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Pointers along the way #262

God who answers prayer
- Jacob Ninan

Prayer is one of those things which are very difficult to figure out. Some people hold the view that God always gives what they ask for (Jn.15:7), and if they don't get something it is because of their lack of faith. So they try to muster up enough faith to get what they want. The problem with this approach is that God has not promised to give us whatever we ask for, even if it appears to be like that from certain verses, because it is ultimately His will that needs to get done (1Jn.5:14). And it is not the quantity of faith that matters (Mt.17:20). The fact that we pray shows our faith, doesn't it? Some people ask for something in prayer, and when they don't get that they stop praying altogether. What do we ought to do?

Jesus wants us to pray always and never give up (Lk.18:1). This is not always easy, especially when we have been praying with burden for something and there does not appear to be any encouragement for hope. But this is a test of our faith in God. The question is whether we would trust in God whether we get answers to our prayers or not. This appears to be illogical to those who hold that God always answers prayer. It can't be, according to them, that we have faith in God and He doesn't answer our prayers. But what does His word say?

Faith believes in God--His being, His character, His word--and also believes that He rewards those who seek Him (He.11:6). God certainly rewards those who seek Him. But is that always in the form of giving what we pray for? The answer is in what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego said to Nebuchadnezzar (Da.3:17,18). They would trust God even if He did not do for them what they thought they needed at that moment.

Once we acknowledge that God is infinitely bigger and wiser than we, we give up the notion that we should always understand what He is doing with us. When we trust Him, we are willing to leave His actions to His wisdom. Let Him do what He chooses in the way and at the time He chooses. That is faith and trust.

When we trust Him like this what do we pray for? We continue to pray for what we think we want or need, leaving the decisions to Him. We don't give up our trust if we don't immediately see the answer. We believe that He hears our cries always (Ps.34:4-6), and will answer it according to His wisdom and in our best interests (because He loves us immeasurably) at the right time. The fact that He has heard our prayer and it is recorded in His heart is enough for us to have confidence that He will work things out in the best way.

We mustn't also forget that sometimes what we pray for involves other people, and God won't force His way on them. He will answer our prayers by influencing them, but He will still leave the choice to them. We must believe God is at work even when we can't see any perceptible change.

Let's not give up the battle. We'll keep trusting and praying.