February 25, 2007

Praying and missing the answer

A few days ago I was thinking about how odd God’s faith is, and how we believe totally that He can do what we ask, yet the answer seems so impossible that part of me (no doubt my old sin nature) simply says, “Nonsense.”

That happened when Peter was put in prison. The story is in Acts 12. The church was in constant, earnest prayer and knew God could rescue him. He did. An angel opened the dungeon door, Peter’s chains fell off, and he walked out of the prison gate “that opened to them of its own accord.”

Peter then went to the house where the church was gathered in prayer for him and knocked at the door. A girl named Rhoda came to answer. Then, “when she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.”

At that, those inside said she had to be “beside herself” or that this must be “his angel” (a Jewish superstition that each person has a guardian angel that can appear like the person). They were praying, no doubt believing in the power of God, but when the answer actually happened, Peter had to keep knocking before someone finally opened the door. When they saw him, “they were astonished.”

Most of us chuckle at this story, but it holds a valuable truth that should not be taken lightly. When I pray, God does answer, but I often do not recognize the answer, and sometimes I don’t even remember my prayer request.

In the back of my mind I’m thinking a few months ago I asked the Lord to help me be more humbly dependent upon Him. This is a dangerous prayer, and I knew that at the time, but when the events of our lives started their drastic turn, I didn’t connect the dots.

My husband was diagnosed with CLL, a chronic form of blood cancer. Our granddaughter came to live with us and after six months of ‘she has this’ or ‘she has that’ the bottom line is that she is demonically oppressed, filled with hatred for those who love her the most, and doing things that cannot be explained by any other reasons.

The leukemia makes us realize that we can only live ‘one day at a time.’ The oppression verifies that apart from Christ, we are absolutely helpless. He can deliver us from all of this, but then there is my prayer request.

God wants me to at least be more like Rhoda and less like the folks inside the house. I must recognize the answer to my prayers, and be overcome with joy, even if I’m not too quick to open the door and welcome this answer into my life.

God’s response to my request isn’t what I expected (I’m not sure what I expected), but it is as real an answer as Peter standing at the door. To bring me to a greater spiritual maturity, God sent me two whopping trials, and He expects me to respond with the same joy as Rhoda.

He says so in James 1: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

My answer came knocking, then pushed the door down and walked into my life. I’ve felt invaded, not joyful, but realize that this is His answer nonetheless, and while I cannot be gleeful over the difficulties this is causing others in my life, God says it is possible to be glad that He is doing exactly what I asked.

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