Why Isn't God Answering? - Psalms 10 and 13

A service plan focusing on the struggle with seemingly unanswered prayers, the nature of God and the nature of faith in a series addressing difficult questions of the faith.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Many Christians struggle with the fact that some of their prayers seem to go unanswered. That struggle is the focus of this service of worship.

Within that general theme several other sub-themes will be present: the nature of God as the one to whom we direct our requests, the discipline of prayer, the nature of faith and how we trust God when he doesn't grant our requests, and our honesty with God about our struggles.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," Hopson [handbells], Held [organ], or Porter [piano]

The Call to Worship

The Children's Moment

*Song: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" PH 403, PsH 579, RL 507, SFL 52, TH 629, TWC 622, UMH 526

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.


WE PRAY FOR PARDONING GRACE

The Call to Confession: 1 John 1:8, 10

God's Law and Our Plea
Sung Prayer: "Lord, Have Mercy upon Us" PsH 258
The Reading of God's Law: Exodus 20:1-11
Sung Prayer: "Lord, Have Mercy upon Us"
The Reading of God's Law: Exodus 20:12-17
Sung Prayer: "Lord, Have Mercy upon Us"

God's Words of Assurance: 1 John 1:9

Our Song of Thanks: "When Peace Like a River" (st. 2-3) PsH 489, TH 691, TWC 519, UMH 377

The Words of Jesus for Grateful Living: Matthew 22:37-40


WE PRAY FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AND OURSELVES

The Prayers of the People

Sung: "Hear Our Prayer, O Lord" PsH 624
Spoken Prayer
Sung: "Hear Our Prayer, O Lord"

Ministry of Music

The Offering of Our Gifts
The Offering of Music: "It Is Well with My Soul," Medema [piano]
The Offering Prayer


GOD SPEAKS HIS WORD TO US

*Sung Prayer for Illumination: "Spirit of God, Who Dwells within My Heart" PH 326, PsH 419, RL 445,
TH 338, TWC 290, UMH 500
or "Spirit of God," Carter

The Reading of Scripture: Psalms 10 and 13

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts of the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

His ways are always prosperous;
he is haughty and your laws are far from him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me;
I'll always be happy and never have trouble."

His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.

He says to himself, "God has forgotten;
he covers his face and never sees."

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemies triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.

Sermon: "Why Isn't God Answering?" (Knots of the Faith - #3)

The Prayer of Application
Spoken
Sung: "You Are My Hiding Place" RN 107, SNC 180


WE GO OUT TRUSTING THE LORD

*Words of Sending: Psalm 37:3-7

Profession of Faith
I believe that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide whatever I need for body and soul
and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God;
he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Answer 9)

*Song of Faith: "Don'na Tokidemo/Anytime and Anywhere" SNC 188

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

Postlude: "Choral Song," Wesley

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. This sermon requires honesty and candor. It should be written and preached with a mental picture of the person who says, "I pray and pray and pray . yet nothing seems to be happening!" Throughout this service there must be keen sensitivity to those Christians who are struggling hard with this issue, acknowledging that some are not free to admit it and need the sermon to identify what they cannot articulate themselves. It may be wise to set this problem (knot) before the hearers before the Scripture reading and make the reading of Psalms 10 and 13 a part of the message.
  2. These two psalms may both be from the life of David. We cannot be sure. But both are the expression of a person who feels frustrated and helpless. They raise the issue of lament and its legitimate role in the Christian's life. Both psalms include complaint expressed with strong feeling-a unique level of honesty with God! Though some may be uncomfortable with the terminology of "unanswered prayer," the fact is that it does often feel that way, and many listeners will be able to identify with the psalmist very well.
  3. The Bible does give us other information as possible answers to the question of unanswered prayer, though some of them are disturbing to us. These five may begin to give us an answer to our struggle.
    - Sometimes God delays because his timetable is different than ours. See John 11:5-6.
    - Sometimes God wisely denies our requests. See 1 Kings 19:4-5.
    - Sometimes our prayers are obstructed by our sin. See Psalm 66:18 or Isaiah 1:15.
    - Sometimes God has better alternatives in mind. See 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.
    - Sometimes God is answering us but we can't see it. See Habakkuk 1:5.
  4. In the final analysis the answer to the lament expressed in these psalms is found in the affirmation of faith that comes in both of them. See Psalm 10:16-18 and Psalm 13:5-6. Christians do often live with the mystery of unanswered questions in this life. We may not require full explanations of God. We are to trust him, his wisdom, his care for us, and his promises. Lewis Smedes has written that the most genuine kind of faith is faith that is exercised "against the grain."
  5. The gospel of Christ's death and resurrection needs a presentation near the end of this sermon. It is the ultimate reason for trusting God. Paul wrote in Romans 8:32 that if God gave Christ to us, surely he will not let us down in any other matters either! Thus . we can afford to walk by faith.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

  1. The prelude music, all based on the tune BEACH SPRING, can be found in the following sources:
    - "Reflections on Beach Spring," arranged for 3-5 octaves handbells by Hal H. Hopson, published by Genevox 4184-18 [1986] (E-M).
    - "Day by Day," a piano collection arranged by Rachel Trelstad Porter, published by Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M).
    - "Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns," an organ collection by Wilbur Held, published by Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M).
  2. The offering of music is a piano transcription by Ken Medema on the tune VILLE DU HAVRE in the collection "Sanctuary," published by Genevox 4181-16 [1989] (E-M).
  3. The sung prayer for illumination can be sung congregationally. The second suggestion is a SATB anthem of the same text titled "Spirit of God" by John Carter. This anthem is published by Hinshaw HMC-268 [1978] (E-M).
  4. The organ postlude, "Choral Song" by Wesley, can be found in "Wedding Music Part 1" published by Concordia 97-1369 [1952] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. The Call to Worship should be warm, personal, and pastoral, welcoming all worshipers to a time of worship that is honest and open before God about the struggles of faith many of us live with.
  2. The Children's Moment is placed at the beginning of the service to explain the same to them. Speak to them about prayer-it is talking to God. But just as we sometimes ask for things from our parents that they do not feel free to give us, it's that way with God sometimes too. And we are called to trust them both!
  3. The song "Spirit of God, Who Dwells within My Heart" is clearly sung directly to God, either by the congregation or by the choir for the congregation, asking for God's work in clearing our hearts to hear and obey. It, therefore, can be introduced as our Prayer for Illumination before considering God's Word.
  4. As mentioned above, it might be more meaningful if the introduction to the subject of the sermon is given and the stage is set before the reading of Psalms 10 and 13. The reading as formulated here is a combination of those two psalms. It can be read responsively by worship leader and congregation, or two halves of the congregation, or two (or more) readers. In any event, it should be read with vigor and strength because the one who originally wrote it was troubled.
  5. We are suggesting that the prayer of application at the end of the sermon be in two parts. The spoken prayer should intercede warmly and pastorally for those who are in the middle of a faith struggle now. In the sung part of the prayer, all worshipers ask for God's attention to their needs and requests.

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