Thoughts on Prayer, Circumstances and God’s Purposes

God uses the circumstances of our lives to change us and accomplish His purpose in us.


Many of us pray to God to change our circumstances. We pray for things that we want, sometimes things that really need. We pray according to our perspective, telling God what we want and need.

He knows, of course, what we want and what we need. He knows before we ask. He knows as the words are forming on our tongues and formulating in our minds.

Jesus told us to pray and ask God for our daily bread. Jesus told us to ask, seek, knock….

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

He even illustrated with a parable:

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

We are expected to ask, supposed to ask, and ask persistently. And many, many people do ask God for things, but God doesn’t seem to answer. He doesn’t give us what we want, and sometimes He doesn’t even give us the things we desperately feel we need. Sometimes it seems He doesn’t answer at all.

It’s common to human experience to ask God to change our circumstances. When the circumstances don’t change, we are discouraged, depressed, frustrated and sometimes even angry. Many walk away from God as a result.

Atheists challenge me, “Prove to me that God answers prayers, and I will believe.” As if God was a kind of vending machine in the sky, or a barterer or maybe just a slot machine. Sometimes you win with God, and sometimes you don’t. Just keep trying.

But that’s not the right way to approach God. Jesus called Him Our Father. He is also the same God who formed the universe out of nothing. If you spend any time contemplating all that science informs us about the vastness, complexity and elegant, austere beauty of the creation, you begin to understand how great God must be… mind-boggling. He isn’t a “tame lion” as CS Lewis says.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Prayer, Circumstances and God’s Purposes”

Diamonds and Coal and the Pressures of Life

A common misconception is that diamonds form from coal, but diamonds don’t form from coal. It’s one or the other.


Diamonds and coal are made from the same substance, carbon.[1] They are both formed by heat and pressure, but the results are very, very different.

Coal burns and can be a source of energy, though it is not a very clean source of energy because it’s full of impurities. Diamonds have few impurities and won’t burn.

Diamonds on the other hand are among the hardest substances. They can be used in industrial applications for cutting metal and similar uses because they are so hard and immutable. Coal is soft and combustible. It is dirty and rubs off everywhere.

Diamonds are clean, translucent, rare and beautiful. Diamonds are highly valued, while coal is something we would rather not use if we had other choices, even for burning up in a fire.

Would you rather be a diamond or a lump of coal?

Continue reading “Diamonds and Coal and the Pressures of Life”

Destined for Tribulations

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(c) Can Stock Photo

“I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation[1] and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

This is how John begins relating the revelations he received that are preserved in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. Sometimes we read over things quickly that other times will stick out. This verse sticks out today, perhaps, because we have a good friend who is fighting cancer. Today is also the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

I recently wrote about the charge from atheists that people have faith in God because of wishful thinking. Nothing could be more wishful. True faith is forged only in tribulation. Continue reading “Destined for Tribulations”

In Times of Trouble

lightstock_62496_xsmall_user_7997290We have all been there. You have done your best, but your best is not good enough. Maybe you have not done your best, and now your best is not good enough to fix the mess you are in. Maybe your impossible circumstances are totally beyond your control.

The feeling of abject desperation is the same.

In those times, the temptation may be to withdraw, curl up and bury your head. Maybe the temptation is to beat yourself up, hang your head in despair and live in condemnation. Maybe the temptation is to throw up your hands, say it doesn’t matter anyway and drown your woes in alcohol or drugs. The options may seem dismal and dark.

But, this is a critical point! The last place we often want to turn is the first place we should go – down on our knees in prayer to the God who made us and loves us.

There you will find God greeting you, not with judgment, but with open arms. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

You may not be able to see your way out of the predicament you are in, but God stands high above your predicament. He is also with you in your circumstances, and He is bigger than your circumstances

When you are trapped in a hopeless situation, or what seems hopeless to you at the time, when you cannot see your way out of the darkness and the world is caving in all around you, cry out to God. He hears you! (Psalm 18:6) The righteous are those who cry out to God in their distress (Psalm 34:17), and God will deliver you from your troubles!

We are not righteous because we are good; we are righteous because we cry out to God!

He may (or may not) deliver you from your circumstances, but He will deliver you from your troubles. That is the promise of God, and “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (Numbers 23:19)

When we go to God, we go to the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, of all that is seen and unseen. When He makes a promise, He keeps his promise.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7)

Rejoice always means to rejoice in every circumstance, good and bad. God is above all of our circumstances! When we are anxious, that is exactly the time for us to go to God in prayer. When we are anxious, we should petition God. With Thanksgiving, we should make our requests known to God. We should appeal to God in all of our troubles…. and the promise of God is peace for our troubled hearts!

In this verse, we are not promised deliverance from our circumstances, but we are promised peace – peace from our troubles!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes God allows us to come to the end of ourselves, to a place where we are powerless (or feel powerless) to help ourselves, and in that place is where God does His most significant work in us. We simply need to turn to Him.

We can choose not to turn to God. We can go it alone. That is always our choice, but in turning to God we not only have ready help, peace that passes understanding and a deliverer from our troubles, we have a Savior – One who delivers us not only from our troubles but from ourselves and the sin that leads to death. When we turn to God, we have Life and, we have life more abundantly.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10) The thief, the robber of our souls, is a condemner, an oppressor and a liar. When we feel desperate and hopeless, the thief is at your door.

Turn to God in your time of trouble; cry out to God, and then rejoice in God and His promises; pray to God – He will meet you where you are. That is His promise!