If I prayed and asked God to do something, can I rightfully claim that He isn’t good, or isn’t able or it's not His will if He doesn’t do it when I ask? If I asked you to do something for me this week and you didn’t do it, would that automatically mean you aren’t a good person, or you’re weak and useless, or that you just don't want to?
How often do we make judgements about God based upon our expectations of what is right, or reasonable or needed?
Many Christian’s in affluent nations struggle with the conflict between the truth of God’s love and the reality of their seemingly unanswered prayers. I think it often has a lot to do with the conditioning we’re raised with in our ‘consumer focussed’ society. We expect that when we place an order, we should receive the goods the way we want, when we want and with the least amount of cost and effort. Do we possibly pray with an expectation that God is a heavenly warehouse manager just waiting to dispatch our orders according to our customer preference? Christians in many poorer or oppressed nations have great trust and love for God, despite their lack of resources or comfort. They see comfort, security and grace in the person of God, rather than in things or circumstances.
But if you love God and serve Him, what do you do about unanswered prayers and unmet expectations? What do you do when you prayed, and you didn’t get the results the way you thought you would?
In the gospel of Mark 5:25, we read of a lady in miserable circumstances. She had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. To be clear, she had a 12 year period! And this lady had spent all she had over those 12 years getting the very best help and medical expertise – only to get worse. One can only imagine the number of times she had prayed and hoped and grieved in the reality of her relentless disappointment.
But this woman didn’t reject faith, she embraced it. She allowed her disappointment to become fuel for her desperation. When she heard reports of a visiting Rabbi who had great success in healing people, her years of disappointment could’ve left her bitter, cynical and reactive: “I’ve heard it all before! You promise results but it’s just a hollow show – smoke and mirrors!” This woman’s faith surprises me. I don’t know if I could hold much hope for a problem I’ve struggled to overcome for 12 years…especially after the empty help of so many ‘experts’. But this woman’s faith was DETERMINED! When Jesus arrived in town, He was so popular that ‘the crowds almost crushed Him’ (Luke 8:42). It looked impossible for her to get close to Jesus, let alone have a quiet, private conversation about her personal health condition.
But somehow, this woman’s faith-fuelled desperation drove her to push herself through the crowd. Imagine the scene – it was so intense and mob-like that the woman had to push just to reach the edge of His clothes! But such was the desperation and persistence of her relentless faith, that as soon as she touched Jesus’ clothes, she was instantly healed. The bleeding of 12 years had finally stopped… Jesus, although being touched and crushed by the crowd, recognised this small contact because of the power that flowed through him to the woman. He declared ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’
An amazing story of tenacious faith and the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
But let’s remember: God hasn’t changed. Jesus is glorified and He promised that whoever believes in Him will do the works He did, and they will do even greater works because He was going to His Father. Why then do so many churches either reject or avoid Jesus’ teaching and commands on this topic?
Jesus sent His Spirit to ‘clothe’ us with power for our journey. Surely He expected that our faith would only grow with time and our prayers for healing and power increase with relentless intensity. He said ‘all things are possible’ for those who believe. The problem isn’t with God’s goodness, will or ability. Our issue isn’t even whether we pray – nearly all of us will pray and ask for powerful intervention from God in desperate situations.
Our challenge is, how long will we pray for…without giving up.
In Luke 18 it says, ‘Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up’.
Never doubt Jesus’ will and commitment to heal. He paid for it in blood: His body was beaten and whipped so that you would be healed. But there is a kingdom of darkness that is constantly warring and in opposition to you ever receiving the grace and power God has sent in response to your first prayer. (Daniel 10:12 & Eph’ 6:11-13). Don’t ever forget that you’re in a battle, not to win God’s grace or love – He’s already given it all. But to push through the spiritual opposition and take hold of all that Jesus purchased for you, through His body and blood. He promises to reward those who earnestly seek him.
Like the lady who still had faith after 12 years of disappointment: results are often the reward of the relentless.
And one more piece of good news…. Your prayers have ‘compounding interest’! That is, the more you pray, the more those prayers gather and grow in power – and they never lose value. Even when a praying warrior dies, their prayers continue to have affect. They live on, gathering interest in heaven, yielding results on earth and providing a legacy for those still to come.
Never give up based upon what you haven’t yet seen. Pray and keep praying - relentlessly - for all that God’s Word promises. Results, reward the relentless.