Good King Asa, whose heart was perfect all his days, prayed for help in battle. (2Chron 14. 11). God was deeply involved with His people Israel then; he intervened often in their lives. Perhaps it was because Asaís heart was perfect all his days that God answered his call and smote the Ethiopian enemy; the answer to Asaís prayer was immediate. In Matthew 6 we read of another man whose thoughts and actions were perfect who taught men how, when and where to pray. Christís prayer, that God "remove this cup from me" was not answered in the affirmative, but in another more far reaching way. His prayer continued, "Nevertheless Thy will, not mine be done." (Mat 36.29) Godís reply took him to the cross. Answers in New Testament times are not so speedy or readily understood , a fact that is perplexing to all truth seekers. My purpose today is to get us all thinking about a subject that is intensely personal. |
Today the belief that God answers prayer is particularly difficult. Thereís an astronomical intimidation where vast unchanging fixed laws exist. Small man was much smaller in Biblical times, but now we see prayers rattling around in unending space. 150 years ago man was shut off from the world at large. He was circumscribed physically by a very few miles. Intellectually, his knowledge was primitive, except for a few learned men. Knowledge was limited to trade, weather, religion, and folk lore that passed for medicine. A mere 150 years ago, crops either failed, or prospered; sick people got well, or they died.
Prayer saved them, or it was Godís will that they die. Everything was closer and smaller, including God. Nowadays God is often viewed as Deus ex machina, brought in to wind the clock, then hands off. God has become superfluous in this age of self achievement. The only demonstrable good is seen in mans achievements: people get well because of good medicine, if you die, your relatives have a malpractice suit. In our day Deus ex machina seems logical.
Look at the people who say God answers prayer. Believers in prayer fall into two categories, objective and subjective, with more and more falling in the second group.
The objective believer suffers great disillusionment when prayer is apparently not answered. The subjective member of the prosperous religions believe their prayers are answered. Bills get paid, good things happen, minor ailments are cured. He lives in a state of perpetual mindless, simpering silliness and sadly makes the act of prayer a laughingstock. Will God change his immutable laws just because we ask Him? The subjective believer says that if you think He does, then you benefit. This is a blessing based on a fraud. But if you believe in an active God who will interfere with his own laws and in the affairs of men, then how do we deal with that faith when it comes to prayer?
Jesus said, "Men ought to pray and not faint" (Luke 18). Said differently, men must pray if they are not to become weak. James said that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.. Paul and others said that we ought to pray without ceasing. (Thess 5.17)
So what are we talking about? Principally, itís not petitions for material things, although we do ask for our daily bread. But itís not for making car or house payments, or to get a promotion, or win a game. It is not buttering up God, calling Him fancy names, or telling Him something He didnít know. Prayer is many things, but it is something weíre told to do without ceasing. How is this possible? Literally it is impossible. Maybe it means regularly. More than likely it is a figure, like ?prayer moving mountainsí. Continual prayer is or ought to be your life; your life is a prayer. You donít cut God off and turn Him on. You donít say to God, "I want to talk now". In a sense a Christian is talking to God all the time; I hope weíre talking to Him now. Your life is, or can be, your praise and adoration of Him, or for those of us who are of a more pedestrian frame of mind, your life is a continual acknowledgment of Him.
When you think about it, there was not much praying in the Old Testament There was sacrifice and incense under the Law. (Ex 30.8) Aaron was instructed to burn perpetual incense on the altar. Of course, you can and should speak directly to God, but youíre always speaking to Him if you want to. If you say to yourself that my life is a prayer to Him, you are acknowledging that He is the Master, you are His servant; Heís the Creator, youíre the created. He is our Father who is in heaven and He is nigh to all that call upon Him (Ps 145.18) meaning that prayer can be heard and answered.. We know so little of Him; from one tiny book in a universe of knowledge. Keep praying and give God credit for knowing what He is doing when He seems to stay His hand. In modern parlance let this be your mantra:
Let the words of my mouth
And the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
My strength and my redeemer (Ps 19. 14)