Day 14 of Lent, Psalm 20:
Unanswered prayer– I don’t like to think much about this. Why does it seem like some prayers are answered and some are not? I have prayed for some things for so long, and I start to wonder… It feels like prayers are overlooked and ignored– resulting in heartache, pain, or doubt. Even though I don’t have all the answers, I am okay right now with the blending of God and mystery– for I have an abundant of reasons to trust Him. For that I am thankful. Because unanswered prayer can make me confused, I must lean on what I do know of God and His character.
What is an answer?
I am the kind of person trained to have an answer right away– a “yes” or a “no” — and I want the right answer right away. In the “olden” days (way back in the 1970’s, as my kids would say), I had rotary dial phones, of course. When the phone rang, my family usually answered it, for it was probably someone who needed to talk with us (shocking). That is just what we did. We did not receive nearly as many phone calls, as the number of calls and texts we do now. There was no answering machine and no call waiting (I know you probably know this. You either lived through it, or heard stories from your parents about this repeatedly!). There were not as many sale’s calls, automated reminders for appointments, nor schools calling to remind us of our lunch balance or other important things. The phone rang and we decided “yes,” we would answer it and occasionally, “no,” we would not answer it.
Now I have many more options for reaching and answering people. I can text, call, tweet, message in different ways, leave a voice mail, Skype, or email them. I may call and they choose to answer it or not, but often it goes to their voicemail. Or, I might call and receive a text message in return, informing me they will “get back with me.” However, usually I do not want to call at all, but I would rather text, message or email. Lots of options! Answering and calling can look a lot different than it use to.
Today, Psalm 20 says this:
Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. Save, O Lord, may the King answer us in the day we call.
Forms of answers
There are many references in scripture to the fact that God does hear and does answer. I do not think God ignores me. Jesus talks to God as a perfect loving Father. Why then would He ignore me?
His lovingkindness is everlasting. From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? Psalm 18:4,5
As a parent, I do not delight in overlooking my kids, their questions or requests. I do not desire to make them feel unheard, unwanted or ignored. I think it is the same with God, except He is perfect and complete as my heavenly Father. That is why scripture says He will not give us a stone when we ask for bread.He does not desire to trick us give us bad gifts. I also know as a parent, my answers to my children’s requests can take on many forms depending on the timing, the circumstances and even the child. Each of my boys is different. I answer, but it may be different then what my child expects and sometimes, they don’t understand or agree with my answer.
Time is on our side
I also assume an answer to prayer must come immediately for it to be “answered.” However, when I observe God’s interactions with people in the bible, there is not always an immediate response. God made a promise to Abraham (to give him offspring), but it was 25 years later before Isaac was born. Many times, but not always, God waits to act.
When Lazarus died, Jesus waited a few days before going to see his sisters and raising him from the dead– yet He could have left earlier and healed Lazarus. Jesus waited to answer the sister’s request immediately, perplexing and saddening Lazarus’s sisters. Jesus explained there were bigger reasons for why He delayed– “for the glory of God” and to demonstrate that He (Jesus) is “the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives believes in Me will never die.” (John 11) Word of this miracle spread quickly, and many heard of the amazing power of God and believed.
Big things accomplished
God is at work. I do not think He is idle and I think He has much more in mind than we can see, much more to accomplish for us:
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
for my soul takes refuge in You;
and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. Psalm 57:1,2
His desire is not for us to stay incomplete and immature, like infants. No, He grows our character and us over time. As His follower, He wants our trust and our faith to grow as well. I wonder how God is growing my trust as I pray. How does He grow your trust? As I trust in Him and abide in Him, He is growing me and producing His fruit in me– ultimately making me more like Christ. One day we shall see Him and we will be like Him. Yes, there is so much more going on than I can see.
I have planted trees, and years later I am amazed how much the tree has grown. Yet, I never saw it grow. I know it was a little sapling, and now it is taller than my house! To become a big tree takes time, the weathering of storms, much water and sun. God doesn’t want us to remain a little sapling either.
God has much to accomplish in us and around us. Many times, I do not see quickly the answers to my prayers, but this doesn’t mean they are not being answered. I also know that God does not ignore me or hang up on me. He does answer and He is actually holding on to me and seeing me through. The question for me is: “Can I trust Him?”