Dr. Stan Toussaint
Q: How do you answer the question from non-believers that prayer does notwork?
The scriptures do say the prayer does work. That does not mean that the answers are easy. To me one of the most difficult subjects in the Bible is the subject of prayer. It is difficult both practically, because I don't pray enough, it is difficult theoretically because there are so many problems. Why are prayers unanswered? One big problem that I have wrestled with is the problem of natural law. All things happen by natural law. And thankfully they do. A pound of butter yesterday is still a pound of butter today, if there wasn't natural law we would not have the consistency that we do. So I thank God for that consistency. If all things happen by natural law, cause and effect, why bother to pray? I think we have to see that God is Lord of all natural law which brings us to the problem of miracles. What do you mean by a miracle? There are two basic thoughts about what miracles are. One is that God can have some...God can intervene and stop the cause and effect and so something that would not be the normal procedure. Or God can use cause and effect. For instance if you were to throwing a throwing a spear at me and at the same time a big rock fell down and stopped that spear in mid-air, that's natural law but it is miraclous that that would happen, the timing would be miraclous. So there is debate about what are miracles and I think both things occur.
(3:10) The only answer I can give to that is God is a God over natural law and he can intervene in any way He wants to break into the natural law. And that is what we believe is a miracle, that's a miracle.
Q: When you say prayer is one of the most difficult subjects to
understand...we look back at the Virginia coal mining accident. So many people beleived that God had answered their prayers and provided a miracle only to find out it didn't happen. Then many sit back and ask how can a loving God allow such a thing to happen?
Well there are many answers to that one. Sometimes denial is best
for us. For instance in Second Corinthians Chapter 12, Paul said three times I sought the Lord that this thorn of the flesh may be taken from me, and it never was answered, never was answered. And you can tell that there were three special periods of prayer where he was really wrestling with God asking for that to be removed. And God said I'm not going to do it because My strength is perfect in your weakness My Grace is suffcient for you. And so it was best for Paul not to have that thorn removed. All of us have prayed for things that we wanted. For instance I had polio when I was 11 I prayed everyday that I would not limp well God never answered that of course. But it was best for me. In my case it was best for me in God's plan for my life to walk with a limp. So that is one reason. Another reason is because the request is selfish. It may be totally something we don't need it is just something we want. James 4 says you do not have because you do not ask, and when you ask you ask amiss, that you may consume in your own lusts. And so God may deny it for that reason. Or it may be because of sin in our hearts. Psalm 66:18, if I regard inequity thou will not hear me. And sometime God just doesn't answer our prayer because we're not walking with him. Sometime prayer is denied because it is contrary to the will of God. John 15:7. if you pray according to My word it shall be given to you. Well if I need some money and I say I'm gonna rob a bank and say Lord bless this bank robbery we would say that is stupid. That would be stupid, it would be asking something that is contrary to the will of God. I'm using an extreme example. We may be praying for some big car that we don't need, we may be praying for something that is out of the will of the Lord. There are many reasons are unanswered those are just a few that come off the top of my head.
Q: But it is so hard to understand when something so tragic has happened for
no reason at all. Like the West Virignia mine incident, or the tragic death of a young child...how do you rationalize that?
I can't, I can't. All I can do is say let God be God. Habbaku had
the same question when the Bablons were coming to wipe out Isreal. He said God you have pure eyes that cannot look on evil, why are you doing this? God came back with the answer the just must live by faith. I've got a plan, just trust Me. And so it is that sometimes I just don't know. I've stood before an open grave as a pastor with my arm around a young couple with a little white casket in front of them. And I can't say anything. I just weep with them and pray with them because I don't understand why this child died with sudden infant death syndrome. Why? I don't know. I just have to say that God is God, that is where faith comes. We just have to say I don't know and trust God.
Q: Is that what prayer is...a simple expression of our faith?
Prayer....the simplest definition I know of prayer, is prayer is
asking God for something. Every single Greek word, and there are at least seven different Greek words used for prayer, everyone means to ask for something. In the Lord's prayer, the Lord said pray like this...and every part of the Lord's prayer is a request. Even hallowed be Thy name. People say we begin prayer with worship, that's not worship. In the Greek text that says make Your name to be revered in the world like it is in heaven. Make your name be hallowed. May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, for give our debts as we forgive our debtors, lead us not into temptation. Even that last part, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. That comes out of the Old Testament manuscripts, First Chronicles 29. So when the Lord says prayer like this, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, prayer is essentially asking God for something. Now that takes faith, obviously, you come to God in faith. In fact Paul says in First Corinthians chapter 4, I believe therefore I spoke. Now what he means by that like the Psalmist in the Old Testament, I believed in God, therefore I spoke to Him. So to me, Clint just like you said, one of the greatest expressions of faith that we have is prayer. If we really trust God we are going to pray. As an expression of trust.
Q: So does that faith extend itself to trust what ever the answer may be,
affirmative, negative or no answer at all is from God?
Good question. I think yes it does. For instance, Shadrack,
Meshak and Agednigo, the famous story of the sons cast into the firey furnace. They said we are not going to bow down and God will deliver us. But then he goes on to say, but if not...in other words God may answer that request but not neccessarily and if not God is going to be glorified. So we don't know, we don't know. Let me take that a little bit further. When God answers prayer, He answers in a totally different way than we expected. We ask for something, and the answer is given we sometimes don't realize until later yeah that it is the answer to the prayer. For instance in Romans One, Paul prayed I want to go to Rome, I want to minister in Rome. Well he got there but not at all like he expected. He was taken as a Roman prisoner to Rome and so on... So he arrived in Rome and ministered in Rome but not in the way he expected to get there.
Q: So for people who say who do not have faith it is difficult when someone
says lets prayer or let me prayer for you and then nothing happens and it drives them even further away from God.
Yeah that's true. In fact I have seen it happen in peoples lives.
I have prayed and God didn't answer so what's the use of praying. And I have to say we just don't know why God answers some and not others. We can give some answers, but when we are all through...I mean I gave some answers..but when we are all through we just have to say I don't know. I don't know. That is why prayer to me is a very difficult subject. It is huge. You remember on the playground you had this huge ball you were trying to get your hands around, you never could get hold of it, I feel prayer is like that...I just can't get my hands around it totally it is such a big subject.
Q: So big, but so intimate in having a relationship with a Living God.
It is so real. The thing is why you can point to prayers that are
unanswered, you can also point to many wonderful, miraculous answers to prayer. I have seen some. Veriable miracles.
Q: But if your looking for a tangible, scientific explination you are not
going to find it.
No. In fact that is one of the big objections to pray, prayer. God
has a plan. Things are happening soverignly as planned. If that is true why pray? Well, prayer is a part of that plan. God uses are prayers as part of His plan. Its interesting when Daniel studied the prophecy of Jeremiah he found that 70 years of captivity were determined for Israel. When he measured that time he said, hey we are at the end of that 70 years, and what does he do, he prays. He prays for God to forgive Israel and put them back in the land. It is just amazig to me, Daniel 11. Which shows that prayer was a part of the program. A good illustration to is in Acts 27 where Paul is having this shipwreck, he is on this ship that is destined to be ship wrecked. And God tells him in a dream that the ship is going to be lost but no one is going to lose their lives. So he tells the people no one is going to lose their lives. We are going to be safe but the ship is going to be lost. At the end of that journey before the ship is destroyed one of the soliders tried to escape on a lifeboat. Paul said if those people don't cut the line to that boat, if you don't stay in the ship you are going to drown. Well he had already predicted that they weren't going to drown, but it was conditioned on staying on that ship. Likewise, prayer can be part of the program.
Q: So at the end of the day prayer is a part of the plan God has for your life?
People don't really catch this but many times the Lord's prayer is
introduced as this... Your Father knows what you have need of before you ask him. The next sentence is therefore pray. Now think about that. Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him, why bother to pray then? Therefore you should pray like this and talks about how to pray. I think the Lord wants us to pray, just like you say Clint, it is a demonstration of our faith, pray like this. So to me prayer is a great demonstration of our faith. A tremendous, contenious demonstration of our faith. And that's it, no matter what happens we are just going to end up trusting the Lord. That's what we are left. That is really faith in the end. We don't understand, we don't understand we are just left to trust the Lord.