune,
pain and suffering! I remind you that it is indeed a great idea to pay
homage to our God, the best one to provide support as we pass through
the potential ‘minefield’ that awaits us in life.
way to look at prayers
adoration and worship is to recognise that they provide us
genuine sense of our
‘specialness’ in being able
to have a one-on-one
the ‘Being’ (the great
the universe’s every moment of existence. (For more on “I
see, “So, what is God?”)
Christianity has an added complexity in its model of God – that
is the Holy
Trinity. The Trinity adds a further dimension, created out
of God’s love for us, to advanced prayer. Again,
please see the articles, “Christianity
and “The Holy Trinity”. Do not let the title, the Holy
Trinity, confuse you
though. Christians believe in only one God!
Emotions play a big part in these mature
prayers, just as our love towards our parents is, or should be,
involved in our
communication with them.
we must also remember that we humans on the whole are just too
in matters that the Bible refers to as “worldliness”.
And although not
necessarily evil, an over interest in worldly matters can eliminate the
chance to focus on spirituality. Attending to the
life can soak up our lives completely. Modern communication methods
such as texting and emailing can be bad enough, but what about the time
drain of ever developing forms of
social media such as Facebook and Twitter adding to the dilemma? Again,
there is nothing wrong with these options of digital contact with
friends and family, but there has to be a balance in life.
succeed with mature prayer requires self
discipline, but the rewards are waiting. Dedicated Christians always
have, and still do, regularly put time aside to just spend with God.
Substantial two-way conversations with God on our life issues
can occur during these deep sessions. The next sub section discusses “Listening to God”.
personally find that just enjoying God’s company for a while
inevitably provides personal revitalisation and a real sense of peace.
conclusion, praying regularly does not necessarily come easy to most of
does take discipline, time set aside etc, and we do have to continually
work at it. Prayer life is no different to anything else
we would like to succeed at. It is just that not much else can lead
to genuine contentment with life, like prayer can. The advanced stuff in particular won’t come
easily because, as I have
alluded, it is often not in our nature to
adapt to such practices.
wasn’t for me when I started on the path of faith! Remember, asking God for help in developing
habits will prove very useful.
LISTENING TO GOD
I am not so na´ve as to not know
that this may seem suspect to you (that is, God speaks), especially if
have not even had exposure to close family or friends, possessing
with you, who can vouch for the fact. But, it certainly happens!
Only God knows how the ancient
tribes of Israel first came to recognise his voice, and why he
chose them to
make it clear
that he did speak.
God’s voice is not normally heard
through our ears. He is usually heard within our minds. God’s
words are one-on-one
and personal. He is intimately involved with every human life, and can
and talk to every one of us at any given moment. Consider the logistics
It is extremely faith building to recognise his
voice; know that we are being addressed by him.
I suppose the obvious question for
the doubter is, “How can we know it is God speaking and not our
own thoughts?” In fact, there is no doubt that many personal
thoughts of Christians are attributed to messages
It can be very handy to think that we have God on side, to justify our
agendas. There have been some high powered examples of this over recent
So how can we know that God is the
source of the message in our minds that we attribute to him? There are
potentially two other sources – our own brain functions
and Satan. As far as Christians are
concerned, one sure fired way
of knowing that it isn’t
God speaking is if the
telling us to do something which conflicts with Biblical truths.
requires us to be familiar with the Bible. Yet, a sense of common
‘right and wrong’ will go a long way to helping us here. And we hear of
some drastic examples,
don’t we? Religious wars and hatred have been with us for
centuries. Men and
women leave their families to form relationships with new more
partners. These things happen, and the perpetrators often tell us they
done it at God’s direction. I say, “Get a grip!”
These sorts of messages may not come
from their own thoughts, but they certainly
don’t come from God either.
I ask again, how do you know
whether it is God talking to you? From my own experience, the sound of
God’s voice is
somehow clearer, or crisper, than the ‘sound’ of my own
thoughts. Some other Christians, who I have asked, think of the
experience as more a strong sense of ‘intuiting’ a message.
His voice comes more as an ‘impression’, a very real one, to still other folks.
might explain the sensation, it is true to say
that recognition of
voice grows through experience. I am not saying that I am still always
recognising whether it is God or not, either, but I can say that I
am much better at it
now than I was.
Acting on directions
There are certainly times too when I am
much more confident that it is God speaking than others. His ‘voice’
loud when he is really serious about something, in effect
like a crystal clear
my head. I have found that it is not a good idea to ignore the
They are, to my experience, normally directions from God to do
important for other people, or not
something that will adversely affect them. On the occasions that
I ignored his louder messages I came to regret letting down
FAITH AND THE CHURCHI have recommended in other articles on this website
that the best place to commence building faith is
actually within the Church. Granted,
as I have already indicated, we can be believers and not go to
church and still live a life of faith. But I must say in all
honesty, because I tried it myself during my own early days of
faith, we miss out on
too much when taking that direction.
Please take the time to read the article, “God within the Church”, included in the Section Contents to the top left of this webpage.
This particular article (God within our lives) is definitely not
intended by me to be a self help method that can be used in isolation from
people – you know,
just a ‘you and
God’ sort of thing. God did not intend it that way, at least
not in the long
term. I agree again that you do not have to
attend church to be a committed Christian. But, God clearly intends
people do congregate together in his presence.
In the context of this article, and its focus on building belief, attending church
can provide us with a better theoretical understanding of God and
his loving relationship
with us, that can be built upon for practical use in everyday
life. The article, “God within the Church” in
turn refers to this particular one, in that
faith should not be 'left at the door' when leaving
Bear in mind that there is far more available in church than just 'theory', as mentioned above. The “God within the Church” article explains
how to go about choosing a church for fellowship. It describes
the types of belief and faith building events that occur in the various
types of churches. These
events can indeed be quite powerful, depending upon the area of the
greater Church in which we choose
to have fellowship. Do not underestimate
the possibilities available there for establishing belief and faith.
Some of the most
profound proof of God’s presence on this planet of ours is evident in the
particularly in its Pentecostal/ Charismatic/
i.e. the “Born Again” Movement.
Some top stuff
happens there. Although I have spent quite some time in Born Again
congregations, and at times had ‘my socks knocked off’
by what I experienced and witnessed, I have had
for many more years with traditional churches. So I am not
to unduly influence people, either way, as to which churches are best.
Often our individual personalities are more suited to one type of
church or another as well. I will say however that, although
no means mandatory, a bit of time spent in Born Again
areas of the Church
can do a
lot to assist in the development of anybody’s belief and faith.
Importantly, indeed very
importantly, we need to be baptized; become true members of the Church,
as soon as we can feel comfortable with that –
once we have come to see that something genuine and life
changing is being offered to us. And as I have written
Church is “the fellowship that nurtures and sustains
This particular section’s Lead Article, “How to really believe in God”
article you are now reading and “God within the Church” together to provide
the best outcomes available to us: the
ability to recognise God’s presence with clarity and
to realise an undreamt of ‘freedom’
within our lives.
I have tried to present the simple basis
of Christianity in the final section of this website. The Lead Article
for that section, that I have mentioned many times, is titled, “Christianity
Sound, open minded analysis of Christianity, through reading the
Christian Bible, will also lead anybody to recognise that Christianity
is indeed very believable
as a religion.
TO START OF ARTICLE