Part II: Prayer - It's Always Answered
Gods Sovereignty: “Yet not as I will . . . “
(This post takes about 4 minutes to read)
After writing the last blog on prayer I discovered that my own prayer discipline was more “formless” than I cared to admit. Buttrick’s “simple regimen” of prayer (brush up on it HERE ), has helped me breathe new life into an old practice and make some important adjustments.
“Our blood flows and our breathing continues without ceasing—and we’re hardly conscious of it,” says Oswald Chambers. In relating life-sustaining breathing and blood flow to our prayer life, Chambers first zeroes-in on our prayer discipline and intentionality. Is prayer an occasional gulp of air and a random surge of blood through our veins . . . or is it a robust, life-giving practice?
Second, the author of My Utmost For His Highest speaks to “unanswered” prayer. Sometimes, that’s our chief complaint, but Jesus dealt with that issue . . . and he tells us that prayer never goes unanswered. Instead, Jesus had the absolute certainty that prayer to the Father is always answered. “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt7:8).
That’s hard theology to grasp when the apparent answer to prayer runs crossways with our request. But we should note that Jesus prayed to be released from the unspeakable agony of the Cross (see Matthew 26:36-39). But it was God’s plan—his sovereign will—that Christ suffer the fate of Pilate’s judgment. In prayer, Jesus yielded to the Father’s will . . . “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 36:39).
Our human tendency, however, is to water down what Jesus says about answered prayer and submission (in both Matthew 7:8 and 36:39). Our tendency is to align our prayers to human wisdom and sometimes, to common sense. If the outcome goes badly or it isn’t aligned to our thinking . . . well, we assume that the prayer wasn’t answered.
Jesus never once linked the notion of human wisdom and common sense to fulfillment of prayer. In fact, quite the opposite! Think about it . . . if common sense was the acid test of God’s will, Jesus would never have hung on the Cross for the redemption of mankind. It made no sense to anyone in Jerusalem that Friday afternoon. . . but Sunday was in God’s vision.
I know the crushing agony of prayer that is rooted in my will, however compelling the request. Ultimately, however, that defeat opened the slammed-shut-door-of-faith for me and led me to trust in God’s Sovereignty. But on June 16th, twenty-seven years ago, I had no grasp of that. That day, I stood over my daughter’s bedside in the ICU ward at Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL, and prayed like I have never prayed in my adult life. “Lord, please touch my girl’s ailing heart.”
God’s “touch” that day, stopped Vanessa’s heart. In reflection, my prayer was answered, but not in any context I could fathom. It was draped in God’s Sovereignty . . . in a supernatural context aligned to God’s will, not my own. I was destined to learn that faith is the absolute certainty that God can be trusted . . . and that prayer better guides our will and common sense, it doesn’t submit to it.
Some three years later, my wife, Jan and I would face another life and death prayer encounter. We stood over Caroline’s bedside in the neonatal-ICU ward at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital. There would be one final attempt to wean our carrot-topped six-week-old off the respirator that was keeping her alive. All previous attempts had failed. Common sense that day was our enemy . . . and we prayed in God’s Sovereignty, that he would grant us life.
As the respirator wound down for the final time, Caroline’s rosy color vanished, her skin tone paled, and she began to squirm. Her bright blue eyes signaled panic to the doctor whose hands controlled the dial. But then miraculously, against all odds and common sense, her chest began to heave, and she breathed her first unassisted breath. God’s Sovereignty, that day, granted us life over death . . . and that joy is now shared by Caroline’s two nieces!
My encouragement to you? Grasp the inexpressible and absolute certainty that Jesus models about prayer. Throw overboard any notion of common sense in your prayer life. Then think about this: how would that Friday afternoon in Jerusalem two-thousand years ago have gone if God’s will had not carried the day?
We’d be without a Savior.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways’ declares the Lord,” (Isaiah 55:8)