Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
- Luke 18:1-8
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
I was at my computer writing when my alma mater won the College Baseball World Series in Omaha, NE. We do not get the television channel, so I was reduced to opening an internet tab that showed balls, strikes, outs, and the score. No matter how detailed this gets, it is mind-numbingly boring. But I would write a few paragraphs and then flip to the tab. But then Oklahoma, who had to win two games in a row, went ahead. I closed the tab. With my alma mater behind, why waste time and get distracted with my writing? But then the thought entered my mind that had entered my mind many times over the years of rooting for losing teams, “Was I a jinx?”
About an hour later, curiosity had the better of me and I reopened the tab to see Ole Miss ahead and only needing one out to win. I stayed until the screen said, “Game Over – Ole Miss 4, Oklahoma 2.”
I know, silly of me to think that, but many of us have superstitions. I had a wise teacher say that superstitions are a belief system. We spill salt. We then throw salt over our shoulder to avoid the bad luck. NO! We trust God whether we spill salt or not. Is not taking action based on something that “might be true” – otherwise, why would we do it? – is that not a form of worship? Worshiping something other than the true God?
But what of our persistent prayers? If we got busy and failed to pray for Dear Uncle Alfonse and he died that day, we did not kill him. When God “remembered” the Israelites in slavery in Egypt, He had not forgotten them before that point. It was simply God’s perfect timing to act upon it. Persistent prayers do not keep a loved one alive. We cannot say that life is 100% fatal, in that Enoch and Elijah were taken up, but some think that these two will be the witnesses that are killed in Revelation 11. If so, then life is 100% fatal.
Paul was given a thorn in his flesh that tormented him. He prayed three times and then God answered him. The answer was “no.” God wanted Paul to has weakness so that in Christ Alone could he be strong. We need to understand a couple of concepts with regard to intercessory prayer. 1) Praying every day for years on end may be required, but the nature of our prayer may indeed have to change. 2) At some point reality must set in and we must shift from “please heal” to “if healing is not in Your plan, Lord, help us work toward acceptance, strengthening through You, and moving forward with Praise and Thanksgiving.” And 3) knowing when to adjust our prayer requires wisdom, thus a prayer for ourselves and not in intercession.
When we pray for someone with a bad illness, there are a lot of results. They could fully recover, either through good medicine or a miracle. They could somewhat recover, a temporary remission that gives them full strength for a few more years. They could simply have a few good days every now and then. My wife has end stage kidney failure, and she is on dialysis. We often pray for a few good days every now and then. Or they could pass on. If they were believers, this is the ultimate healing. If they were not believers, we were praying for the wrong thing.
But I have heard pastors preach about how, when we pray, God may not change the situation in the way we are asking, but our prayer always changes us. If we pray the right way, when the outcome is not what we were praying for, are we prepared for the answer God gave?
Maybe those pastors are wrong in some cases. Maybe, for some of us, our response is, “God, I told You to heal Uncle Alfonse, but he died. You did not do as I told You to do! …” If so, maybe we need to pray a different prayer.
Lord, You are sovereign. I accept Your answer to my prayers, and I will pray that Your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.