What are things you never hear about prayer?
When asking God for something, why does it sometimes seem as though He does not answer our prayer? How should we go through life when we at times we feel so distant from God? In a recent sermon I listened to, Paul Gotthardt spoke of 5 things we never hear about prayer referencing Psalm 22:1-6,23,24. In these verses, David was desperate for God to answer his prayer and he revealed to God his thoughts, his tears, and his broken heart.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man,scorned by everyone, despised by the people. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
Desperation is normal. In verses 1 – 2, David cries out to God asking why He had forsaken him. He was desperate, not because he doubted God could answer His prayers, but because he was unsure of God’s timing. The longer the time between when we ask God for something and when God answers, the more desperate we get and the more discouraged we become. We live in a society that wants everything now. And, it’s no different when we pray to God, we always want an answer immediately. In these verses, David begged God night and day, but God has purpose in His delays. God will answer when He is ready. If He hasn’t answered yet, it’s only because there is a reason behind it. There is example after example in the bible, of people who waited:
Sarah waited 90 years to have Isaac.
Abraham waited 25 years from the time he received the promise of Isaac, until Isaac was born.
Hannah was barren for many years and waited until she had Samuel.
Joseph waited 13 years from when he was given a vision of ruling over the people, until it happened.
Simeon and Anna waited their entire lives for consolation of Israel.
Israel waited years for the Messiah.
Reflection is helpful. In verses 3 – 5, David reflects on God’s holiness. He recognizes that He is above all. He is preeminent. He is completely righteous. He honors God through his praises. Even though David didn’t understand what God was doing, He still praised Him. Once He looked back at all God had done, it gave David a new perspective on how good God was. When we reflect on God, we see how Good He is and it enables us to praise Him even during the trials.
Humility is essential. In verse 6, David refers to himself as a worm, alluding to the fact that compared to everyone and everything else, he is nothing. He humbles himself before God and continues to praise Him. When we don’t praise God and we turn to complaining instead it is usually rooted from a manifestation of pride. We complain because we value our will more than God’s will. We keep record of all the good things we have done and try to prove to God that we deserve what we ask for. We turn to desiring God to be the center of our world, instead us the center of His. We need to recognize His plan is always better. We have two choices: we can choose to be bitter or we choose to honor God.
Praise is never contingent. Throughout Psalm 22, David records the way he feels as he goes through the trials and his continued desperation for God to speak and act in his life. Verse 23 switches gears challenging people in to praise God and reflecting on all He has done. Up to this point, God still hadn’t answered David’s prayers, but he chooses to praise God. We need to chose to praise God for who He is, not for what He has done. What if we only received praised when we did something good? What if our spouse only told us they loved us when we made them dinner or did their laundry? We shouldn’t be loved for what we do, but for who we are. In the same manner, we need to value God for His character, not his actions.
Truth is overlooked. Often we get so caught up in our emotions, problems and perceptions that we blur our view of the truth. After David started the Psalm with asking God why He had forsaken Him, in verse 24 David mentions that God listened to his cry for help. So often, we can be so dramatic and caught up in our own events, that we forget the truth of our Savior and despite the fact that we are praying and feel as though God isn’t listening, He is!
So what does all this mean for us? Whenever we pray, we need to remember that God hears our prayers. He knows our every thought. When we grow desperate as we continue to wait and we feel as though God is so far away, we should look back over the character of God and praise Him for who He is. When God says wait, we should humble ourselves and focus on the truth, instead of overlooking it.
Could it be that God delays His answer to our prayer so that we will get over our own desires and realize He is enough? Our greatest need isn’t for our prayer to be answered, but our greatest need is to know Him more. He might have us continue to wait until we make Him our world again and realize our prayer isn’t our greatest need, He is.
God created the world out of nothing and as long as we know we are nothing, He can create something out of us – Martin Luther