Saturday morning, I woke up as a normally did, wandered into the kitchen, and had a bowl of cereal while reading the comics and my daily intake of advice columns. After a bit of time journaling and studying Hebrews, I headed into the bedroom and cut on my phone, which I’ve started turning off at night. Almost immediately, two things popped up, a voicemail from a friend of mine and a text from my pastor. Had I heard the news? After over three years in an Iranian prison, Saeed Abedini had been released. My husband and I sat on the couch, held hands, and thanked God that He’d heard our prayers.
Throughout all of this, I got to thinking. How does prayer work, and more importantly, does it work? Now I’m no theologian, so my thoughts are my own layman’s attempt at a very complex subject. I do believe that God hears prayers. Do we move Him in our prayers to act? Or is prayer more of an exercise to change us and not the mind of our Creator? My thought is some of both. There are instances in the Bible where people prayed fervently and God was moved. I’m thinking about Abraham and Moses. How many times did the Israelites rebel with the result being that God decided to destroy them? Only He changed His mind because Moses prayed. Of course, if that is only the case, then it would seem as if God were a weak God who moves pieces around on a chessboard to suit not His will but our wills. Thinking as such may lead to spiritual landmines.
I do believe that God answers prayers in three ways. “Wait.” How many times did those of us around the world praying for Saeed hear that answer? Or, it can be a “Yes” like what we experienced Saturday morning. Or, it can be a “No.” Recently, I wrote about my cousin, who passed away in August from an extended battle with breast cancer. I very vividly recall praying for her. Sometimes, those prayers were complex. Other times, they were simple, heartfelt cries from deep in my soul. “Lord, heal her!” Did He hear my prayers? I know He did. For reasons only known to Him, He chose not to heal her physically but instead brought her into eternal healing by releasing her soul from her body.
But God’s “No” glorified Him. How so? First off, my cousin touched probably hundreds of lives during her short 53 years on earth. She left her mark on many, many people, and most likely planted seeds in those who don’t know Christ as their Lord and Savior. God glorified Himself by changing those of us believers who knew her personally. He certainly changed me. Throughout this period when I prayed for her (three and a half years), I learned to trust God more. My fervent cries (“Lord, heal her!”) became calmer, more expectant. (“Lord, heal her. I know You can if You wish, but if that is not in Your will, glorify Yourself.”)
Do I miss my cousin? Of course! Do I wish God had healed her physically? You know I do. I wish we had many more years together. But through this ordeal and Saeed's imprisonment, I've come to realize how prayer is one of those mysteries that belongs to God and God alone. He uses all situations, like Saeed’s and my cousin’s, to glorify Himself.
And our role? Pray. Pray consistently. Pray with an air of expectation. And above all, learn to trust Him through prayer.
This post does not mention any products. Therefore, I am not receiving any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”