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December 2007

Does God Always Answer Prayer? - 3

A little girl was running late for Bible class and as she ran she prayed, "Dear Lord, please don't let me be late!" All of a sudden she tripped and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off and started running and praying again, "Dear Lord please don't let me be late, but don't push me either!"

Today is our third part on prayer, and we are looking at when God says "NO". In 2 Corinthians 12, the great apostle Paul tells us that he was given a thorn in the flesh, which most think was poor eyesight. Paul prayed three times to have this thorn removed and three times God said no. Interestingly, God gives Paul insight as to why He said no.

First insight: In verse 7 Paul writes, "The thorn was given me to keep me humble because of the great revelations that God has given me," which we can read about in the previous verses.

Second insight: God told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."

In this verse lies one of the most profound truths that every Christian needs to learn. God says, "My grace is sufficient to sustain and hold you steady in your affliction." God is saying that more will be accomplished for His kingdom by Paul with his affliction plus God's perfect power, than will be accomplished by Paul and no affliction.

This is not an easy lesson to learn or to accept, but when we couple it with Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4:17 it becomes more palatable:

"For our light affliction or momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is unseen is eternal."

Until eternity begins, we have to live by faith and not by sight.

As I said a moment ago, this is not an easy lesson to learn, but once we grasp it we will discover that although the road is often hard, with God's grace it becomes a blessed journey.

Now, let's look at one of the most unexplainable "Nos" in the bible - the death of John the Baptist. John had been given two great privileges: First, the work of preparing the way for the Messiah, and second, the privilege of baptizing Him. Shortly afterwards, John was put in prison for preaching against the sins of Herod.

For a moment his faith faltered (he was human just like us) and he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who should come, or do we look for another?" Jesus simply told them to tell John what they had seen. John received the message and it was enough. As he recalled the prophecy of the Messiah that he himself had preached, as he remembered the voice of God at Christ's baptism, and as he now heard the works that Jesus was doing, he knew that Christ was indeed the Lamb of God. With that acceptance came a calm assurance and a great peace, that in turn gave him the courage to pray, "According to Your eternal purpose, Your will be done."

Why did God allow John's life to be cut short and in such a senseless way?

Firstly, his work was completed, perhaps not as we see it from our little spot in the universe, but as God could see the bigger plan. Secondly, John's life was an example for all who follow after, for sooner or later we will all fall asleep.

Even though Satan was allowed to cut short John's life, it was now hid in Christ and could never again be touched or tempted by Satan. Before the Universe, Satan was revealing his own evil character and had made manifest once more his enmity towards God and man.

On the darkest nights we can still see the stars; on the darkest nights of our experience we can still see God in His very great and precious promises. We see God in His promise that one day all sin and suffering will be finished. We see God in His promise of Christ's second coming and resurrection. And until then, we can rest assured in His promise, "Lo I am with you always, even till the end of the world."

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