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Solid Food, Part 3 – When the Answer Is No

May 23, 2012

All of us have experienced prayers denied. How is this to be reconciled with Jesus’ promise, “ ‘[A]sk, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened for you’ ”? (Luke 11: 9). Doesn’t belief in God guarantee us our legitimate desires? Well, not exactly.

  • The first Jewish temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Babylonian Captivity lasted 70 years, and began the Jewish diaspora.
  • The second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus still stands in Rome portraying the enslaved Jews and booty from the sack of the temple. Archaeological evidence supports a conclusion that temple treasure funded the building of the Roman Colosseum.
  • Devout Christians throughout history have been persecuted and martyred.
  • Injustice persists to the present day. Any attorney, anywhere, has come in contact with it.

On the surface, these events would appear to contradict the promise of answered prayer. Jesus, Himself, in the garden of Gethsemane asked that the cup be taken away. “He …fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’ ” (Matt. 26: 39).

Those last eight words are key. God’s will is always paramount. That is not merely a reflection of His supreme power, but His supreme righteousness. And God’s purposes may not be our own.

We may, for instance, desire success – an entirely acceptable goal. But success for Christians is not measured in worldly terms, by dollars in a bank or numbers of readers. We were created to know, love, and serve an all holy God. Success in that endeavor is measured by the quality of our faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13: 13) – in other words, by degree of sanctification.

Sanctification is the progressive maturation by which the Holy Spirit shapes us to become holier and more Christlike. Suffering is an essential tool in the process.

If we have a sense of justice, it is derived from God. His knowledge of past, present, and future allows for perfect justice on a scale we cannot imagine. In the near term, however, we battle injustice. Indeed, it is a part of His plan that we were called to the law to do that.

Of course, inequity is not limited to the courtroom. Some are born into poverty; some into wealth.  Some endure lifelong disability; others are rarely ill in their lives. Some are exposed to the ravages of war at an early age; others are never called upon to defend their country. God alone knows each one’s heart.

Psalm 23 can be read as the author’s testament to answered prayer. It alludes to conditions beyond the control of the author, but not outside the control of God:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures…He restores my soulYea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23: 1-6).

We may long for pleasant lives, from time to time. But God knows the circumstances for which He made us. Let us pray that His will for our lives be fulfilled…one more morsel of what Paul would call solid food (Heb. 5: 13-14).

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed.com

2 Comments
  1. Very nicely articulated Anna. I would only add that when God tells us “NO”,it is almost always for reasons that unseen though they may be,it is for our own benefit. Doesn’t make it any easier to accept though,does it? Sort of like telling the kids”this is for your own good”. 🙂

    • Thank you, Ron. That’s a principle I wrestle with, myself. It is easy enough to grasp when the object of our desire is something excessively material. We need not all own Burmese rubies or live in McMansions. When the object is something more vital — the life of a child, for example — submission to His will is much more difficult.

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