“Something’s wrong with the receiver! I can’t tell if anyone is there.” Some of us remember when a broken telephone was a big deal. Today we almost take for granted that some of our calls will drop. But 30 years ago calls didn’t drop unless they were very expensive overseas calls. And, to be honest, if you still had a phone from the phone company, very little ever went wrong with the phone. Telephones were relatively simple appliances and were made tougher than almost anything in the house. So when the receiver went bad, it was a big deal.
Of course, the idea that something might be wrong with the receiver was not limited to the phone. Televisions were just fancy receivers—ones that sometimes didn’t receive anything. Radios had receivers that could go bad. Even people had bad receivers sometimes. People? Well, of course, some can’t hear and others don’t listen. So, in a sense, the receiver is broken.
You have probably had a conversation with someone who is hard of hearing. They say something to you and you answer and they can’t hear. For them, it seems like a one-way conversation. Sometimes that happens on the cell phone, doesn’t it? You begin to tell a story and, by the time you are finished, the other person is gone. The call dropped and you have been talking to no one. When you reconnect, the other person says, “I lost you just as you were starting your story.”
Many Christians, if they are honest, will admit that prayer is sometimes like that. They bring their requests, tell their stories, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other end of the line. They end their prayers wondering if they were ever heard.
The natural response to this one-way prayer seems to be to try to fix the transmitter. We assume that something is wrong with getting our message to God. So we try to be better on our end. We work harder, confess more, and come up with formulas to increase our spirituality. Maybe God will hear us if…
And some teachers will tell us that we are praying incorrectly. We have to use certain words or a certain posture or even a certain volume. If you really want something, they may say, you have to repeat it over and over.
But the problem isn’t the transmitter, the problem may be the receiver. If you pray for forgiveness, receive the forgiveness. If you pray for wisdom, receive the wisdom. If you pray for assurance, receive the assurance. The Lord is giving you what you need, but you may not be receiving it.
If I can push the illustration further, I think that sometimes we mess with the transmitters so much that we turn the receiver off. We assume from the beginning that we have to do something in order to be heard by God, so we focus on what we have to do and we don’t listen for His answer. The formulas, standards, and rules become so important that we dismiss the love of God in favor of our manipulation of God.
So when Jesus taught His disciples about forgiving others, the disciples were challenged. They asked Jesus to increase their faith. They understood that it was difficult for them to receive the truth of His teaching and apply it in their lives. Their receivers were broken. So they asked for more faith. And Jesus told them about the authority of God. He told them that the things of this world are under God’s authority and they were also. In other words, the authority and character of God was the key.
They didn’t need a lot of faith. They just needed enough to see that God was strong and good and wise. They just had to know they could trust Him. If they asked Him for something He already said He would give them, they simply had to trust in His authority and power. If He said He would do it, He would do it. If they asked Him for something He had not promised, they could come in faith trusting that He would hear them and do the right thing. It didn’t take a lot.
Do you find it hard to accept that you have been forgiven? Check your receiver. Trust in God’s authority and promise. The problem isn’t in what you do, your transmitter. The problem is that you are not believing the Word of God that says you have been forgiven.
Do you find it hard to trust for the future? Check your receiver. Your future is in the hands of the Lord who loves you. He says many times in Scripture that you can trust Him. Believe in His authority and power. Believe in His love.