Dear Fellow Children of God,
Does God REALLY answer prayer?
That is a question we asked our 11 middle school students last Friday night at our Confirmation Retreat on prayer. We had read through Luke 11:1-13 in our first devotion of the evening and we were discussing that Bible reading.
In Luke 11 we had read, “9 So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10) After reading those verses it is natural to ask the question, “Does God really answer prayer?”
What kind of answers do you think we got? Well, these were middle school students, some 6th graders, some 7th grade students, and some from the 8th grade. We got the kind of answers you might expect from students in that age group. There were blank stares. Some seemed embarrassed to answer. Others looked like they wanted to be doing something else. But, the question still hung in the air, “Does God really answer prayer?”
I looked around the room at these students. Only about a third of our students attended the retreat, but this smaller number gave us an opportunity to get more personal about faith issues. And, this small group gave the opportunity for what happened next.
As I looked around the room I realized that I had prayed for most, no actually, I had gone to our Heavenly Father in prayer for all of the families of these 11 students, even for the family of the guest who was attending. So I told them, “I’ve prayed for the families of each one of you, and I’ve seen God answer.” This sort of got their attention. “What do you mean?” I was asked.
“Well,” I replied to one student who didn’t know his family had been prayed for, “I prayed for your family at the deaths of your family members. God has given comfort.” I pointed out that I had prayed for the families of the some students in times of health issues. I had prayed for others in times of family stress, in times of job issues, and even in times of cancer scares. They asked me and I was able to remind them of difficult times their family had faced. Some of these difficulties had been forgotten because they were now in the past. In some cases the students remembered the concerns vividly. In some of the situations God’s answers to the prayers can only be considered to be the amazing grace of God. We might even say God worked miracles!
Then, something happened. The room got quiet. Only, now this was not a quiet of indifference or blank stares. There was a quiet of wonder and awe as the students considered that God could actually have been acting in their lives in answer to prayer. This moment of silence changed the mood of our whole retreat, and this moment of silence touched my heart as well.
Then, on Tuesday night I shared this experience with the men in our Promise Keepers group. One of our men jumped in. “Do you remember when I asked you to pray for my son because he had been laid off?” We did remember. This man continued, “Well, he got called back to work this week. He said he guessed he was lucky. But, I told him, ‘No, it was not luck. The men in our church prayed for you. Others are still being laid off and you got hired back. That’s not luck. It’s the grace of God.’” Another man in our group also shared a similar story about a neighbor we had prayed for who was now employed again. When I shared these stories another member told me how God had provided new opportunities after we had prayed for help with some issues of stress. This week has seemed to be an overwhelming week of God answering prayer, or at least a week when St. John members and friends are realizing the answers to prayer that God has been giving.
I want to share some clear thinking here, however. I have heard people say, “Prayer changes things.” I agree, but. . . I don’t like that choice of words. That points to the specific prayer, or even the one praying. I believe Jesus gives a different emphasis in Scripture to this truth about prayer. A better way to speak this truth of God’s love is to affirm, “GOD answers prayer.” answers prayer.” Jesus assures us time and again that our Heavenly Father acts in love when people come to Him in faith and prayer. We don’t trust so much in the prayer, but in the Lord who answers our prayers.
But, we should not be surprised. God has shown greater love for us than even answer to prayer. In Romans 8:31-32 God tells us through St. Paul, “31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
God has given His own Son, in love, to save willful sinners like us. If God has acted in such unbelievable love, yes He takes care of us in other areas too. So, the answer to the question, “Does God REALLY answer prayer?” is simple. God always answers. We may not always see or realize what God is doing. He may not always answer in the manner we ask. But when we pray, God answers in His wisdom, His love, and His mercy.
Lord, teach us to pray. And Lord, help us in faith to see your loving answers. Amen.
A Child of God, Learning More and More to Trust our Loving Heavenly Father,
P.S. Here are some pictures from the Confirmation Retreat. https://picasaweb.google.com/114993745799525883148/ConfirmationRetreat2016
P.P.S. Here are pictures we took of Kathy’s repaired feet! https://picasaweb.google.com/114993745799525883148/KathySFootXRays2222016
P.P.P.S. After taking my wife to the doctor on Monday, I took my daughter fishing. Here are a couple of pictures. Mary wants you to know “she caught the biggest fish!”
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.