Like many other Christ followers, I spend a good deal of time in prayer on a regular basis. This includes seeking forgiveness, drawing near to God, asking God to search my heart and show me how I need to change, and seeking the strength and courage to change as he leads. I also bring concerns and specific requests on behalf of many before him. With regard to requests, this week I’ve been crying out to God in prayer on behalf of two situations. One involves a close friend’s mother who’s struggling in the hospital. The other concerns the marriage of two people whom I love. I’m also praying for the people of Afghanistan as they face intense challenges.
Sometimes when we pray we see almost immediate and miraculous answers. At other times we don’t. In fact, there are times when it seems that our prayers are not even heard because we don’t see any change. This should not be surprising. God tells us clearly in Scripture that we will all face very challenging times. The world is a messy place that’s subject to sin and decay. There will be heartbreaking things that take place in our lives and that will bring us anguish and pain. That’s simply the nature of the world in which we live.
It’s easy to trust God when things are going great and our prayers are answered in amazing ways. Yet, it’s when we face pain, loss, and disappointment that we need to trust in God the most. It’s at such times we need to remember that God sees things very differently than we see them.
The images above show the same place on earth from three different perspectives. Our house is home to just two people. The population of the State of Florida is approaching 23 million individuals. And as of 2021, it’s estimated that the earth is home to almost eight billion people. Whereas we see only our immediate surroundings, God sees everything. He knows each one of these people at the deepest level, and yet he also sees us as individuals.
As I lay on my bed or sit in my chair to pray, God sees me, is with me, and hears me pray. I know this because of the many promises God makes to Christ followers in his word. Among them are Hebrews 13:5. This verse is a quote from Deuteronomy 31:6 stating that God will never leave or forsake those who love him.
With regard to hearing the prayers of those who trust in Jesus for salvation and whose sins have been forgiven, 1 Peter 3:12 (ESV) states:
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Finally, we also have the time-tested promise of God found in Romans 8:26-28 (NIV):
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Yes, God hears the prayers of Christ followers, of those who trust Jesus for salivation and trust in God for what is to come. Yet as we pray, God hears and sees so much more. He sees the situation that’s playing out under the roof of our home, or among those dear to us as we pray. He also sees what’s happening to all those in Florida, and all those on earth. Finally, God is not limited by time as we are. He sees the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Whether or not our prayers are answered as we would wish, or when we wish, we need to trust that God sees the bigger picture. There have been many times in my life when I fervently prayed for something, and was disappointed when my prayer seemingly went unanswered. As I look back now, I understand how that request being answered as I desired may have ended in disaster.
The fact is, God does answer the prayer of those who love him in Christ. The answer may be yes. It may also be not now, or no. But trusting in God includes trusting that he knows what’s best for us and for those we dearly love. I suspect that when we reach heaven we will understand what we don’t understand now. We don’t understand now because our perspective is very limited. Yet even if we don’t understand everything later, taking God at his word and believing that he knows what’s best is at the very heart of trusting him.
Jesus serves as our model for all things. In perhaps his most desperate moment on earth, when he was about to be killed and separated from God in payment for our sin, Jesus cried out in anguished prayer. As recorded in Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed:
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
In other words, Jesus was asking God if it would be possible for him to forgo the death by crucifixion that he knew he would suffer. Yet even in this prayer, Jesus submitted his own will to God the Father.
It’s important for us to pray as Jesus did. As we cry out, and share the burdens of our heart or specific requests to God, we would do well to follow the example of Jesus by saying, “My Father in heaven, not my will, but yours be done.”
Even as I cry out to God in prayer on behalf of my friend’s mother and the marriage of a couple who is dear to me, I seek to follow the example of Jesus by expressing my request for a quick recovery to health, and the restoration of a marriage, and then say, “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” In doing so we acknowledge that God’s view is above our own, and that his ways are far better than anything we can imagine.
Disappointment in life and in answers to prayer are among the things that drive some away from trusting God. May we have the strength and faith to trust Him even when it’s difficult, and even when we don’t understand. Lord, help us to trust in you no matter what. Help us to know in our heart and soul that you hear us, see us, are with us, and that you always act for our best and for the best of those whom we love. Amen!