Bob L. was leading a weekly prayer meeting for the community around Sentani International School in Papua, Indonesia. At the front of the room was a chalkboard divided into four columns. As people suggested prayer needs each week, Bob wrote them in the first column. Tracking the specific requests, each week Bob would move some into column 2 -- “answered yes,” column 3 – “answered no,” or column 4 – “not yet.”
All of those attending Bob’s prayer meetings saw graphic examples of how God does respond to our prayers. He doesn’t always do so in the way we might expect (or want), but he does respond, and we almost always see his response in an obvious way.
Although pray is more than just asking for things, we most often seem to associate it with bringing specific needs or requests to God. So, let’s continue to look with that perspective through today’s post.
From a person’s first prayer, usually in the form of Romans 10:13 -- Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, to specific promises and principles given to people like the prophet in Jeremiah 33:3 -- ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know,’ to Jesus words to his disciples in John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,” God shows that he wants to respond to the prayers of his people
In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat prayed for deliverance from a superior army coming against Jerusalem. Not only did God destroy the invaders, the fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel (2 Chronicles 20:29)
Peter the Apostle had been arrested and imprisoned in Jerusalem. Acts 12:5 records, So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The next paragraphs describe how God sent an angel to free and then personally escort Peter from his cell and almost to the door of the house where this prayer was going on.
Paul told the Corinthian church about his “thorn in my flesh,” some unknown affliction from Satan which made him less effective than he wanted. He prayed very specifically that God would remove this problem, but God responded with an emphatic “no.” God does not always with what we want to hear. When that happens, we have to have faith that God has a better idea, which he will reveal in his own time.
Beginning the great faith chapter in Hebrews, the writer used the example of Enoch to tell us and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
As I write this, I am encouraged anew that God does care about his people enough to listen to us when we converse with him. The overwhelming weight of biblical evidence convinces us that God cares enough to respond, that he is powerful enough to respond, and that he wants us to see and acknowledge his responses.
For our part, we can’t afford to allow our preconceptions, personal agendas, or impatience to get in the way of what God wants to do in and through us as we pray.