About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Unanswered Prayer


Over the decades I've heard people say that prayer changes things.  To be precise, it's Jesus who changes things, or, perhaps decides not to change things.  Whatever the case, if we can bring ourselves to admit it, many prayers we pray in church don't get answered, and here is one reason why.  Read Matthew 18:19 and 20.     


"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."


A quick reading of the above verses suggests to most that when a small gathering of believers meet together Jesus is with them to answer their prayers.  I suggest that a contextual study of these verses, along with defining two Greek words, says differently.


The context of Matthew 18:19 and 20 goes back to verse 15 where Jesus addressed the need to restore broken and dysfunctional relationships among His people.  He then said that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 


In context, the binding is in reference to binding or repairing the broken dysfunctional relationships.  The loosing is in reference to loosing or leaving broken and dysfunctional relationships.  Both the binding and loosing that we do here on earth have a direct impact in heaven.  This tells me that our relationships in church determine how heaven can or can't work with church.  Restored relationships enable Jesus to work with us.  Broken relationships inhibit Him from working with us. 


Furthermore, our English word "agree" in the phrase "agree on anything they ask for" is translated from the Greek word "symphoneo."  We derive our English word "symphony," as in a symphony orchestra, from this Greek word.  Simply put, believers living in symphonic harmony, where dysfunctional relationships have been mended, can anticipate Jesus answering their prayers when prayed in His name to accomplish His, not our, will. 


Our English words "gathered together" in the phrase "gathered together in my name" are translated from the Hebrew word "synago" which is inserted into the Greek text.  This word implies a community of people living in harmonious, supportive, and functional relationships.  If two or three of these people get together, Jesus gets together with them. 


Jesus was not saying that when a small gathering of Christians come together He will be with them answering all of their prayers they agree upon.  No, He was saying that when broken relationships are restored, and when there are as few as two or three believers living in symphony-like harmony, He will be with them to answer their prayers that accomplish His will.  


We might want to keep this in mind the next time we gather in a poorly attended meeting.  Agreeing on a prayer request yet existing in dysfunctional relationships accomplishes little to nothing, and thus one reason for unanswered prayer.                       

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