Saturday, 11 April 2009

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

#1: Some prayers are contradictory

I sat in pain today watching my football club (Newcastle United) play agonisingly badly against Stoke City. I am not an idiot; I realise my team will not conquer the Premier League in my lifetime, but the thought of their impending relegation is immensely frustrating.

At one stage, I remembered that our Lord is both sovereign & gracious, and in my desperation sent up a prayer for a much needed victory. As I did, the camera homed in on a Stoke supporter with hands clasped & eyes averted heavenward, clearly seeking God to deliver 3 vital points to his own team.

A trivial example perhaps, but faced with these two requests, how does the Lord react? Or what about the bride praying for sunshine on her wedding day, while the local farmer is on his knees desperately interceding for rain? What about the two unemployed people applying for the same job, in dire need of revenue for their family?

Whose prayers does God answer on such occasions? The most holy? The most desperate? The neediest? He who has pray-est the most?

While I believe that God is sympathetic to our daily needs, He rarely intervenes in the natural course of events. If He did, according to Greig, prayer would stop “being a powerful submission to the sovereign wisdom of God, and God Himself starts to look like a cosmic version of one of those bright, flashing pinball machines, frenetically flicking around train timetables, weather fronts, football scores & world markets at the behest of His creatures.”

Whilst it would suit me very nicely to control the world through prayer (especially when it comes to the fortunes of my football team or the outcomes of our youth ministry), it would probably not suit millions of others.

BUT (and it’s a bigger butt than that weird dancing girl on “Britain’s’ Got Talent”), that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother praying to God about the small things in our lives. Why?

1. It’s a privilege to be heard by God when we tell Him what’s troubling us (even if everyone else thinks it’s silly or unimportant). Conversation, especially about trivial things, marks any healthy relationship.

2. God sometimes surprises us by answering our little prayers in a supernatural way. Normally when that “little” prayer has major implications unseen to us.

3. Involving God in the tiny things in our lives opens our eyes to the hidden blessings that He lathers on us each day. People who only ask for BIG things, are only grateful when BIG prayers are answered & as a result live less grateful lives.

So keep praying on all occasions for all things great & small, but realise that if your request for sun, a free parking space or a sporting victory aren’t answered, it might be because someone else's prayer runs contrary to yours & their need is greater.

(Thoughts developed from Pete Greig’s “God on mute”)

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