Cedar Springs United Methodist Church
140 S. Main St.
Cedar Springs, MI 49319
We learn in Scripture that Christ often spent time in prayer. We don’t always know what he prayed for, but we are told that Jesus would go to quiet places—to escape the crowds that followed him and go to the Father in prayer. What would he do then? After his spirit was revived during these quiet times, he set out, once again, to minister to the people. Jesus taught, healed the sick, fed the hungry and cast out demons. And he did all of these things with the power and authority that he had as the Son of God and with the power of prayer. Today, I think that we, as Christians, can sometimes get caught in a trap. We read the Bible and find teachings on prayer, like the words found in Matthew 21:22, “You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” When we read this verse outside of the context of rest of the Bible, we might think that prayer is a test of faith, and if we don’t receive what we pray for, our faith must be suspect. Not true. When we examine Scripture closely, we find that prayers are not always answered in the way that we might expect. Jesus didn’t always get what he prayed for. When he asked for the cup to be taken from him (Luke 22:42), we know that it was not. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed from his side (2nd Corinthians 12:7-9), but it was not. God heard these prayers but did not answer them how we might have expected him to. He did, however, transform them into something even greater.
We can learn something from the unanswered prayers of Jesus and Paul. They didn’t pray and then just sit and wait for an answer. They prayed–going to God in faith–and then they continued their work. Their prayer was followed up with action. And though, sometimes, their specific prayers were not answered in the way we might have expected, we know that God responded to their requests by continuing to work through them so that his plan for history might be worked out.
It is the same for us today; we might not always get specifically what we ask for in our times of prayer. We might not understand why the answers to our prayers are not what we expect. Our response needs to be to keep praying. We must also continue to do good work, and to reach out to others with the love of Christ. For when we are faithful, God will work through us as he did with Jesus and Paul, and transform our lives, into something new and into something even better than we expected.