God Answering Prayer
This brief chapter on the subject of time and God answering prayer, is included in this section of Angelfall. Its purpose is to provide encouragement to Christians.
One of the great problems among those who love the Lord, is that they do not understand how God answers prayer. We tend to view prayer, and God answering prayer, in the context of time. Because we live in the realm of time, our tendency is to approach prayer with what I call a "vending machine mentality."
A vending machine offers the consumer various choices. When we place our money in the slot and make our selection and pull the lever, we expect an appropriate outcome. After all, the machine promises to deliver the goods—a certain product or food item for a fixed sum of money, and if we do our part of the bargain, we expect a timely fulfillment.
Prayer to God does not work quite that way. How frustrated numerous Christians become when God does not answer prayer immediately, or in the manner that we ask. It appears in reading many verses in the Bible, that God (like the vending machine) promises us a very specific result if we do it according to the prayer manual or proper "formula." Here is a perfect example.
"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up… and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:14-16).
The above passage, along with a number of others seem to be very straightforward. Yet how many times have occurred (I can personally count numerous), where people have done precisely what it says in James, and there has been no result? No healing whatsoever! In fact, people have actually died of cancer after everybody gathered around in great earnestness, anointing the sick person with oil, crying out to God, and doing exactly what James says. Even my own wife has lamented, "Why did God put those verses in the Bible if they don't mean what they say?"
The problem we face here is not one of God's lack of faithfulness. Rather, the problem is our lack of understanding.
God Does Indeed Answer Prayer
You can be sure that God ALWAYS answers prayer. But not necessarily according to the terms that we are praying for at the time. All of us as human beings have many concerns in life, whether it be financial matters, finding a job, restoring a relationship, or whatever… The reason is because God in answering our prayers, only answers them according to what is best for us in the context of eternity, not necessarily according to our own personal wishes, or earthly time frame, or manner of expectancy (or I might add—human comfort).
For example, what is God's interpretation of sickness? What does God mean by "save the sick" or "raise him up?" God may view sickness more in a spiritual context than a physical one. And being raised up as having more of a spiritual interpretation relative to His saving and raising us up to eventually be seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6). When Jesus healed people physically, He many times stated that in that healing process their sins were forgiven as well—which makes THAT eternal aspect the most important thing to God, not the temporal physical healing.
And all we are anticipating is for our relative or friend to be free of physical discomfort. Or to keep them living on this earth longer. Yet what if God has determined that His choicest will is to take them home? It says in Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
Healing is for a Sign
That is why personally, after many years of observing and contemplating this issue—now I firmly believe that God heals or performs a prayer miracle, primarily AS A SIGN—not with the objective to alleviate human suffering (many sincere Christians would disagree with this assessment). In other words, God heals a person or performs a spectacular miracle in an individual's life—as a BENCHMARK or reference point—primarily to show His power and to do a deeper work in their hearts and lives; something that deals with eternal issues and has eternal consequences.
God is looking at the big long range picture, while we are suffering and only seeking relief in the present tense. Yet the Bible states that even Jesus Himself had to learn obedience by the things He suffered in time (Heb 5:8). Before He went to the cross, the Father did not remove the cup of suffering. And we likewise have to pray "thy will be done." Yet this suffering was NECESSARY before our Lord could be glorified (and us as well).
"Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Pet 1:11).
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10).
The apostle Paul is a good example of this type of suffering. He prayed to be delivered from an intense physical discomfort, but God deliberately did not answer his prayer. At least in the way that he prayed.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor 12:7-10).
When the late Kathryn Kuhlman died, the headline across the Los Angeles Times had 2 inch high black letters that read, "KATHRYN KUHLMAN DEAD." She was that famous. All through the years of her ministry, she stated that one of the most frustrating things that she could never figure out or explain, is why certain people who came to her meetings, seeking healing with all of their heart and soul—they walked away with no result. While others who actually came to her services as unbelievers and to mock—walked out healed. From this harsh reality it is difficult to draw any conclusion that prayer is only answered because we can drum up so much faith. This confirms the fact that divine healing is a sovereign act of God, and He performs miracles primarily as a sign—both to believers and unbelievers. Miss Kuhlman died herself a very suffering and painful death with cancer.
A Practical Application
Let us look now at a really good illustration of how God many times answers prayer.
A mother, who is a dedicated Christian, has a wayward and rebellious son in his early twenties who has turned his back on God and refuses to follow in the steps of his Christian upbringing. The mother is heartbroken. More than anything else in the whole wide world, she wants to see her son saved and follow Christ. She prays about it every single day, crying out to God in great anticipation. But matters only get worse. The young man is now on drugs, is living with his girlfriend, and finally ends up in prison.
The years go by. The mother continues to pray with all her heart, but over time she becomes very discouraged because things simply don't change. What she does not know is that God has indeed heard the cry of her heart.
When the young man reaches 47 years of age the prayer is finally going to be answered. Something dramatic takes place and he falls to the ground in repentance and turns to God. His life is forever changed.
Now here is the point of this story. God, who inhabits eternity, knows that the son at age 47—the young man will finally become a Christian. But the mother does not know that fact. Twenty five years will go by before the answer finally comes. But after so many years of earnestly seeking, the mother becomes so discouraged that she hardly prays anymore, for God would have surely answered her prayer "by now." A short time thereafter when her son is 45 years old, the old mother dies heartbroken, believing that God had forsaken her.
This sort of experience is called the "trial of our faith." God loves the mother dearly and would never forsake her. It's just that she could not see God's master plan or God's timing. God is not the least bit frustrated by all this, because He looks down from heaven and sees the fact that at age 47 the fullness of time will arrive and it’s a "done deal." (God has actually arranged the "haphazard" circumstances and also been preparing the son's heart). But again, the dear mother has no knowledge of that fact. In her mind, God has been totally silent and uncaring.
How many Old Testament characters did God make great promises to (Abraham, David, Daniel), all who died without having any knowledge of how or when those promises would ever come to pass. They never lived to see the fulfillment. They never even knew a man named Jesus would eventually be born and fulfill the promises spoken to them. But we can now, in the 21st century, look back on all of it with clarity, while they had to believe and walk in blind faith (read Hebrews chapter 11).
While this is a hypothetical story of the mother and her son (no doubt many like it are true), what this situation teaches us, is that God will always answer prayer, especially for our immediate children or household (see Acts 16:31). There may even be some instances where God does not chose to save somebody that we have a real strong burden concerning (I'm sure there were Christians in Germany during WWII, praying for the salvation of Adolph Hitler, but I doubt he will be in heaven). But if we pray according to God's will, He will indeed hear us. And if our hearts are pure and our desires clean, the Lord will ALWAYS answer. But He will only do so in His own time and in His own way, and not always according to our interpretation or understanding of things.
"And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…" (Acts 1:7,8).
The key to understanding God's will, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When that happens, He will give us the confidence to believe and know that the answer will indeed be forthcoming.
Prayer and Angelfall
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jam 4:3).
Understanding the fall message and the entire scope of what is happening in this world, can really help us to understand how and why God answers prayer (or does not answer prayer). All of us are on this earth because of the rebellion. Most everything we do in life is for selfish reasons because of our fallen nature. The above verse in James talks about those who "ask amiss," so they can consume the answer to their prayers upon their own lustful desires (that does not necessarily mean things that are totally sinful). This explains why many prayers are not answered, even though we are praying for seemingly good and wholesome things.
It is incredibly easy for a person to be praying earnestly for some specific request, yet at the same time have PERSONAL reasons and motives. And God knows that the thing sought after is not the least bit conducive to Christian character. That is why He often ignores our pleas.
The Most Important Prayer
Yet there is one prayer that God will ALWAYS answer. It states in Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." What this verse emphasizes, is that we must be concerned and pray about God's affairs first. Everything else is AUTOMATICALLY added to that—this is a divine principle. Our heart should be 100% consumed with His kingdom. That is why our first prayer should always be for God's affairs and ministering to the Lord. He will always hear THAT prayer; but He will also hear the prayer that we have not uttered—that is, the prayer for our own affairs.
When we have experienced the sweet sensation of seeing the desires of our hearts fulfilled (perhaps not in the way we always ask, but in other ways), we will realize that the main reason for God answering us, is because we have allowed Christ to occupy first place in every area of our lives. That is something we can truly count on.
The Lord is indeed faithful.