Before you let the changed number in the title confuse you, this is a new devotion for Tuesday, 12/23. After some thought about how people are using these devotions and how they’re set up, I thought a new system might work better. To get the most out of them, you really should work through them in order, without skipping any. However, many of you are not (yet) doing devotions 7 days a week. I suggested you set reasonable goals, so if for you that’s 4 days out of 7, great. Start at Day 1, and just work through the numbers at your own pace.
On the other hand, I don’t want you overwhelmed on Sunday (or whatever day you worship). So, the Sunday devotions are a very brief encouragement with a prayer relating to you and the day’s worship. I’ll mark those separately as ‘Sunday 1’, ‘Sunday 2’, and so on. If you have trouble keeping track, mark the numbers on a calendar. I plan to come up with a handy-dandy check sheet very soon to help you.
Today I’d like to wrap up our discussion about prayer as the most critical part of devotions. Yesterday we looked at the reasons God may not even listen to our prayers. Is it possible, though, for Him to listen but just not answer? For instance, we pray for healing of a sick loved one, and they die anyway. We pray for help with the bills, but end up bankrupt anyway. Why? Are we doing something wrong? Not necessarily. Does God just not care? No, God always cares.
In my experience, most of the times that God doesn’t seem to answer it’s one of 3 things. First, it’s often a matter of timing. We’re like toddlers sometimes – we want what we want, and we want it NOW! We must realize that God sees things very differently than we, from the perspective of eternity – where time does not exist. At least not in terms of minutes, hours, days, years as defined by the rotation of a planet and its revolution around a star, and by the growth, aging & decay of material things (like our bodies). 2 Peter 3:8-9a says “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.”
A second common reason that it seems as though our prayers aren’t being answered is that they simply aren’t being answered the way that we want. For example, we pray frequently for healing. Someone we love is dying of cancer. We want the miracle – the one where they go for a checkup and the doctor can’t find the cancer that riddled their bodies the week before. These miracles do still happen, even in the 21st century. But not always. Sometimes, the person dies anyway. Then comes the question (again) of God’s perspective. What is true, ultimate healing? Is it a temporary cleansing of this feeble, mortal body; or releasing someone from that prison to live glorified for all time?
A third reason is that the answer isn’t always strictly up to God. How often we pray for loved ones to accept Jesus, to become Christians? Do we really expect that He wouldn’t give them the same free choice in the matter that He gave you and me?
There really is one sure way that all your prayers will be answered in the best way possible. That is to pray the way Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest. He asked for what He wanted, but was willing to surrender that to the will of God – no matter what. Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
It’s hard though. To pray like that, you really, truly have to trust that His will, will always be better than yours. Are you willing to try? There’s your prayer for today.