As a Christian, when I’m faced with a decision, I pray for guidance. Sometimes God answers quickly and clearly—a decisive “Do this!” or “Go there!” That was the type of answer we received 26 years ago, when we God told us to move from California to Colorado. Wanting to make sure we were hearing correctly, we asked for Him to confirm his direction at least three times in the next week or so. We received six signs in three days. With that kind of verification, all we could do was obey!
Sometimes He tells me no. That’s helpful too. Should I accept this job offer? No. Should I eat that brownie? No! (Darn.) I may not always like being told no, but at least there’s no confusion about it.
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?
What are you praying for?
As we close out 2015 and begin 2016, my friend’s blog post suggested we ask God some questions: “What prayers did You answer in this past year?” and “Are there any areas You want me to focus on in prayer this year?” (You can read her excellent post here.) As they were meant to do, those questions started me thinking….
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away… and sometimes He gives back again. You may remember my mention of our friends, Gene and Nancy, who lost their home in the Black Forest fire. They lived on the same block where the fire started, and had literally minutes to wake their daughter-in-law, grab the dog, the computer hard drive, and a box of photos (stored by the front door!) before jumping in their cars and fleeing for their lives.
Their house burned down, along with the accumulated treasures of fifty years of marriage. They are mourning their loss, and it is substantial. Yet, they have no doubt that God is good and that He is watching over them. For example…
Have you ever been told something like this?
You pray for those prodigal children! You pray for that unbelieving husband, or spouse, or family member! You know God is going to answer those prayers. It’s his will that everyone be saved, so you pray—and God is going to raise them up!
Yeah, me too. There are plenty of verses about how God answers prayer. Most have some sort of condition, for example (italics mine):
“I don’t need to pray about that. The answer is obvious. “
We’re all used to asking God about things we’re unsure of.
- Should I move across the country to pursue a relationship?
- Should I volunteer to help that homeless family?
- Should I repair that aging appliance—or spring for a new one?
But what about times when we already know the answer, or think we do?
I’ve been reading a really good book lately. It’s called Why Don’t I Get What I Prayed For?, by John W. Cowart. I think you should read it too.
We’ve all dealt with unanswered prayer. From the “testing God” demands of our Christian babyhood (God, give me a parking spot right now!) to earnest, faith-filled supplication for the healing of someone we love, we don’t get everything we ask for—at least not in the form we expect. Is God not there? Is He not listening? Maybe He doesn’t love us—or maybe we’re just not good enough. Even though we know better, thoughts like these tend to run through our heads when we’re frustrated, overwhelmed, or angry at God.