Don't Lose Heart
- Thursday, August 27, 2009
Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.
— Soren Kierkegaard, Danish Philosopher
I carry a file of prayer requests with me on my cell phone in a digital application. There's a place on each request where I can check-off when the prayer has been answered. At anytime I can refer back to my list to see what needs and desires have been filled and which ones still need to be lifted up.
For several years, the unmarked "answered" box on many of the prayers has left me frustrated and somewhat angry. I look at the list, read through the many heartfelt and heart breaking needs, and it pains me to see them go unanswered.
There are requests for spiritual salvation, medical and emotional healings, relational reconciliations, and economic buoyancy, however, many seem to go unnoticed and be in vain.
Maybe it's just me—praying for something and never receiving the answer I am looking for or never receiving an answer at all?
I wonder if my heart was in the right place when I prayed.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3).
I wonder if I truly had faith in my prayers.
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well (James 5:15).
I believe God knows what I'm going to pray even before I utter a single word.
I believe He cares for every person and about every circumstance we face.
I believe He is in complete control.
However, within my prayers, I sometimes find myself trying to convince Him of what (I think) is best in a situation when I can only see and comprehend a fraction of what is going on. And the only reason I have any understanding whatsoever of the circumstance is by His grace and the knowledge He has given me in the first place.
How do you spell arrogance?
At times I have to laugh at myself as I try to "figure out" what God is up to. After receiving a lifetime of blessings and experiencing incredible "only God" situations, who am I to think I can understand His ways? Why would I even want to try? I would probably just get in His way.
It reminds me of Mary and Martha's plea to Jesus for their brother Lazarus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." When Jesus heard of Lazarus' condition, "He stayed where he was (Jerusalem) two more days." (Before traveling to Bethany less than two miles away, John 11).
Could you imagine being with Jesus at the time He received the news, knowing that Lazarus was a close friend of His? We would have questioned why Jesus didn't leave immediately to be by his side. We would have sympathized for Mary and Martha's anguish as they watched their brother's health diminish. Lazarus himself must have wondered where his friend was, who could have healed him.
Jesus finally arrived after Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days and was greeted by Martha. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21) Upon seeing Jesus, Mary said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:32) The Jews said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (John 11:36-37)
Martha, Mary, and the Jews all believed Jesus could have healed Lazarus before he died. So, why didn't He?
Before departing Jerusalem, Jesus told his disciples, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." (John 11:14) Jesus had a reason and a purpose for not leaving earlier to heal Lazarus.
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him"(John 11:45).
A number of years ago, a very committed, dedicated and faithful couple in my church had a daughter whose life spanned only a week due to complications associated with undeveloped organs. After a week of fervent prayer, we as a church had so many questions as to why God would allow this to happen to such faithful servants of His.
We later found out close to thirty family members and co-workers of the couple came to know Jesus through their child's short life. Was that God's purpose for the life of that child? Is this what God had planned in the midst of their grief? We may never know for sure; we just did what we were called to d pray.
Recently, a local pastor's son was involved in an automobile accident and a worldwide plea for prayer was sent out. Thousands of believers unceasingly prayed for the healing of his body, believed in a miracle, and trusted God. Three days later, the Lord took him home.
A church and a community are left with the question, "Why?"
I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19).
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).
Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (John 16:24).
We look to passages like these, we pray for understanding, and oftentimes we walk away not able to comprehend how the Lord is working and why. However, just because God does not work according to how we think doesn't mean He does not hear our prayers nor care about our situation.
Even as Jesus approached the tomb where Lazarus was buried, knowing full well He was about to raise him from the dead, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).
Solomon, often referred to as the wisest man on earth, penned these words trying to help us understand it is in God's time and purpose that He works, not ours.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Whether we ever understand God's ways or ever see clearly how He's working in our lives, or those around us, we should continue to pray because He tells us to.
Men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).
It is not only our way of communicating and communing directly with our Lord and Savior, but also a major component along our journey of faith.
At the Sunday service following the death of his son, the pastor praised his son for his earlier decision to donate his organs. Five unknown families received the gift of an organ as a result of his son's death.
His sister wrote: "Five lives were immediately saved, and a total of 77 lives will be significantly impacted thanks to Josiah's donated organs. Sometimes miracles happen in ways that we don't expect, but the miracle still happened."
Through all of the prayers that were lifted up for the gift of life, somebody's prayers were answered that day.
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.
**This article first published on August 27, 2009.
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