People are always asking me, “Kristy, how did you ever wind up with a fortress made of cotton candy and an unstoppable mammoth army?”
It’s pretty simple, really. I prayed for those things.
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Matthew 21:22 (ESV)
“He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 (ESV)
Jesus said if I have faith even as small as a mustard seed, I could drown mountains. Cotton candy and mammoths are nothing compared to that. Besides, my faith is way bigger than a mustard seed. It’s at least as big as a sunflower seed. So, I could probably flatten entire mountain ranges (which I might actually do because I hate it when I’m driving through mountains and my ears pop.)
Oh, wait. Would my prayer to eliminate all mountains cause problems for pretty much every form of life that calls those mountains home?
What if someone else with epic sunflower seed faith was praying for more mountains at the same time I was on a murderous mountain killing rampage? Would our prayer energy cancel each other out in some sort of Harry Potter / Voldemort prayer duel?
Or, maybe prayer just doesn’t work like that. Maybe we don’t get anything we ask for just because we really, really believe we’ll get it.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7 (ESV)
If we abide in Jesus and his words abide in us, wouldn’t our wishes be in synch with Jesus? Would Jesus pray for an unstoppable mammoth army? (I guess he might if he knew how cool it’d look, but probably not.) What else would Jesus not pray for?
OK, so maybe Jesus wouldn’t care about popping ears or cotton candy. But, surely when we pray for healing we’re praying in harmony with Jesus.
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:15-16 (ESV)
So, we’re cool as long as we’re righteous and have faith coming out our ears, right?
Have you ever prayed for someone to be healed? I don’t mean “healed” of a cold that would have cleared up in a few days anyway. I’m talking about serious, maybe even life-threatening illnesses.
We all know these prayers often go unanswered. So, what’s the deal? Were you not righteous enough to pull it off? Were you lacking faith? Was the person who was sick hiding some sin in their life that negated your prayers?
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV)
Would you say Paul was an unrighteous man? Would you say that Paul, who had so much faith he was killed for it, could have used just a touch more? He asked three times for this thorn to be removed from him, but he was denied each time. If God was going to take away anyone’s affliction, I’d think it would have been Paul’s.
Well, of course I’d think that. I’m a short-sighted, self-centered human. That’s how we think.
Maybe Paul’s prayer went unanswered so he’d write those words to the church in Corinth. Those words would later be added to the Biblical canon. Generations of people have read or heard those words, and hopefully they’ve learned we shouldn’t blame unanswered prayers on a lack of faith or hidden sin.
Maybe God doesn’t answer some prayers because there’s some higher purpose. Maybe not. We just don’t know.
And it’s OK not to know. We miss that so much, so I’m going to repeat myself here.
It’s OK not to know why God doesn’t answer prayers.
Am I more all-knowing than the all-knowing? I can’t even figure out how half the functions on my microwave work, but I think I know which prayers should be answered and which should be left unfulfilled?
Isn’t that what we tend to do? Don’t we really pray “my will be done”?
I don’t mean to be insensitive. I know what it’s like to see people you love suffering, and I’ve had a few tastes of suffering myself. Of course I prayed about both… and my prayers went unanswered.
Do you think God was ignoring me? Or that he just doesn’t like me very much? Maybe you skipped over a good chunk of this post and you’re thinking I was just an unrepentant Sinny McSinface.
I think we often look at prayer all wrong. It’s not always about petitioning God for what we want. It’s about communicating with God. It’s a channel to the divine.
It’s not that God doesn’t care about or understand our suffering. Come on. Who could understand suffering better than Jesus? Have you hung on a cross lately?
Sometimes prayer is about sharing ourselves with God. What we’re afraid of. What we hope for. What hurts us.
I think it’s OK to ask God for specific requests as long as we remember God doesn’t owe us any of the things we ask for. It’s OK to pray for someone to be healed as long as we remember even righteous people don’t always get what they ask for.
But, it’s probably not OK to pray for a mammoth army. I’m pretty sure God would draw the line there.