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Archive for March, 2012

“God, please kill my parents!”

I was sixteen when I uttered that prayer in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was in the midst of my teenage rebellion and I hated my mother and stepfather, so when they drove off across town to visit friends, I asked God to kill them in a car accident!

Hours later when they returned, I was disappointed that God had not answered my prayer.

I was not a Christian then, but even Christians are sometimes disappointed in the ways in which God responds to prayers.

Our pastor recently shared a true story of a group of Christian women who, while on a retreat in the mountains, decided to hike to the top of a nearby peak during the afternoon. However, a fierce rain and lightning storm blew in suddenly while they were on the peak. Fearing that they would be struck by lightning, they prayed repeatedly that God would stop the lightning, but the lightning continued as they made their way back to the retreat center. They were greatly disappointed that God did not answer their prayers when their lives were in danger.

But another group of women was rejoicing at the center. They, too, had been caught in the storm and had been trapped in a river ravine where the rising waters of a flash flood threatened to sweep them away to their death. It was so dark that they prayed that God would show them a way to safety out of the ravine, and God answered their prayer by providing lightning that illuminated a path to safety!

To the women in the ravine, the series of lightning was an unexpected miraculous answer to prayer.

But God also answered the prayers of the women on the mountain peak, for although they prayed specifically for the lightning to stop, their real, unexpressed prayer was, “God, please don’t kill us on this mountain!” And God didn’t.

It’s been said that God always answers prayers—sometimes with a “yes,” sometimes with a “no,” and sometimes with a “not yet.” Obviously, God’s answer to me that day in Belfast was a definite “No!”

It was a “no,” because it was a prayer asking that harm be done to someone.

It was a “no” because it was being asked out of hate.

It was a “no” because it was being asked by a boy who did not understand who God is.

And it was a “no” because God wanted to give my parents and me time to one day discover how much he loved us and wanted to bless us with eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Less than a year later, I found forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ, and I soon began to pray for the salvation of my parents.

My prayers were answered fifty years later in August 2010, when I had the privilege of praying with my mother as she committed her life to Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, my prayers for my stepfather were not answered in the way I hoped, for he died seemingly rejecting Christ.

And the prayers of many others for the healing of loved ones, even for babies and children, have sometimes gone unanswered, leaving families and friends disappointed, bewildered, and angry at God.

Such disappointment is often intensified when those who prayed did so in faith (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24), in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14), and with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).

So how do we pray in a way that does not leave us disappointed?

Several passages have guided me over the years on how to pray, and the one thing that they have in common is the emphasis to pray for something if it is in line with God’s will, in harmony with God’s will, or if it is the will or purpose of God.

The first is Matthew 6:10 in which Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.”

The second is a pair of passages (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42) that describe the scene in which Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and he knew that he would be crucified the following day. He told his heavenly father that he did not want to go through with the crucifixion, but then added, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (New Living Translation, 2007, NLT)

The third is Romans 8:26-27 (NLT) where the apostle Paul, knowing how confused we can become about praying, tells us:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s will.

And recognizing that even when the answer is not to our liking (think of Jesus accepting his crucifixion), Paul assures us that “ . . . we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Verse 28)

The fourth passage is 1 John 5:13-14 (NLT), where the apostle John states:

I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.

Only when we are committed to truly seeking to live in line with God’s will and purpose—and not our own—will we not be disappointed in how God answers our prayers, for we know that whatever happens, God causes everything to work together for our good.

It’s then that we’ll be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will.

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