Prayer is such a mystery to me. Sometimes God chooses to intervene and change events based on my request. And then sometimes He doesn’t. But God always acts according to His will, so when does He answer prayer?
I’ve previously used the analogy that God is not a vending machine – that if we ask the right way, find the right formula, God answers our prayer. My work took me to Las Vegas this week for a conference. It occurred to me that it is also tempting to see God as a slot machine. If I pray enough it will eventually pay out, maybe even with a jackpot.
Do I view God as a slot machine? Is getting an answer just a matter of chance? Some pray for decades, putting in their petition over and over without seeming to hear a reply. Others approach God in a single crisis and see a miracle. Why did they hit the jackpot and get a healing? Why did their loved one return from prodigal ways? I wonder if I approach God the same way at times. It can feel like a lottery. But feelings can mislead and so I need to embrace truth. I need to remember the character of God.
We are told to pray without ceasing. It’s not because it increases our odds and He is more likely to respond, but because prayer builds relationship with our Creator, our Savior who loves us so much. It changes us. It changes me. Answered prayer (or unanswered) can feel random because we don’t know the whole picture. When I don’t understand, do I trust in God’s goodness? Do I trust in Him, that He is actively involved in working good for those who love Him and life is not a series of random chances?
I don’t understand prayer and why God sometimes chooses to change situations or sometimes seemingly not. But I know prayer changes me. It reminds me Who is in control (and it’s not me!). It gives me an opportunity to exercise my faith by bringing everything to Him and trusting in His love and goodness as I leave my concerns and requests with Him. I don’t have to wish for luck in a world ruled by chance. I can rest in the power of a loving God who reigns over all.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17