When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.
But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.
I prayed every day for my children. I asked God to protect them, to give them wisdom, to draw them to Himself and to guide their steps.
I never thought I was “giving orders” to God, but I did expect that my prayers would be honored-that by praying in obedience to biblical commands and in accord with scriptural principles I was making a difference in the heavenlies.
Like Daniel, who received word that his prayers had helped Gabriel fight against the prince of the air opposing him, I sent my petitions as weapons and armor against any schemes of the evil one that might threaten to undo my family. (Daniel 10: 1-13)
Herein lies the problem: when things go well, when the job comes through, the test score is great and the person walks out of the hospital, healed and whole, we say, “God answered prayers.”
And I believe that He does.
But if we ascribe glory and praise and honor and thanksgiving for the blessings received, how are we to understand and talk about the ones denied?
The nation of Israel was looking for Messiah-expecting Him.
Yet when He came, most missed Him. They had decided for themselves what He would look like, what He would do and how He would rescue them from bondage.
God’s ways are inscrutable.
I’m not arguing that prayer doesn’t matter.
I am commanded to pray. And God’s faithfulness to answer prayer is documented from Genesis through Revelation.
But I would argue that the way we speak about prayer, as if we understand how it works and how God works in it and through it, is often unhelpful.
The book of Job pulls back the curtain on what was happening in the heavenlies when God allowed Satan access to Job’s life. We know that Job’s earthly suffering represented a testimony for God against the Accuser.
But there’s no evidence that Job ever knew.
There was no dramatic revelation by God to this man that had lost EVERYTHING except his own life (which he would have gladly given up) and his wife (who, it seems, went on to bear him more children-oh joy!). Instead, God confronts Job with questions, not answers.
My heart wants answers, not more questions.
I doubt that I will have them this side of heaven.
So I have decided to speak more honestly about my experience with prayer, to refuse to pretend I understand how it works any more than I understand how God breathes life into bodies or takes souls to heaven.
I will pray, as best I can-mostly recalling God’s own words to Him-and resist my desire to think that because I pray, I can direct His hand.
When Jesus was in agony at Gethsemene, He asked His Father to take the bitter cup from HIm, but in the end, submitted to God’s will and plan.
That is all I have left for me as well-to submit and be made into whatever God has ordained.
I will trust in the goodness and faithful love of my Heavenly Father, because He IS my Father.
I will lean into His heart even when I cannot see or understand the work of His hands and follow because He is the One Who will lead me Home.