A common question that comes up among bereaved parents has to do with prayer. Specifically, the parent wants to know why, after begging God for the life of her child, the child died anyway. Or perhaps the child himself prayed to get well or a whole prayer chain of people prayed and still the child died.
They want to know: Why didn’t God answer my prayer? Wasn’t my prayer good enough? Am I not good enough? Is God punishing me? Is He even there?
The fact is, for the believer in the one true and living God, every prayer is answered. The answer may be yes, no or not yet. The request may be granted in a way that is totally unexpected or even unwelcome.
For instance, our family often prays for safety. Safety on the highway, safety on the job, safety in the woods, etc. And when the person we prayed for walks through the door at the end of the day, we think,
God has answered my prayer. He has given us what we asked for.
But, what if the person we prayed for gets injured – or worse – doesn’t come home at all. If we did not receive what we asked for, does that mean God did not answer our prayer? No, of course not. It just means God has a different plan. A better plan, though it may not look better to us at all.
When Hans went to the highway for the last time, we did not pray for his safety. He planned on being gone maybe five minutes to test some work he just did on the engine. What could happen in five minutes?
So, did the crash happen because we neglected to pray this particular time? Were all those other times we did pray for his safety just a waste of time? Hans crashed his car, was fatally injured and died within minutes. How can this possibly be construed as an answer to any of our prayers? Where were health and safety that night for Hans? Where was this God who answers prayer?
God was right there with my boy. God did answer our prayers. Hans was instantly safe with the Father the moment he left his battered body in the car. What outcome could be better for him?
The problem is with words like safety, healing, recovery and so on. We have our own little definitions for these words. When we take the eternal view of things, health and safety may mean something entirely different from what we suppose they should mean.
Another problem is that we expect an answer from God that will cause us the least amount of discomfort. We do not truly want was is best for everyone the way God does. We are selfish. We do not want to suffer. We want to be happy and pain-free – all the time, if possible.
If we truly desire to be close to God; if we genuinely want to be more like His Son, Jesus, we will count it all joy when trials come our way. We would see His hand in every sorrow and thank Him for the blessing of His comfort and strength during the storm. But, to be honest, if I was faced with choosing more grief and pain in order to become more like Jesus or having my son back…well, thank God He does not make us choose.
I just thank Him that He has provided a way for me to know his will – in His Word and by His Spirit – so I can be confident that He hears me, that He will always answer in His perfect timing, and that His provision will be exactly the right thing.
For all of us.
Attitude of Trust – Streams in the Desert 5/19
“And it came to pass, before he had done speaking…and he said, Blessed be Jehovah who hath not forsaken his lovingkindness and his truth” (Gen. 24:15, 27).
Every right prayer is answered before the prayer itself is finished – before we have “done speaking.”
This is because God has pledged His Word to us that whatsoever we ask in Christ’s name (that is, in oneness with Christ and His will) and in faith, shall be done. As God’s Word cannot fail, whenever we meet those simple conditions in prayer, the answer to our prayer has been granted and completed in Heaven as we pray, even though its showing forth on earth may not occur until long afterward.
So it is well to close every prayer with praise to God for the answer that He has already granted; He who never forsakes His loving-kindness and His truth. (See Daniel 9:20-27 and 10:12.) –Messages for the Morning Watch
C. H. Spurgeon
There is a limit to the doctrine of the prayer of faith. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for.
We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss. If we ask for that which is not promised—if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate—if we ask contrary to His will, or to the decrees of His providence—if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease, and without an eye to His glory, we must not expect that we shall receive.
Yet, when we ask in faith, nothing doubting, if we receive not the precise thing asked for, we shall receive an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for it. As one remarks, “If the Lord does not pay in silver, He will in gold; and if He does not pay in gold, He will in diamonds.”
If He does not give you precisely what you ask for, He will give you that which is tantamount to it, and that which you will greatly rejoice to receive in lieu thereof.
Be then, dear reader, much in prayer, and make this evening a season of earnest intercession, but take heed what you ask.