I believe that God always answers our prayers—the Bible is full of examples, plus we have verses such as Matthew 21:22: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Yet, for many of us, our life experience tells us otherwise. Does that mean God lied? Is the Bible untrustworthy? Or, perhaps, is it our lack of understanding that’s causing the problem?
Many years ago, Pete and I dreamed of moving to someplace less urban than the middle of Silicon Valley. We were tired of the traffic, fed up with the smog, and yearning for a simpler lifestyle. We prayed, and it seemed as if God was saying yes, get ready, you’re going to move. Great! We’ve always enjoyed the northwest, so Pete spent several months investigating jobs in the Seattle area. Things looked positive, but then the doors started slamming shut. We were so confused. Hadn’t God given us the go-ahead? Had He changed His mind?
We were cruising around the block for the umpteenth time. Street-side parking spots are rare in San Francisco, and we urgently needed one. I was grumbling under my breath, my attitude deteriorating faster than an overripe banana, when a small voice piped up from the carseat in back. “Mom, did you ask God for a parking spot?”
“Er, that’s a great idea, sweetie! Why don’t you pray for us?”
So my preschool-aged daughter asked God for a parking spot—and darned if one didn’t appear just down the street, as if by magic.
Hmmm, I thought.
Usually I like to finish reading a book before I recommend it to someone else. Today I’m making an exception. I’ve read enough of Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere, by Samuel C. Williamson, to know that I didn’t want to wait another moment to recommend it. This is a book I can recommend to every believer—and perhaps even you who doubt God’s existence.
I’ve written about this topic before; see Did You Say Something? from July, 2013 for one such post. I don’t intend to rehash what I wrote then, as I doubt I could express my thoughts much better now. This book, however, surpasses my little post in all ways. Of course, he gets to use an entire book to do so.
Does God speak to you? One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is hearing the voice of God. He may be telling me what to do, which way to go. He may be revealing new insights about Himself or others. Sometimes I just hear a quiet “I love you,” and those are the words I cherish the most.
One challenge in listening to God is that He so rarely speaks audibly. Rather, it’s that “still, small voice” inside of us, whispering to our spirit. We have to still ourselves to hear Him. And while God is perfect at making Himself known, we don’t always hear perfectly what He has to say. Sometimes, we simply get it all wrong.
We’ve all been asked to pray for various things. Please pray for my sister, she’s going through a hard time. Please pray for me, I have an important decision to make. Please pray, my husband lost his job. And when someone asks us to pray, we feel compelled to say yes. After all, the Bible is full of examples—both exhortations to pray for each other and examples of those prayers. Prayer is an excellent way we can demonstrate our love for people, fulfilling God’s commandment to love one another as ourselves. Jesus clearly tells us to share our prayer requests:
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:19-20)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Zaire) might be the poorest country in the world. It’s a place of both abundant natural resources and abject misery. Located in the heart of Africa, the DRC is surrounded by ten other nations, including Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Africa’s second-largest country (by land area), it’s home to 80 million people.
The DRC should be a prosperous nation, with its flowing rivers (and their ability to generate hydroelectric power), fertile soil, and rich mineral resources. It is not.
Last week I wrote about entire cultures comprised of people who never get a chance to truly celebrate Christmas—because they’ve never heard of Jesus. There are over three billion people who live in these ethno-linguistic groups, about 40% of the earth’s population. I also explained that of these people groups, there remain approximately 1,400 (around 568 with populations over 5,000) who are unengaged by the church. No one is yet doing anything to bring them the good news of God’s love.
It’s all well and good to make these lists and to bemoan the fact that after 2000 years, there are still entire people groups who are being left out of all our mission efforts. But awareness by itself accomplishes nothing. What can we do to change this situation? More importantly, what can I do?