Here’s another follow-up to “OSAS And Unanswered Prayer.”
You listed four things that you believe can prevent believers from being delivered from their afflictions, putting a very fine point on the issue:
1. Lack of faith,
2. Unconfessed sins,
3. Subconscious feelings that we deserve to be afflicted,
4. Secret desire to remain where we are.
My questions are these:
1. If we have a subconscious feeling that we deserve to be afflicted, does God hold this against us? (if so, why?). Your answer seems to imply this.
2. If we are held responsible for things of which we are not conscious, how do we recognize this and “repent” of it?
This is a very serious set of questions for me as I am very introspective, know I cannot fully understand what’s going on inside me, so it would seem that I am doomed to a life of (mostly) unanswered prayer.
Regarding people who pray for deliverance when they have a feeling that they deserve their affliction, James put it this way.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:7-8)
If at some level we believe that we deserve our afflictions, in effect we’re saying that the Lord’s death was not sufficient for us. We have to suffer too in order to become worthy to be delivered. Isaiah 53:5 says that by His stripes we are healed, not by His stripes and an unknown amount of our own suffering.
Whenever we put ourselves on the cross to suffer with the Lord we’re denying the sufficiency of His work. Dying to self doesn’t just mean being willing to give up all the worldly things we place ahead of Him, it also means giving up our need to be a participant in our own deliverance. Harboring any such feelings makes us double-minded, and we shouldn’t expect anything from the Lord because He will always wait for us to come to the end of ourselves before helping out.
For both these questions, the answer can be found in Psalm 19:12-13. David knew that our hearts are so wicked that we sin in countless ways we aren’t even aware of, so He wrote this prayer:
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”
I don’t believe God is looking for ways to get us on a technicality, but I do believe it’s very important to Him that we realize we don’t have a single thing going for us except His Grace. We’re such habitual sinners, and sinning is so much a part of our nature that we can’t begin to keep track of them all. But He can, and by asking Him to forgive our hidden faults, we’ve got everything covered and don’t have to worry about it.