I think this is a question many of us are asking at this moment in time, especially with the pandemic that has swept the world. By us, I mean humanity, Believers and unbelievers, because even Believers wonder why it seems their prayers are going unanswered. Really, does this prayer thing really work? Does it really make a difference whether we pray or not?
To be honest, I’m as stumped as the next guy. Seriously, my life and a lot of the things I’ve believed have been shaken lately. I’m not so sure about some things I was previously absolutely sure about. And I’m starting to feel like God really doesn’t work the way we think He does…
Yes, it feels like I’m losing my faith. But maybe I’m just losing my religion. So many times I ask, what if the Atheists are right, and I am entertaining a delusion? If we look at whether or not God answers prayers to determine if He exists, then we are likely to end up on the camp that believes He is made up. Because there appears to be far more people whose prayers are on the waiting list or denied list than those whose were answered – and by that, I obviously mean, answered with a “Yes”!
Anything other than a “Yes” or “Okay”, would typically mean, no answer, because it’s hard for us to hear God say “No” and even harder to admit that that’s the answer we got to our prayer request. No doubt, a lot of people are still “waiting on an answer” or think God said “Wait” to something that He has evidently declined to oblige. I mean, when it’s hard to hear Him, how can you be sure your prayers were answered unless you got exactly what you sought?
But Believers who are adamant and apparently mature in their faith profess that God does answer prayers, only not in the way or time we would expect. That His ways are not our ways, and sometimes, God answers us by giving us something else entirely! But how can that be an answer if it’s not even what you wanted?! Never mind if it’s what you needed!
Others say that it’s the experience of praying; asking God, trusting Him, relying on Him and not ourselves, and ultimately surrendering our will that is the real benefit – and answer – to prayer! We pray, not so that God will give us what we want, but so that our hearts will be turned towards God, and then we will have what we truly want and need, His will accomplished in our lives…
While I actually support such reasoning, it still sounds like God doesn’t answer prayers, lol! It’s a really long-winded way of saying, “No, God doesn’t answer prayers. He just wants you to submit your will to Him!”
Now, someone will say, “What about the persistent widow?! Jesus used her as an example to say that God does answer prayers if we don’t give up.” Yes, what Jesus said is true. And I think Jesus used her to illustrate an exceptional circumstance. Exceptions are not the rule. But then again, exceptions are what faith is all about…so maybe that small or minute percentage that have had their prayers answered with a “Yes”, are the exception, while the rest of us are the rule…
What am I trying to say? I think maybe we need to change our mindset about prayers. Prayers are not wishes to a genie. Prayers are more like requests to a King, who we happen to have a special relationship with (or maybe no real relationship, in many cases). Maybe you are a foreigner but have a great need and believe He can help, so you choose to entreat Him through prayer. The analogy still works.
Whatever the case, we leave our requests at His feet, and He answers them according to His best interests, with discretion. Sometimes, the answers are immediate, and sometimes, they take a while to be processed. But, because I don’t believe the King forgets or is negligent or wicked, I think He does respond to every request…in His own good time…and not always in the positive. It is His sovereign right and prerogative.
You may think I’ve said nothing different… That God does answer prayers, in His own way and time, and according to His will. So, are we not back to square one, looking for the evidence of this assertion, that there is a King of kings who is listening to billions of prayers being uttered right now and is processing them to respond?
The truth is, even with the analogy (which is not perfect), you can’t look at “evidence” to know if prayer works. You either believe or you don’t. You can’t know all the requests that the King has received and their stages of processing. And if you know just one person who can say “He answered my prayer, so I’m going to keep praying in this situation,” it should be enough for you to decide whether or not to make your own request or to keep your mouth shut! The point is, if you don’t ask, then you stand to gain nothing that you can’t do already by your own power. And many will choose to rely on their power alone.
The Bible says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord,” (James 1:5-7).
And, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).
Ultimately, what God wants is a relationship with Him, characterised by faith, trust, obedience, submission, and love. When we come to this privileged standing with Him, we can truly ask of Him anything and appreciate His responses, decisions, and discipline, through the things we must go through, while our prayers are yet unaswered, or if the answer we sought was not what we wanted. Our prayers are not so much requests as they are conversations with our Father. Read my two part series on Conversations With God for more on this.
However, we will have what we want and need through it all – Him! His fellowship and assurance that He will be with us, wherever we go, whatever we are going through, even when it’s hard to perceive Him. Because, of all the friends in the world, He is the realest friend we can count on. I believe that.
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