Ensuring A Healthy Connection To God
May 23, 2019
Have you ever wondered why your prayer life might not be as fruitful as some other people make theirs seem, or as the Bible says it should be? Often times we can get into ruts in our prayer life where it feels as if we are speaking up into the air for nothing. It can often feel like God doesn’t hear us and is ignoring us. Modern church tradition often tries to encourage believers to persevere in prayer, citing scriptures like Luke Chapter 18 where the woman was persistent in her pursuit of an answer from the king. Is connecting with the Lord really just about persistence? While it is true that prayer is a work of faith, the Bible provides specific parameters on how we are to approach God in prayer. When we don’t pray the way that the Lord commands, our prayers can become null and void. Thus, when we pray to God for certain things in our time of need, and it feels like the Lord is ignoring us, it could be that He is! Yes, the, Bible teaches that God will turn His ears from prayers that are communicated to Him improperly.
The testimony of Job 35:9-16 is one of the many places where this principle is taught. If we want to have a thriving prayer life and solid fellowship with the Lord, it is critical that we take portions of scripture like this into DEEP consideration, lest we approach the Lord irreverently and our connection to the Lord remain weak. In Job 35:9-16 the Bible shows that Elihu explained why Job felt so disconnected from the Lord during his time of suffering. Job had previously complained about how he felt like he was God’s enemy. Though he was confident in his eternal destination, he felt like the change in his circumstances caused a change in his relationship with God. It was true. Job’s relationship with God had changed. Job was disconnected from the Lord, but the circumstances had little to do with it. The change in relationship was based on Job’s attitude in response to the circumstances. God was not to blame. Job had just let the difficulties of his life distract him from the truth of who God is. Forgetting the essence of God’s glory, holiness, and righteousness, Job prayed to God, but God didn’t acknowledge him, making Job feel distant.
Elihu explained the situation. Job cried out to God by the multitude of his pain. He was oppressed by Satan, his wife, and his friends. It was reasonable for Job to cry out to God. In Job 30:20, Job plainly said, “I cry out to You, but You do not answer me.” Yet, in direct contrast, Psalm 34:17 says, “[The righteous] cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Though the psalm was written well after the testimony of Job, the principle of the psalm teaches about the unchanging character and nature of God. Scripture assures us that when God’s people who believe in Him cry out to Him, that He will hear AND deliver from our troubles. The Bible calls Job a blameless and righteous man. The Bible says that Job cried out to God. Yet Job was not delivered from His troubles like the scriptures promise. Many people have been in this exact same position. Why weren’t Job’s cries heard?
When we approach God for anything, it is important to consider the manner and attitude of our inquiry. Since God is true, and we are wrong, it is important to examine the temperament of Job’s cries so as to know why God didn’t hear him. The scriptures promise that God will hear and respond to our cries. Psalm 34:17 speaks specifically of a righteous cry to God; that is, one that is on the basis of humility and faith in the goodness and glory of God. It was true that Job was a man of faith, but the whole reason that Elihu was rebuking Job was because Job let his emotions get the best of him. Examine Job’s words previously in his testimony:
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” – Job 7:11
Job admitted that he was not just crying out to God in humility for help. Job was complaining because of the anguish of his spirit and the bitterness of his soul. Job was whining. Job was grumbling. Job was complaining with an attitude of discontentment based on self-righteousness and self-entitlement. Overall, Job had faith sufficient to provide salvation, but his attitude against his circumstances, and ultimately against God, were reflective of a heart condition that God won’t listen to. Thus, Job was ignored.
Elihu explained the truth about human nature. We cry out when things are hard and life is against us. Yet, the manner of our cries is offensive to God. We complain and grumble because life isn’t going the way we want. This was what the children of Israel did against God while in the wilderness, and God kept that generation from entering the Promised Land.
In contrast, Elihu explained that we don’t naturally seek fellowship with our Maker. We don’t want to be with God when things are good. The Apostle Paul wrote that there are none who seek after God. We as people are adept in seeking our personal pursuits and ambitions. We frequently look out for deals and bargains. We are constantly on the hunt for our own gain. The Bible states truthfully that we, in our natural condition, do not make it a point or priority to seek the Lord with such zeal, passion, and purpose. Elihu’s point to Job was that, how can we expect God to immediately respond to our complaints and gripes because life isn’t going the way we want to, when we don’t make much of a point to pursue Him rightly according to His worthiness?
God is the One that seeks us. Elihu reminded Job that God is the One that provides favor in spite of our indifference and natural disconnection from Him. He is the One who gives “songs in the night.” Elihu said this to remind Job that, while he felt unable to continue, God restored his body and mind just enough each night to be able to carry on the next day. In spite of Job’s attitude, God provided Job strength to persevere, and by extension, reasons to praise him. Elihu reminded Job about the fuller extent of God’s goodness that He provides in spite of our indifference to Him. He teaches us more than “the beasts,” referring to wild animals. Those wild animals might have power and instincts that seem wise and marvelous, but those animals don’t have the opportunity to fellowship with their Creator. Those animals don’t have the built-in drive and desire to worship the Creator of all things. Those animals have purpose from God, but nothing compared to the purpose He’s ordained for us! Likewise, God has made the birds of the sky, but has not given them wisdom like us. It is amazing to see how birds navigate when they fly and the ability they show to survive. That wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom that God has given to mankind – wisdom equal to His own for those who fear Him and seek Him in faith.
People cry out to God all of the time, but do we ever consider these amazing things that God has done on the basis of grace? Instead of crying because we don’t like the way our lives are turning out, have we considered the excessive favor God has already given us when we call out to Him? The Bible answers this question. More often than not, we as God’s own children, seldom consider His goodness when calling out to Him for help. We often cry out to Him with bitterness in our hearts, discontentment in our minds, fear and unbelief in our souls. Elihu plainly taught that when people cry out to God this way, He will not answer “because of the pride of men.” To approach God with grumbling, bitterness, discontentment, and complaining, is to approach God with pride. God resists the proud. No wonder He feels so distant. Our own attitudes are causing that distance because we feel entitled to a better condition in our circumstances and don’t like that the circumstances won’t change. Who are we to expect God to meet our demands this way? This pride is the reason God doesn’t respond.
Job approached God the wrong way. He believed in the power, sovereign control, and righteousness of God, but deep down, expected God to yield to his personal expectations for life. God doesn’t work that way. Job complained that it felt like God wasn’t near him. That’s because pride was causing a blockage in their fellowship. Still, God remained just and true to His holy and righteous standards. He showed Job mercy by sparing Job’s life in spite of his attitude. God showed Job grace by sending Elihu as an instrument of correction. Yet God allowed Job to continue to suffer, because, though he didn’t commit any particular sin to provoke his suffering, his attitude in the midst of that suffering proved that he deserved punishment either way. God did not punish Job in anger, otherwise Job would have been dead and eternally separated from God. Nevertheless, God took note of Job’s folly in his attitude and let Job suffer just long enough to realize that his suffering at that point was his own doing.
This is a tough lesson, but an important lesson to learn. When we feel like God is distant and our connection to Him is stale, the fault is ours 100% of the time! According to the testimony of Job, it is easy for us to be consumed in our difficulties and inconveniences in life so that we seek God, but in ways that are inappropriate and offensive to God. God doesn’t want us to cry out to Him with bitterness in our hearts. He doesn’t want to hear our whining and complaining. God is not a fan of discontented grumbling, and His responses against it throughout history proves this as true. When our prayers seem to be falling on deaf ears, we should consider the condition of our hearts as the cause. What is the attitude of our approach to God? What are our motives in seeking God? Are we seeking God in consideration of His goodness, craving His glory and His righteousness, or are we just hoping God will satisfy our selfish ambitions? God doesn’t work for us. He is God. He is exalted above all. He has already done an abundance of good for us. It is important that we seek Him in the manner that He is worthy, as we consider these truths about His glory and greatness in humility, dependency, and repentance.