Waves are very complex. Sitting every day by the sea watching the tides, and the waves as they crash against the seashore, one quickly gets fascinated by them and I’ve become quite a geek about the science of waves. This morning however their complexity resonated with me in the context of a discussion we had last night in our church community group.
Our church has small groups that meet during the week, mainly for the purposes of giving people a chance to connect at a real, “doing life” level with others in the body – something hard to do in a large church, or only once a week on a Sunday. At the moment we are working through an excellent study on prayer from 24-7 Prayer and Alpha.
One of the things we were talking about was unanswered (or apparently unanswered) prayers. We agreed often it appears we haven’t had an answer because we haven’t actually brought the real issue to God or not prayed specifically, so His “answer” doesn’t actually scratch the itch.
It is similar to when, in a relationship, one of the couple will ask something of the other (for example the woman asks the man to help with dinner) but when that request is fulfilled (he comes out into the kitchen and starts getting the plates out) the person is unhappy. Probably in this example because what the woman REALLY meant was “can you do the dinner as I am feeling tired and it would be a great way for you to show how much you love me for doing this for me”. She didn’t actually say what she meant however because she thinks “he ought to know what I really mean”.
It might sound extreme but we do this with God! Our group discussed those type of prayers last night, acknowledging that most of us at some time or another have had the attitude “why do we need to ask God when, because He is God, He already knows what we need?!”
There is an even more complex aspect to unanswered prayer though.
“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 MEV)
Have you ever stopped to think about our prayers from God’s perspective?
I have four children so, along with my husband, that means we are a family of six. When we want to do something as a family it can get quite complicated and as the kids have grown and developed their personalities it has become even harder to find something we can all enjoy. As a parent, planning things to please them all is hard!
I remember from my own childhood, family holidays (with just four of us) was all about accepting that we had to do things we didn’t particularly enjoy for the sake of each other. On a week long holiday one day we would visit a stately home (for Mum), one day a military museum (brother), one day a nature reserve (Dad) and one day something with a miniature railway (for me!) plus a day on the beach and a day in the town. It isn’t that we didn’t enjoy the other days but we each had a special thing we wanted to do.
With our family now there are only a few things that please us all – eating out (I’m a chef so food is a “thing” in our family!), playing dominoes or having a NERF battle in the back garden (don’t ask….!)
What’s the point I’m making here? If I struggle as a Mum of four to work all things out, how much more complex is it when God is doing that for all of us?
His promises are true and He is the same today, yesterday and forever so when He promises to work things out, to bless us, promises His plans are only to prosper us – He means it. Then I come before Him and ask for something.
Maybe what I’m asking for just won’t work out. Maybe to answer “yes” to that prayer would mean breaking His promises to prosper me. If I persist (ask and keeping on asking) and seek Him earnestly, to give me my “yes” now means a huge amount of work in order to still make sure the best comes to me – that this will work to my good.
Don’t forget too that we have free will. We are God’s hands and feet. So in order to “work all things out” means restricting Himself to moving through those of us open to His guidance, His Spirit, whispering and nudging us to direct our actions so that they have the desired consequence that make the necessary changes that mean… He can answer someone else’s prayer whilst still making sure it is “to the good” for both the original asker and all of those involved in delivering that answer!
I don’t know that I’ve explained this very well but I hope you can grasp the essence of what I mean enough that you can stop and ponder this. Allow the complexity, the trillions of permutations, to blow your mind. How God balances it all in His Omnipresence keeping it all in line with all His promises…
Can you sense just a tiny fraction of how BIG that is?! That is even before you add in to the mix the influence of the ruler of this world (the devil) and take into account all the natural consequences of the fall (disease, decay in the natural world and the disasters it causes etc), sin that abounds in all mankind driving us contrary to God’s plans and purposes…
Does your answered prayer sudden suddenly seem less about God not answering you, not caring, and more about BECAUSE He cares and wants to give you the desires of you heart?
Be amazed today at how big, how great, how awesome, how loving and how trustworthy your God is.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 MEV)