Monday, March 21, 2016

"Unanswered" Prayers

March 21, 2016

"Beware what you ask for; you might get it!" It's a familiar warning, and so very true. In 2 Kings 20, King Hezekiah came down with an illness so life-threatening that he was advised to get his affairs in order. So what does the king do? He pouts like a spoiled child, turning his back to his attendants and comforters as he bargains with God, claiming that he should be spared because he had been so faithful a servant. As if God owed him! Surprisingly, God responded to his whining, telling him that he would give him fifteen more years of life. Good deal, right? For Hezekiah, yes; for the nation, not so much. Three years into his respite, a son was born to him, which while it was no doubt an occasion for joy in that he now had a successor, that successor was Manasseh, widely regarded as the worst of Judah's kings. Renowned for the evil he brought upon the nation, it was his reign that was the final straw. God was so disgusted with Manasseh's evil, he declared that he was "going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of  everyone who hears it will tingle," and that he would "wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down" (2 Kings 21:12 & 13). It was a point of no return leading to the exile and destruction of the nation.

We pray for all sorts of things, particularly for healing for so many friends who have been afflicted with all sorts of illnesses or other life challenges. We pray for our nation and its leaders. We pray for wisdom for decisions we must make, and ask forgiveness for mistakes made. Often when praying, I come to a disturbing realization that I don't really know what to pray for. What seems logical to me, even what to me seems clearly to be God's will, often turns out not always to be such. That doesn't mean I stop praying for healing of broken bodies and broken relationships; they are still often the main subject of my prayers. I pray also for wisdom, but realize too, that though God promises wisdom to those who ask for it, I don't always recognize it when it comes. It makes for a little more humility, which isn't a bad thing. I am grateful for answered prayer, and particularly for those prayers where God's answer was, "No." They weren't easy times, but they were necessary for me to become the man God intended me to be. If I am to more fully reflect the image of Christ to the world, it will be as much through answered prayers answered with a "no" as those answered with a "yes."

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