I have a close family member dying of cancer. He’s way too young. Thousands have prayed for him but he likely won’t live more than a few days from this writing. Friends have prayed for years for more rain in Texas. Christians from all over the city of Austin prayed together last May for rain and only recently has there been precipitation of any substance.
Of course I believe prayer works . . . sometimes. By “works” I mean that we get our desired outcome. Our family has seen bunches of miraculous acts of God over the years where He did more than we could ask or think. I am confident that as Scripture suggests our prayers both individually and corporately matter. I hope my friends in Austin get rain, that others I know with illnesses are healed and that friends I pray will change from their destructive ways will get turned around We should never quit praying just because we don’t always get the answers we want.
However, we must also do the appropriate teaching about prayer that will help us understand what I call the parameters of prayer. We must seek from God as well the best reasons we can find that will at least help explain why God doesn't respond as we desire at least some of the time. Why do we pray for rain along with thousands of others and God not give it to us?
Why even ask God for some things if He's going to seemingly ignore us or wait for years to respond.
Why would a cherished love one lose his life while another get to keep hers even when their diagnoses were pretty much the same? The just have faith proponents often forget to talk about the other times when God doesn’t seem to come through. And when we’re parents it’s even more important to admit, wonder and then at least try to understand a God who is not merely a cosmic vending machine or happy-go-lucky grandfather who just gives us everything we want when we want it.
Of course, one blog post isn’t going to be able to cover a topic so vast nor will we ever be able to figure out the whys of God. But I do know that the Gospel of John, for example, suggests pretty clearly that we can ask for whatever we will and one or all of three things must happen. Our prayers must give God glory, bring us joy and bear the most fruit. Check it out in chapters fourteen through sixteen. Seems to me that would be worth some family study along with some pastoral explanations from time to time.
I also know that the Scriptures over and over suggest that prayer is actually a conversation with God not merely our time to make requests of Him. Prayer often opens the door for us to get in line with what God knows best. Wouldn't it be helpful to talk about that?
Maybe some teaching in our homes and churches is in order as we seek out God’s plan and will for our homes, churches, cities and country. It won’t require a degree in theology to do so. But perhaps we can encourage our teachers and pastors to work together with us to wrestle with more of the hard questions and do less promising that God will always listen to us if we just say it enough or get enough people to agree with us.
As parents lets take the lead instructing, modeling and yes even wondering what God is up to as we pray together. Somehow I have a feeling that will draw us together in ways we didn’t know were possible.