Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

“The prayer God hates to answer… but will”

On Wednesday I posted an excerpt from an interview that poet and force behind , Alex Ness posted on his blog last year. Here’s another. Background: We’re talking about “Six Prayers God Always Answers,” one of the books I’ve written with Jennifer Schuchmann.

Alex Ness: Your book title suggests that you know which prayers God answers. Isn’t this a bit presumptuous?



Mark Herringshaw: It’s not The Six Prayers God Always Answers… Actually, we’re saying God answers all prayers, but not always in ways we expect. These six are categories for appeals we tend to make: desperate prayers, questioning prayers, prayers for justice, audacious prayers, selfish or audacious prayers, prayers of beauty. We could have sliced prayer any number of ways.


Many see prayer as a mechanism – do this, say this, just the right way, and out comes a mass produced response. We think God answers all prayer personally and his main objective is to keep conversation going. Often he answers with words not actions. He does respond with actions but his point is to build friendship. When my daughter asks for the car keys to got out for the night she wants my answer to be simple – I reach in my pocket and give her the keys. But in reality the exchange is more complicated than that. I ask her questions before I hand them over. “Where are you going?” “When will you be back?” “Who will go with you?” “How are you doing?” Her first request becomes an avenue for dialog. That’s how God sees prayer. It’s an invitation for him to get personal with us. He has something we want and he uses that as leverage to build our capacity to speak and listen.



Alex Ness: Why these six? Are you planning a follow up book of prayers God always rejects? 


Mark Herringshaw: Actually we include some of those prayers too. There is one prayer God doesn’t want to hear – the prayer that isn’t a prayer. We’ve all heard people make speeches at us while praying. Maybe we’ve done that ourselves. That isn’t a prayer; it’s a manipulation. God hates religious posturing. He’d rather have us hideaway and prayer in secret so we’re not tempted to use prayer as something it isn’t.


We also say there is a prayer God seldom answers: “Why?” God is honest. When we ask “why?” he’s obligated to tell the truth. But he can’t because a full truthful explanation to why some horrible thing had to happen would probably take him a million years to explain and we don’t have the time and the brain capacity to get hold of it. So God simply says, “Long answer is too long. Short answer is, ‘I’m God and you’re not.'” Instead, he challenges to change the question from “why?” to “How?” “How can I turn this bad situation into something good?” That’s a prayer he loves to answer! It could be number seven I suppose.



Finally, there’s the prayer God hates to answer but will – “Leave me alone.” God won’t force himself on us. If we want to be removed from his presence and influence, he’ll accommodate, though it breaks his heart. He sends no one to hell. But he’s built it for those who don’t want to live in his house.

What do you think?

  • Jayne Wilson

    Good questions…. Well-said answers!!!

  • Hugo

    I’m sorry, but the “God could explain it but you’re not smart enough to understand” answer about why evil wins so often makes my butt tired. It’s nonsense. If God really runs things, then why do good people die at the hands of evil men?
    There is NO GOOD RESULT and NO POSSIBLE REASON as to why my father was murdered in Miami but a bunch of animals. He was a fine man who honorably served his country in war, was cheated out of a business by a swindling partner, and then worked his entire life to give my Mom a wonderful home and my sister and me a great education.
    Finally having saved enough to retire after 50 years of work, he was murdered in his home by a bunch of murderous scum who have yet to be brought to justice.
    So, please don’t give me the BS answer that “Everything has a reason, we just can’t understand it.” The only outcome that will show me there is justice in this world is if I see all of my father’s killers, side by side, roasting to death slowly in agony for weeks over an unquenchable fire. They all deserve to be in the pit of Hell for eternity!
    But please don’t tell me that “It will all work out” and “God is in charge of everything”. If he is in charge, then he needs to learn better management and to bring justice ON EARTH to the victims of evil.

  • All4God

    Hugo, I am sorry for your loss. But your response is clouded, by anger. You are choosing to turn the memory of your fathers life into a series of awful experiences. Despite all of the horrible things in his life, it sounds like he was an amazing man. Perhaps the things you saw as “bad” actually were all meant to create something good. Maybe his death is supposed to change you for Gods glory. Perhaps it is up to you to create the “good result”.As the article says “change the question from “why?” to “How?” “How can I turn this bad situation into something good?” That’s a prayer he loves to answer!” I pray you can find peace and meaning in your Fathers life and death. I am sure he would want you take something away from it besides anger and bitterness.

  • Evang: Martin Luciano

    My Dear Friend,
    Here is a little Bible Study for you.
    GOD owes us nothing,we owe God Our Lives.
    We all deserve the fire bit of Hell
    Who do you think you are to make a atatement as
    Repent Right Now Before You Recieve the Wrath of Go On your life.
    You are in control of NOTHING
    I’m tired of Ministers playing with people and not setting them streight to what God commands not what Man Commands
    The created can to tell the creator hoe to run things.
    So I will Bring it to you!
    Job 1:19-22 and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; and he said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
    Job 2:7-10 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot unto the crown of his head. And he took himself a potsherd to scrape himself with; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Do you still retain your integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
    Job 12:5-6 He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease. The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
    Job 36:5-33 Behold, God is mighty, and despises no one: he is mighty in strength and wisdom. He preserves not the life of the wicked: but gives justice to the poor. He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings they are on the throne; yea, he does establish them forever, and they are exalted. And if they are bound in fetters, and are held in cords of affliction; Then he shows them their work, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded. He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge. But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he binds them. They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean. He delivers the poor in his affliction, and opens their ears in oppression. Even so would he have removed you out of the distress into a broad place, where there is no restraint; and that which should be set on your table should be full of richness. But you have fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on you. Because there is wrath, beware lest he take you away with one blow: then a great ransom cannot deliver you. Will he esteem your riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength. Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place. Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this have you chosen rather than affliction. Behold, God exalts by his power: who teaches like him? Who has prescribed him his way? or who can say, You have worked iniquity? Remember that you magnify his work, which men behold. Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off. Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out. For he makes small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to its vapor: Which the clouds do drop and pour upon man abundantly. Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the thunder of his tabernacle? Behold, he spreads his lightning upon it, and covers the depths of the sea. For by them judges he the people; he gives food in abundance. With clouds he covers the light; and commands it not to shine by the cloud that comes between. The thunder thereof declares it, the cattle also, concerning the vapor.

  • Your Name


  • Ann

    Nobody can ever grasp how you feel because every situation and emotion is unique. You are experiencing the normal stages of grieving and those are denial and anger. Next comes bargaining, depression and hopefully you’ll come to terms with your loved one’s passing and accept what happened. Yes, it’s a process and I hope you move as to how it is supposed to move and not resist otherwise, you’ll be stuck at existing and not living at all.
    I am sorry but the fact is that we are not in control of everything in this world.

  • EC

    Many years ago, in the early 1980’s while I was still in college, my mother who worked for the US Air Force was assigned overseas. She and my sister moved overseas while I stayed behind in the US. I have always worried about my mother & my sister and one day while meditating, I realized I was not in control. I realized that no matter how much I worried about my family, I will not be able to protect them because I was not in control & that only God is REALLY in control. So when I realized this, I said a prayer to GOD telling him that I have come to the realization that I am not in control, that no amount of worrying can take care of my family and that even if I am with my family, I would not be able to protect them from harm. I also told GOD that I believe that HE is the ONLY ONE who is REALLY in control and that HE is the ONLY ONE who can really take care of me and my family. So I asked HIM to take care of me, my mother and my sister.
    One morning, a few months later, a thought came to me that I could not shake. That thought was about an incident that happened when I was about 10 years old and my Mom, my sister and I came very close to getting mugged in New York City. For some reason that incident kept entering my mind. On top of that, I had a very STRONG urge to kneel down and pray and which I did. As soon as I started to pray, I became very emotional. I started to cry very heavily like I have never cried before or since and I was asking God to prolong and extend my mother’s life! After about an hour, I got up and I thought that was weird since I am not an emotional person and there was no reason for me to be crying like that. I became concerned about my family so I tried to make a long distance call to my mother & my sister. I could not get in touch with them so I decided to pray every hour on the hour and attempt to reach them by phone every hour on the hour. I decided I was not going to stop praying until I hear from my Mom that she is ok.
    Several hours passed and I still could not get in touch with my mother so I called a relative who lived nearby them & I asked that relative to tell my mother to call me.
    When my mother finally called me, she didn’t act like there was anything wrong so I thought the whole thing was just a false alarm.
    But about a week or two later, my mother called me again and she said she didn’t want to tell me the first time she called because the investigation was not completed yet but apparently she had been abducted by several people who took $11,000 of her money. She also said that I had left several messages for her at her place of work & where she lives and she said that one of my messages had a date and time stamped on it with the exact date & time that she was being abducted.
    So I realized then that GOD had answered my prayers to take care of my family when I gave HIM total control. He not only warned me that my mother was going to be in trouble 12 hours BEFORE she was to be abducted, but GOD also inspired me to kneel down & pray, HE put the words in my mouth so that I would know what to pray for, and then HE acted and prevented those people from hurting or killing my mother. GOD IS IN CONTROL and HE responds to people’s faith.
    After I found out that my mother had been abducted, I complained to GOD about those abductors. At first I was bitter towards that entire nation and told GOD that if HE should ever make me rich, I will not help those people in that country because they are so corrupt.
    Well the next day, GOD answered me & clarified something to me. I opened the newspaper and the first thing that caught my eye were not the big headlines but rather a small tiny quote that was not even a part of an article. The quote was from Gandhi and it said, “A drop of black ink does not turn the ocean black.” When I read that, I knew GOD was speaking to me & he was telling me not to feel bitter towards the entire country since only a small group of people from that country did us wrong.
    I know that GOD exists and YES, HE answers prayers.

  • Jamie

    I think changing my “why’s” to “how’s” when I pray makes a great deal of sense. I do feel, in my relationship with God that my prayers sometimes go unanswered or are answered in ways I just don’t understand, so I often find myself asking God “why?” and “when will this stop hurting?”. I love my Father but if I am being honest with all the negative blows I have experienced, I feel far away from Him, almost like I am being punished for something I did or did not do. At times, I feel like God doesn’t even want me to waste His time with whatever it is I am coming to Him for. I know in my heart of hearts that God doesn’t work this way, I am better educated on the Word to feel like this, yet I do sometimes. It breaks my heart, but Father God being a perfect and loving Father is a concept I find difficult to grasp, although I firmly believe that it is true. I would not believe in God if He was not all that I know He is. It isn’t God that fails me, it is my ability to understand Him more and understand what it is like to have a loving Father. Maybe changing my “why’s” to “how’s” will help. Thanks for sharing.

  • Erich

    I journal often. This Monday morning at around 9:00 Am, I just Sat in my bed feeling upset with God, which I often do when things don’t work out like I would like them too, especially when I put a lot of energy into a project that I want, and I work for it, and it does not fall into my lap, like I think it should. You see, I am a person who has to know about why things happen, why they don’t happen, and on and on. So after going through these thoughts for a moment, I decided to sit at my dining room table and write down a few sentences, about specifically what caused this thought, and what it was is I am experiencing some financial crises, and I am trying to work them, by applying for some grant money, that I normally would be able to get, but because of the economy, all I am getting are rejection letters, and that sends me deeper into depression, and other areas of thought, I don’t want to mention here. The more I wrote about what I was feeling, the less I was feeling the thought, that God was not with me, or not interested in answering my prayers. Every day I just ask for strength to get through another day, some days are better than others, but I am here.

  • Flor

    My English is not good, but I try to said it. Hugo, God writes right in wrong lines. He is the owner but Satan is the manager, for this reason bad things happens to good people. Those comment Help me a lot.

  • http://God joe

    I am not going to answer this,because I did ask God for help,and you can guess what happened,well you are right ,NOTHING

  • Your Name

    Everytime I pray to God, for some reasons, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but instead of waiting for answers from God, negativety comes to me, it always has ever since I was young. I could never find out how God works in this world. Does he like allow Satan to rule over us? Why does Negative wins over? To Good people? Please help me to understand in life how God works, anything that has to do with Church, I feel that I’m being punished in life. One time I was in church, I put my hands on people to pray. I was told not to do that in church. I was cut down in any churches, thats why I don’t go to church anymore. I went to church to find answers from God, but instead I’ve got people judging me.

  • Lisa

    I would say dont give up and keep praying, if you beleive and have faith then all will be well. There are no directions so to speak to give, just keep praying have faith in him and in yourself, know that you are in the right place to recevie his blessing. Also you might want to try and meditate, try to not see negatives things happening , but see only the good, see the light, the you are the best you can be…

  • Your Name

    The word of God in “The Lord’s Prayer” says that when we pray we should pray in secret and God will reward us openly. If we have anger and unforgiveness in our hearts, we should confess our sins and forgive one another so that we can go before the Throne of Grace unhindered. We should pray with a sincere heart, with childlike faith as though we have received it and we should visualize that our prayer is answered and He will answer in His own time. We cant demand from God, we have to go to Him in humility. When you pray ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through your prayers and you will see that it makes a difference. The Holy Spirit will guide you through your requests. After you have prayed, you need to praise Him everyday as though you have received your miracle. I have cried out to Him for many things and He has provided, delivered and resolved many challenges in my life. May God bless all of you and may He guide you through the truth. Don’t be discouraged.

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Joe, God is not finished here. He is there and he is not silent. Hold on. He’ll make a way where now there is no way. Not everything that happens is God’s first best. But he’s never thwarted. He’ll just create a new “first best.” Don’t give up!

  • Deborah

    Joe he is there have faith. I lost my job facing eviction but I still believe and have faith that God is there.

  • Your Name

    When negative thoughts come to you, you need to fight them off. It is our God given ability to control our own thoughts, good or bad. Fear and negativity are the work of Satan because he uses it to hamper our relationship with God. When you feel bad about yourself remember God doesn’t make junk. All that God makes is to his Glory so therefore you are his treasure. Once youbegin to remove these negative thoughts you will soon see the blessings God has given you that you didn’t notice before. God is a God of goodness. We need to do our part and he will help us all the way.

  • Henri

    Jesus Christ said it, when you pray.. Prayer “The Lord’s Prayer” – “Our Father who art in Heaven, hollowed be thy Name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy Will be done.. On earth as it is Heaven..”
    When we pray, pray in secret, talk with Heavenly Father.. He wants to hear from you… He already knows whats in you heart, before we speak.. We need that one on one time with God the Father to let him know what’s on your mind, how you feel..
    Don’t for get to continue to praise and thank him first and foremost.. In Psalms 100 it reads ” Make a joyful noise unto the Lord “… Come unto the Lord with a new song of praise and worship.. We have bask in the Glory of the Holy Spirit.. Asking the Holy Spirit to fill and anoint you with his Presence, to give you knowledge to Serve and do the Will of the Heavenly Father.. Not my will nor your will.. But let his ” God’s Will ” be Done..
    You see God in No Respector of Persons.. The Bible states that every sin is forgivable, the only Prayer that God will not forgive and that is ” Speaking ill or Blasphemy of/against the Holy Spirit “..
    God hears all prayers and he See’s all and he knows our heart and every hair on our head.. No matter how or when we prayer.. The question is – ” Where is your Heart at with God “…
    When we pray and ask of God in prayer, are asking in God’s Will or Are we asking of our Own Will for greed or selfishness..
    If it’s in God’s Will for you to receive, no one or anything can stop it..
    But it’s about giving God all Praise and Glorifying his Holy Name, every day, every minute, every second… Calling upon the Holy Spirit to interceed on our behalf to take our prayers before the Heavenly Father..
    If you remember when Jesus was baptished and filled with the Holy Spirit in the river.. His devine connection with his Heavenly Father became more powerful…
    The Holy Spirit alouds us to have a more devine connection with our Heavenly Father.. To be able to speak to the Heavenly Father in a devine language that only be translated by the Holy Spirit on your behalf..
    I can tell you that ” God ” is my all and all.. He is everything, my doctor, my banker and my Healer.. And I will Love God with all my heart and Serve him until I die.. Their is no greater Love than that of the Heavenly Father, his Son my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit..
    Receive him now, today.. He’s waiting… And to all that read this, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ that you be filled and anointed with the Holy Spirit… God Bless… Amen

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