967. Yes, No, or Not Now?

Our understand of how God answers our prayers reveals how well we know Him

IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING

At some point, we’ve all heard someone claim that God answers our prayers in one of three ways—“Yes”, “No,” or “Not now.” While this can be true, it presents God as the genie in our magic lamp who is obligated to grant our wishes. It implies that prayer is a one-way communication in which God’s job is to listen to us as we tell him what we want.

We adopt this “model” because it’s easy and because we know neither God nor what He wants from us, which is an intimate relationship in which we carry our regular two-way conversations. This requires that we learn to listen to Him. He wants us to enjoy His presence, and sometimes that means just sitting or walking quietly and silently with Him. This is much harder because it forces us to be still and listen.

This also requires that we learn to recognize His voice. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and will follow only Him. That doesn’t sound optional to me. We are expected to be so tuned in to Him that we hear and respond every time He speaks. How we learn to recognize His voice is a subject for another day. For now, let’s just focus on expanding our understanding of a “meaningful and effective prayer life.

When Jesus answered His disciples’ questions, He often seemed to have forgotten what the question was since His answer didn’t even remotely answer the question. In these cases, Jesus is often answering the question they should have asked. At other times, both Jesus and His Father answered the question by providing a fresh encounter with Himself, which was the real need.

We find this played our over and over throughout Scripture. In a time of political turmoil, the prophet Isaiah inquired of God regarding a smooth governmental transition. God answered his request by giving the prophet a glimpse into heaven’s throne room (Isaiah 6:1-4).

When Moses had had enough of the grumbling and complaining of the people in the wilderness, both he and Aaron entered the tent of meeting and fell on their faces before the Lord. It appeared that Moses wasn’t getting up until he had heard from God (Numbers 20:6). Moses had come to the end of his resources. If God didn’t respond, all would be lost. In response to Moses’ fervent posture and pleading, God granted Moses something far greater than an answer to his problems. God gave Moses Himself.

AS I SEE IT

Moses needed a fresh encounter with God. When His glory fell, Moses was reminded that God was greater than all his problems. The same is true for us. We can become so consumed (and stresses out) with our perceived problems that we take our eyes off the goal—Christ Himself. That’s where He is taking us—to Himself. That’s what the trials are all about—to conform us into His image.

We get so taken up with the doing that we begin to think that a job well done is the goal. We forget that our serving should flow out of our intimate relationship with our Lord. We get it backward. We focus so much on the doing (masquerading as service) that we can easily love our ministries more than we love our Lord.

Our prayer life is a good indicator of the depth of our relationship with God. If we limit His responses to “Yes,” “No,” or “Not now,” we will never advance beyond a superficial relationship characterized by an attitude of What can you do for me today? God desires a deeper relationship with us. Be aware that God may very well answer our questions with a fresh encounter of Himself. What more could we possibly desire?

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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE

These notices actually appeared in church bulletins:

– The Priest will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing “Break Forth into Joy.”

– Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

– A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

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