As hinted at in yesterday’s brief bloggage, I want to reflect a little more on how God answers prayer. Let me say right at the outset that I believe he does answer prayer. And yes there are three main ways he answers:
There is much that could be said in that, and it is a very simplistic analysis of how God answers prayer, but if you think of those as being vast lakes there is much to be explored on the surface, under the surface and around the edges of each of them.
However yesterday I mentioned that I had received good news and that lots of people had been praying that a committee would make the decision they did with the outcome that they did. This leads me to ponder what happened spiritually:
a. They were unaffected and uninfluenced by God – it was simply that they reached a conclusion that I liked. The prayers made no difference.
b. God over-ruled their minds and wills and got them to reach that conclusion in answer to the prayers. The prayers made all the difference.
c. God helped them to think clearly and see all the evidence and reach a fair and just conclusion on the basis of that, which happened to be what I was hoping for. The prayers helped.
d. Variations on those possibilities.
My belief is that c. (or a variation on it) happened. I knew the outcome I wanted, and I prayed that this might be the outcome. But I can’t believe either that the prayers did not matter, nor that they were so influential that God forced people to reach that decision. If it’s the former, then prayer does not matter and we are wasting our time, yet I know from my own life that prayer does make a difference. If it’s the latter then God is showing favouritism, is willing to ignore some people’s free will to benefit others, and I don’t see that in the Bible. So that leaves me with c.
While I (and others) were praying for a particular outcome, I found that as the committee meeting got nearer I could not pray that God would make them give me what I wanted, for the reasons outlined above. Instead I was praying that they would give my case a fair hearing, that they would be given wisdom in how to respond, that they would use their intellect and compassion honestly, that others would not be disadvantaged because a decision to fund an operation for me meant that funds were unavailable for others… and grace for me to accept whatever decision they made.
I think there’s a lot of truth in this clip from Evan Almighty… (Morgan Freeman is God in this wonderful film)
I believe that those prayers were answered, and it reminded me that persistent prayer often enables God to shape our prayers to be in line with his will.
I think this enables us to help God as we pray. There are some prayers God can’t answer. If two or more Olympic athletes pray that they will win at least one of them will be disappointed. But if they pray that they will perform to their best and offer their performance as an act of worship to God, then all the prayers can be answered positively. Perhaps we need to pray first that God will show us what to pray!
Be blessed, be a blessing.