In the past few weeks, God has met a very specific financial need of ours in an unexpected and great way.
He has allowed the three-year old daughter of a friend to overcome a life-threatening cancer … only to lose her life to an accident.
He has allowed a friend’s biopsy to be negative (woot! woot!).
He has permitted three loved ones to remain in financial and emotional distress.
He has given one friend major healing and an emotional breakthrough from childhood abuse.
He has allowed another friend to sink to the very lowest rung in her life (through her own bad choices), dragging her innocent children down with her.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, does there?
But despite the seeming lack of logic to the outcome of events, there are a few reasons I still pray – even though my most fervent prayers are sometimes met with a “no.” Even though in my darker moments, I’ve struggled with the thought, “Well, He’s just going to do what he wants anyway, so why bother?” Despite everything, I still pray with the naive hope of someone who has never been told “no” – as someone who has never met with grief. And this is why.
Because there is a spiritual war going on at all times.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelations 12:7-9)
This is such a strong image isn’t it? It’s not a hard one for me to picture since I was so heavily influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, and I remember The Final Battle.
And I don’t know if you read the book, Heaven is For Real, but the kid who had a near-death experience said (among many other things) that he saw his dad fighting in the final battle. Like literally – fighting with swords and arrows.
Okay, I’m probably losing you now that I’m talking about fictional stories and near-death experiences, but all that to say that the Bible does make it clear that there is a constant spiritual battle going on. It also says that those who are fighting on God’s side have God’s name written on our foreheads. So yeah. Satan and the whole spiritual world can see who his enemies are.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
I pray because think prayers make a difference and that the army of soldiers for good should outnumber the army of soldiers for evil. I pray because I want “those who are with us to be more than those who are with them.” (referencing 2 Kings 6:16) I pray because it’s the most effective weapon to wield in a fierce and mighty ongoing battle.
Because God cares how we feel, so it’s worth telling him.
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” (2 Kings 20:1-6)
I know, I know. Sometimes it really feels like God doesn’t care, doesn’t it? How can he let hundreds of innocent school girls be stolen in Nigeria and sold into slavery? How can he let villages be razed to the ground with thousands of innocents slaughtered? How can he let my loved one die? Me to contract a life-threatening illness? My friend to have constant emotional and physical pain without relief in sight? How?
But when you’ve prayed consistently long enough, you see evidence of how much God does care. Yes, he created people with full freedom to make their own choices, even when those choices are evil. But he is always there, always working for the good even in the most horrific circumstances.
You can’t really explain faith. It’s being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. You believe in a God and a goodness you cannot see. Faith sort of comes about when you put it into practice. You start to see how God is loving, and how he cares about you – personally, specifically – and it allows you to surrender to a “perfect will” that you do not understand.
Because there is his perfect will, and there is his allowed will. I’m very encouraged by that passage up there where Hezekiah said he didn’t want to die, and God heard him and gave him 15 more years. But what’s interesting to note is that in those fifteen extra years, two very significant events happened:
1) He had a son who would be the next ruler of Judah and who was one of the (if not the most) evil rulers there was. He did everything detestable in God’s sight and led the Israelites into major sin. I mean, the guy sacrificed his own children to Satan worship. It would have been better had he not been born.
2) Hezekiah showed the Babylonian envoys every single treasure in his palace, which led to them descending upon Israel after Hezekiah’s death and putting an end to the reign in Jerusalem, stripping the Lord’s Temple of all its treasures, and turning Hezekiah’s descendants into eunuchs. Had they not known how rich Jerusalem was, they might not have thought to conquer them.
So God’s original plan to end Hezekiah’s life fifteen years earlier makes sense in retrospect. There is God’s perfect will. And there is his allowed will, and he wants to know how we feel. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to insist on his perfect will, even if it doesn’t seem like the best thing for us.
(An extra note about “the slaughtered innocents.” They have lost their lives here on earth. But is that really the worst thing?) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
Because praying shows the relationship is still important to us.
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. (Matthew 25:24-27)
Whenever I do think, “well, He’s just going to do what he wants anyway” I’m really not being fair to God, because I never think that when it’s something good.
For example, I’m up for that promotion. But why bother praying about it because he’s probably going to give me the promotion anyway whether or not I pray. He’s just going to do whatever he wants so why bother praying.
That example is completely ridiculous because we’d never think that. We only think that way when we expect him to do something bad – something we don’t like. But refusing to invest in the outcome is just like the guy who hid his talent in the ground. “I knew that you are a hard man,” he said. “You harvest where you have not sown, and gather where you have not scattered seed.” I know you’re type, he’s saying. You demand unrealistic things of me, and you’re a hard and cruel master so why should I try to bear fruit for you? It will never be enough.
And God says – so you know me, do you? Well if you knew how cruel I was, you should have at least done the bare minimum and returned the talent with interest, right?
I pray because I know that God is not a cruel master who harvests where he has not sown, and I will not treat him so unfairly.
Because He will see that justice is done.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. (Luke 18-1-8)
I have a friend who is a Jewish doctor and she once told me that bacteria that is prayed over grows faster than bacteria that is not. A scientific fact that makes me laugh a little, but one that also pleases me. God could sweep his angels, saints and righteous ones up into a cloud in heaven, and destroy the wicked on earth, with Satan and his minions, in one fell asteroid sweep.
But instead he wants us to pray. He is patient, unwilling to destroy the good with the wicked. He is loving, wanting to include us in the fight for righteousness on earth as it is in heaven. He is our Father, teaching us to have hope in the face of Satan’s limited rule on this earth. He is our friend, listening to us and encouraging us to wield our weapon of prayer, no matter how inexpertly. He’s rooting for us to fight for justice instead of just giving up.
The passage in Luke 18 ends with Jesus saying these words, which I find to be some of the most plaintive, touching words in the entire Bible: However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
I pray because when Jesus comes back, I am determined that he will find faith on earth – at the very least, he will find it in me.
Photo Credit: / 123RF Banque d’images
PS. The winner of the That’s Paris book is Elaine!! (Elaine, congratulations! 🙂 I will contact you).