1) Is there ever a time we should not pray? We had a couple of American friends visit us while we were living in Germany and we were out to eat, enjoying the local flammkuchen at a little eatery. My friend ordered water because he didn't want to spend the money on soda and as the waitress opened the bottle and was about to pour, she told him that the bottle was going to be 6 Euro. My friend, who didn't understand European customs, didn't remember that we had told him that water is not free in European restaurants. He became upset and the waitress withdrew his order of water. Instead she offered soda which was only 2 Euro. He agreed to that. However, you could tell that the waitress was visibly upset. We apologized to her as best we could. When she brought the flammkuchen to the table, we were about to pray aloud when I said, "I don't think we should pray. I'm afraid that it would give this waitress a bad impression of Christians." Now don't get me wrong I think it IS appropriate to pray in public but God reminds us that prayer can become sin. In this instance we all agreed that praying publicly wasn't God-honoring in this situation.
2) Is there ever a time we should not pray? I had a friend one time who had a severe debt and asked God to pay the debt for him. He told everyone the exact amount and prayed fervently (personally, I don't think it's wise to publicly state an exact amount of money). Within a week, God miraculously provided that money and more. The person again broadcast the exact amount that God provided. The reactions were predictable. "Wow!" "Prayer works." "God is so good." "Praise the Lord!" and so forth...
I wonder what his friends who have been praying that God would work a miracle in their lives thought when God did not seemingly answer their prayers. Maybe they were encouraged. Maybe it lifted their faith. Maybe it caused them to pray more.
Maybe it discouraged them. Maybe they were like, "Why does he always get the breaks? Why did God answer his prayers and not mine?" Maybe they told themselves, "I guess I have to pray harder."
I wonder what the reaction would have been if God had not provided the amount or the amount with extra to spare. "Is God still good?" "Does prayer still work?"
3) Finally, I believe that God can heal people. God may choose to heal miraculously or he may heal slowly or he may heal at the hands of doctors. Healing is a biblical concept.
My friend had fallen on an icy patch and went to see his physician who told him it would be 6-8 weeks before he would be pain free. He was having severe pain and muscle spasms. He believed he was going to lose his job because he could hardly move. As he told me, just two days later, you can tell his pain was real. He was almost in tears as he was describing what he was going thru. When he was talking, I heard clearly in my mind, "You need to pray for him." So when he finished I grabbed a couple more guys and we prayed for him on the spot. I walked away thinking, "OK I did what God told me to do. I was obedient. But nothing's gonna happen."
The next morning, I felt prompted to pray for him again and I did during my devotions. Later that day, I texted him. Here's the convo:
Me: How did it go today?
Him: Pain free and awesome, thanks for asking :-)
Me: You're kidding! No pain? The MD said 6-8 weeks.
Him: No pain, no spasms, no discomfort, no kidding!
Me: Wow! So work was good?
Him: It was great!
I was floored. I told Karyn about his healing and I said, "this is scary. God answered our prayers for his healing." Karyn said, "why is that scary?" I said, "because I obeyed and God healed. What else does that mean God wants to do?"
Later that week, I talked to my friend in person. He said when he woke up the next day (the day after we prayed together) he got ready for work and had forgotten all about his pain until I texted him. He said that it was then that he realized that God had healed him.
When I heard of his healing, I had mixed emotions:
- I had doubt. "Did God really do that?"
- I had some fear. "What else will happen if I pray? Will God do it again?"
- I became more encouraged to pray right away with people in need.
- I had my faith lifted.
There may be people who heard of my friend's healing who may have also asked themselves, "Why won't God heal me? I have asked God numerous times and nothing has changed." Maybe his healing caused them to feel discouraged.
Who knows the mind of God?
Who can understand the ways He works?
Who can bring an accusation before God?
These are all definitively unanswerable in my mind.
Still, I will pray.
I continue to attempt to understand, trust and believe.
I try to rejoice with those who have their prayers answered.
I mourn with those who don't seemingly have their prayers answered.
Yet, even in my imperfection and weakness, I point to God. What we see can't be all there is...
BE A MAN.