November 20, 2017

Fridays with Michael Spencer: March 24, 2017

Balloonfest-052, Photo by dancingdentist

From a 2007 post by Michael Spencer

What do you do when God answers your prayers?

I am a fairly consistent reader and user of the Book of Psalms in my devotional life and worship leadership. Along the way, I’ve noticed that many of the Psalms are prayer or report episodes of prayer in the Psalms. In many of these Psalms, the Psalmist talks about the specifics of what he has done or plans to do as a direct result of God answering his prayer.

Without being exhaustive, I did a quick survey of portions of the Psalter that particular gave evidence of the Psalmist taking specific actions as a result of answered prayer. Some of the scriptures- all from Psalms- were:

Psalm 18:49; 22:22,25; 26:1-12; 34:1-11; 35:1-10; 40:1-3,9-10; 51:7-9,12-17; 57:7-9; 66:13-20; 115:12-19.

In these portions of the Psalms, you will read about many responses to answered prayer: Public and private worship, paying vows, making sacrifices, giving public testimony, evangelism, teaching, praise in music and song, continuing prayer, missions.

The pattern is exemplified in these portions of Psalm 40.

40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord…

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

There is a desperate situation, and a cry unto the Lord. God hears and God acts. The grateful worshiper then does public actions to celebrate, magnify and proclaim the goodness of God.

God puts a new song in my mouth, but MANY will hear. The “great congregation” of God’s people will hear the story of God’s deliverance from my own lips. I have not hidden or restrained my response to God, but made it know publicly and verbally.

Many other Psalms follow this same pattern.

What do you do when God answers your prayers?

This pattern in the Psalms tells us that the evidence of God’s prayer-answering presence is the constant praise, worship, service and sacrifice of the people he has answered. It sounds as if worship routinely brings together people who say “God is real. God has heard. God has answered me.”

More than that, those whom God has answered are publicly, significantly changed. In response to God, they begin new patterns of service and Kingdom activity for the Lord. Sinners and transgressors will hear. The nations will hear. Vows will be paid. Public testimony will never cease.

When I read these words, I cannot help but think about the pervasive assertions of atheism that seem to be everywhere in our culture; a worldview that says no prayer, anywhere, anytime, by anyone has ever been answered. That’s an amazing claim because, as surely as thoughtful Christians are aware that many prayers aren’t answered in the way one might hope, our faith resolutely resounds with confidence that God does answer prayer and sometimes does so in ways that are astounding. God rescues his people as he did in Psalm 40 and other Psalms.

Apart from the dreary drone of hype and bragging manipulation that goes on in some Christian circles, many ordinary Christians have testimonies of extraordinary answers to prayer. Life-changing, faith-defining answers and stories of the wonders God has done, large and small.

And many of us see our ordinary prayers answered in what seem to be unspectacular ways every day.

We’re in a drought. I’ve been praying for rain in my classes for every class period (5 a day) for about a month. Today it’s raining. My children are safe. My marriage is whole. I’m able to work. My ministry continues.

My friend Keith is getting on with his life even though he’s seen much pain. I’ve made it safely to dozens of speaking engagements. God has met my financial, physical and spiritual needs out of his abundance in Christ Jesus.

But what have I done in response to those answered prayers?

The Psalms suggest that I should take the story of God’s faithfulness to the congregation, and encourage others. I should pay my vows. I should support missions, testify to the lost, sing and make a new song. I should be a public evidence of the goodness of the Lord.

I shouldn’t restrain my voice, privatize my response and take God’s grace and goodness for granted.

I should be a different man with treasure, time, talent and testimony. I should be more devoted to the church and more aware of others sinking in the pits God has lifted me out of.

While the cynic and the unbeliever says no prayer has ever been answered, I should be God’s surprising punch line to that joke.

What do you do when God answers your prayers? Consider the Psalmist and become a lifelong exhibit to the goodness of a God who hears and answers in his sovereign, compassionate kindness.

• • •

Photo by dancingdentist at Flickr. Creative Commons license

Comments

  1. Another angle I think is, how do we respond when God answers our prayers with a “Not yet,” or, the hardest to accept, “No.” For me it has certainly been hard to “give thanks to God in all circumstances.” It’s easy to proclaim that God is good when something goes the way we want it in life, or in a good way we never would have expected. It’s supremely difficult to give testimony when God has said no to that promotion that would give the family emotional stability, no to the cancer remission for a child, not yet to the plea to be pulled from depression. All of the yes’s are beautiful examples of God’s grace; so to, are all the no’s and not yet’s. We just have to work a little harder to find that grace.

  2. I’m praying for an end to the Lenten season. If God answers my prayer I’ll report back here to the congregation.

  3. I struggle with answered prayer testimonies, because they seem to make answered prayer the “norm”. My life experience has been way more complicated then that. Yes, there are many prayers that have been answered but there are just as many that have not. As Carrie expressed above the “no’s”, “not yet” and the randomness of answered prayer has caused me much questioning and angst as well.

    More and more my faith is centered on ‘gratitude’ for the presence of the divine in my life. That I am not alone as I walk through the good and the bad that life brings. I am always amazed though when the little “Please God” prayers thrown heavenward that are answered in beautiful ways. Prayer for the most part has become more about me putting my life in the hands of my Creator, about trust, and hope then about answers.

    • Robert F says:

      I have also been acutely aware of the randomness of answered prayer. I’ve come to the provisional conclusion that in answering prayer so randomly, and not as often as I would like or in places that I would prefer an answer most, God is signaling to me that he is there, even though he is not there in ways that I would choose if I had my druthers. The answered prayer is God communicating to me at a level different from and transcendent to the level on my which my prayer was made, and with his own purposes in mind rather than my own. Maybe.

  4. Ronald Avra says:

    When considering vows to be performed in answer to prayer, search yourself and keep the vows in the realm of the practical. Hannah promised Samuel to service before God in her request for a son; I can say that my commitments would never begin to approach that level of zeal. Giving up ice cream for Lent has stretched me.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “Giving up ice cream for Lent has stretched me.”

      Which is why, for Lent this year, I decided to abstain from abstaining. It’s been a wonderful lenten season!

  5. Since there is no statistical difference between God answering prayer and random chance, I can’t imagine that my response should be different from any other event in my life.

  6. CM,
    If you want a nice piece for Saturday morning ramblings check out this video on YouTube. I would headline it as ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’
    Ibn Ali Miller Stops A Brawl Between Two Atlantic City High Scool boys.
    Chris

  7. It seems to me that there isn’t much understanding of prayer in the church, tho the Eastern wing may have a better grip as with much else. Often it seems like sending lists to Santa Claus, or for the more sophisticated, performing rituals of magic, but in either case the effectiveness measured by what you got for Christmas. I have no definitive answers, don’t know of anyone who does. Maybe a good subject for a series here. Perhaps starting out trying to figure out just what prayer actually is. Lord send me a Cadillac.