December 14, 2017

What Do You Do When God Answers Your Prayer?

istock_000002680519xsmall.jpgWhat 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.

Comments

  1. That’s the iMonk love! Thank you for the beautiful reminder to be appreciative and worshipful as a constant recipient of the manifold Grace of God.

  2. This pattern of God’s answering of our prayers and our response of praise was built into the “patronage” system of the ancient (and not so ancient) Middle East. Economic and social conditions were often very hard. In order to survive, a person often tried to find a patron to help him and his family. If a patron chose to help the person, it was totally an act of grace as the person economic condition was such that he could never reimburse the patron in kind.

    Instead, the person owed the patron the first century equivalent of money, HONOR. The recipient of the patron owned his patron PUBLIC HONOR AND PRAISE. He also owed the patron public allegiance any time that patron’s honor was attacked.

    Such praise could not be “private” in any sense as that would not give the patron the honor that was his due. I feel often, when our prayers are answered, we do not give God’s gracious honor his due. That may end up being why fewer of our prayers are answered. We end up dishonoring our Patron.

  3. Excellent piece.

    When God answers my prayers I thank Him, and then I make sure to remember that He answered it so that I can refer to it again when I make prayer requests. That’s a behavior I see demonstrated in the psalms and Deuteronomy: God acts, and we’re supposed to remember it and share it with others. Otherwise we’ll get the false sense, as our culture does, that God is a cosmic watchmaker that doesn’t interact with us anymore.

    I always find it encouraging when someone prays, “God, I know you’re gonna do this because you’ve already done A and B and C, and I know those other answered prayers haven’t been for nothing…” I just wish more people would have the faith to pray that way.

  4. marymargaret says:

    Well, I know God has answered many of my prayers. Sometimes, the answer was NO. I prayed that my mother would not die–she did (she was 56, I was 12). I miss her still, 36 years later, but the pain has lessened somewhat.

    OK, the one that I really remember was the answer that God gave to me when my daughter was deathly ill with a hemolytic anemia. She was close, very close, to death. I prayed, He gave me peace, then he allowed my daughter to live. What I do–I thank Him. I will not allow myself to be the 9 lepers. I am eternally grateful, even though I know that it was His will that she should survive. Still, I thank Him at least once a week at Sunday Mass.. more often as I think of it, but always at least once per week. It has been 12 years, and I thank Him for giving her to me, not once, but twice. So, I guess that’s the answer–I thank Him, and I will never stop thanking Him–.

    It’s nothing tremendous, I don’t consider myself to be a particularly good or holy person. But He blessed my daughter; gave her another chance to live–and He spoke to me. I heard Him–peace is all that He said. I didn’t know what that meant, but He really spoke to me one day-and I try to live my life in such a way that witnesses to the reality of God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  5. On the subject of prayer, recently I’ve been taking the advice of N.T. Wright and praying the Lord’s Prayer (or disciples’ prayer if you prefer). I have found this to be very meaningful and helpful to me. I know that many people find the Psalms to have the same effect with them.

    I know some people in my own denomination which will remain nameless (cough baptist cough) find the idea of praying a formal written out prayer to be scary, perhaps dead worship or worse yet Popish. But think about it, we don’t write new songs or hymns every week for worship, we sing the same old hymns and songs that we have been singing for generations, in fact many of us don’t trust recently written songs or choruses. So why is it that we want to sing old songs (the older the better) in worship to God, but insist that our prayers have to be brand new every time?

  6. Kurt McInnis says:

    K.W.,

    I agree. I think writing it down is a great way to remember what God has done in order to remind ourselves. And I can’t help but think about my kids and theirs reading Dad’s old Bible or half-started journals and being strengthened in the faith.

    Good post, Michael. Thanks.

  7. Patrick Kyle says:

    Unfortunately, I often am numbered with the nine lepers whom Jesus cleansed, but did not return praise to God. Sure, I’ll breathe a quick sigh of thanks, but then return to business as usual. These things ought not be.
    Thanks for the post.

  8. What do you do when God answers your prayers?

    Freak Out.

  9. Now that I have gone back and re-read this post I am amazed at the incredible number of ways that the psalmists gave their thanks to God. I have almost exclusively used the verbal ways of thanking God when he answers prayer.
    We have a friend who is from Guyana. She invited us to a “Thanksgiving”–a meal to celebrate some blessing or blessings of God especially used as thanks for answered prayers, which Christians in Guyana do quite often. We had a liturgy which she prepared with hymns to sing, scriptures to be read and thanks to be shared about God’s goodness. The pastor was even asked to say a few words and to bless the home and family. Then we all shared a meal of Guyanese food and spent the evening together. There was probably about fifteen of us–family, church friends and a neighbor or two. What a profound way to say thanks in actions and not just sa1ying, ‘Thank you Jesus.”

  10. Patrick, perhaps you’d like to join our Nine Lepers Club. Motto is: “Getting the heck out of this club”

  11. Michael,
    This has prompted me to post a couple of great poems about God’s NO answers:
    http://duffrdan.blogspot.com/
    Dan

  12. While I was reading these blog on answering prayers. I just relize that I myself is one of the ten leapers. I take God for granted and don’t praise him enough.

  13. Nicholas Anton says:

    In Hebrews 11:42-40 and 12:1- we are not only given examples of deliverance, but also of torture and death by faith. However, the author to the Hebrews suggests, though an excellency of faith prevailed in the Old Testament, there is a “more excellent” way through Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
    As Luther suggested, those who accept Christ by faith also must live by faith, and THAT faith includes believing everything to be from the hand of a “GOD WHO LOVES, CARES AND GIVES”, “beneficium”.
    .
    Yes, we are to pray, but in a sense, This God answers even before we ask (Mat 6:8).

  14. You wrote, “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.”

    And when astounding things happen, we, in the Church, interpret it in so many ways. Sometimes we see someone suddenly “prospering” and we’re quick to say he is worldly and going off-course- when what might be happening is that God is answering that man’s prayer.
    You might even have a best selling book or the fastest growing church- because of answered prayer.
    Get ready for things you don’t understand- when you talk about answered prayer.