Last week our small group was looking at how Elijah prayed for rain after a three-year drought (1 Kings 18:41-46). It reminded us that someone the Bible describes as “being human just like us” (Jas.5:17 Message Version) can, when living right with God, see mighty answers to prayer.
That made us think about the answers we had received, or more worryingly had not received, to the prayers we had prayed even when praying about what seems to us a really serious issue. I remembered something that Bill Hybels quoted when writing about answers to prayer. He said, God has several possible answers to our prayers; - NO, SLOW, GROW, GO.
If the request is wrong, God says, “NO” like the time the mother of disciples James and John asked Jesus that they might sit either side of him in heaven (Matt.20:20-23).
If the timing is wrong, God says “SLOW” – as when the disciples gathered around the risen Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts.1:6-8).
If you are wrong, God says “GROW” – as when Paul prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed and God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2.Cor.12:9).”
If the request, the timing and the person are ALL RIGHT – God says “GO!” And Elijah did indeed go, very rapidly, before the rains for which he had prayed washed everything away. He was truly someone who prevailed in prayer.
Yet still we struggle with things that do not work out as we hoped. Particularly when that involves suffering. To quote C. S. Lewis The Problem of Pain: “If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures (us!) perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, he would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.” How would you answer this if your ‘not-yet’ Christian friend asked you?
Why not plan to come this evening when our visiting speaker, Revd. James Kennedy will be addressing the huge subject of pain and suffering in our apologetics series?