When I think of my friend Heather Lloyd, a member of our church, the image that comes to my mind is always of a woman who is never idle, but always on the go. She is clothed with strength and determination is what she wears on her feet. I often times think that maybe she is the one woman in the world whose days are made of 48 hours! Our teenage daughter has spent two summer camps under her direction and she says, “Mom, I love her, she inspires me in many ways, especially on the way you can tell she loves the Lord.” So as you can imagine, I’m grateful to have Heather share with us in our series of Faithful Obedience.
By Heather Lloyd
A famous country song by Garth Brooks talks about unanswered prayer. It tells the story of a young man praying for a certain young woman and God, seemingly, doesn’t answer. Years later, this man and his new wife run into this “old flame” at a football game, who isn’t the “angel” he remembered. Brooks sings:
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care… Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”
Sadly, this is often how we view prayer. When God is seemingly silent, or things look awry in the circumstances of life we hold to the idea that God will clearly reveal why He “didn’t answer.” And, we are certain that this revelation will be an “aha” moment, one where we see exactly why God waited to answer our prayer.
But, sometimes we want to think it is simply “unanswered prayer” when really God is saying a firm “no.” By all appearances, there is no reason insight and years later no “aha” moment has come. Sometimes the “no” doesn’t make sense — think Job. It is in these times that we are forced to sit in the hard place of “why Lord,?”
Paul talks about “unanswered prayer” in 2 Corinthians, “a thorn was given me in the flesh.” But he finishes with the reason, and it isn’t a glorious revelation it is simply sanctification; “so he wouldn’t be conceited.”
What does our faith do when God says “no?” It either grows or reveals deep-rooted sin like conceit. It is in these times that we either die to self or reveal our innate selfishness. It is in trials that we realize that the Master Conductor isn’t conducting an audience of one, but it is us performing for an audience of One. We aren’t the center, God IS.
We are not pawns in a game of chess but we are members of the orchestra, we are subjects of the King of Kings. God is directing and orchestrating and sanctifying. So these moments (moments that may last a lifetime) are revealing, but they are revealing of our own need for sanctification and may not necessarily reveal to us the plan that God is unfolding.
We live with relatively benign “no’s” compared to our predecessors. Think of the martyrs of the Church. They pleaded with God as they were tortured. The answer to these pleading saints was a firm “no.” Some gave in to their selfishness and renounced Christ and others lived faithfully to the end.
Blandina was a woman whom God gave a firm “no” to, a martyr of the faith that Eusebius speaks of. Once she realized the answer to her pleading for life was “no” she began to have a distinct fear that she would renounce Jesus when tortured. She asked her fellow saints to pray that she would not, she prayed to die well. Eusebius talks about Blandina facing more torture than any other martyr of the faith and yet through the entire ordeal she cried out “Jesus.” She clung to Jesus while she herself was void of any “aha” moment until she stood “Coram Deo” (before the face of God).
Our trials may seem small compared to a martyr, but we are no less at risk of renouncing Jesus through them. When we pray “thy will be done” we need to really understand what that means. God isn’t going to ignore our prayers. There really aren’t “unanswered prayers” as Garth Brooks sings. The character in that song actually received a “no” but this was a “no” with an easy reason clearly revealed — that isn’t always the case. The Lord will answer. The answer may be “yes.” The answer may be “wait” for a “yes.” And, the answer may be a firm “no.”
What we need to do when we plead with God is follow with “Lord keep me faithful should you answer no.” This is praying in God’s will. This is a prayer knowing that He sees what we need, that He sees what the Body of Christ needs, and He sees His kingdom unfolding from a perspective that we will never have. This is trusting Him, and this is faith.
We must never forget that God’s own son received a “no.” Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup from me” and the echo of that “no” is eternal. It is a “no” that started a Kingdom. The “no’s” we receive are growing that Kingdom.