February 9, 2023 / by David Congdon
I’m writing this article on prayer not because I have prayer all figured out, but because I don’t. I have more questions than answers on the subject.
I’d like to tell you two stories. By contrasting these two stories, perhaps you’ll be compelled to ask the same question I have about prayer.
Story number 1
A few years after my dad passed away, I was at the bank. I was just making conversation with the tellers when one of the employees mentioned that she had a CD with a recording of her father’s voice. I told her I thought that was wonderful, that she should really treasure that CD, and that I wished I had a recording of my dad’s voice too.
I didn’t mean for that conversation to be a prayer, but God heard it! A few days later, I was at home searching for a postage stamp. I couldn’t find one, so I emptied out a basket in which we kept envelopes and cards. Just dumped it out on the kitchen table. At the bottom of the basket was a cassette. It was a recording of my dad’s voice. I realized that he must have left it there the one time he visited our Lexington house before he got sick. That was back in 2005.
The incident I’ve just described tells me several things about God.
God is always listening, even when we aren’t speaking directly to Him.
He has foreknowledge. He had prompted my dad to leave that cassette many years ago, knowing in advance when I would express a desire for it.
God’s timing is perfect.
God cares about the smallest things in our lives.
Story number 2
There is a situation about which I have prayed a thousand days in a row now. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. I have brought this situation to God relentlessly, like the widow who brought her petition before the judge over and over. (Luke 18:1-8)I have prayed about this matter passionately, like the man who begged for bread at midnight. (Luke 11:5-15) I know that the answer I seek is consistent with the stated will of God in His Word, but after a thousand days of prayer the answer seems no closer. Perhaps a tiny bit closer. I’m not sure.
So…my question about prayer is this: Why does God answer a prayer stated casually just the one time, and do so in a way that clearly demonstrates His power and love, but withhold the answer to a prayer repeated relentlessly for over a thousand days? Are the things I said about God in the first instance not true in the second?
I’ll end my article as I began…I admit to not having prayer all figured out. Despite my best effort at a theory on the free will of man and the sovereignty of God, I admit that unanswered prayer prayed in accord with the stated will of God is a mystery. Despite what I don’t know, there are a few things that I do know…God is good, and He invites me to pray. So, though my intercessory prayer goes unanswered, I’ll commit to another thousand days. And another after that…
David serves on the Safe/Secure Team at East White Oak. He spent 17 years living and working in Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America. He runs a small security consulting firm, operates a guest house, and helps out at the Johnson/Jacobs farm partnership. His wife, KC, is a conductor. (On stage, not on a train.) David and KC do not have any children of their own, but have had the great privilege of acquiring three daughters, Catie, Trisha, and Kendall. They suspect these children were dropped off by Amazon.
February OakLeaf Articles:
Prayer as Fellowship with God by Pastor Scott Boerckel
Prayer in Children’s Ministry by the Children’s Ministry Team
Engaging Your Neighbors Through Prayer by Pastor Justin Waples
Prayer for Your Pastors by Richard Verdery
Prayer in Moments of Crisis by Jeff Fritzen
Praying for Prodigals by Jeoff Jenkins
Prayer as Worship by Meg White
Prayer for Refreshing Our Building and our Hearts by Dave Rowden
Praying in Jesus’ Name by Dr. Jeff VanGoethem
Resources for Your Prayer Journey by Monica Ball
Prayer Questions and Conundrums by David Congdon