This next week we’re going to be talking about answers to prayer, and why some of our prayers seem to go unanswered. The book really focuses a lot on our sin being a hindrance to prayer (which is biblical – if God always answered our prayers even when we’re living in unrepentant sin, we would begin to ignore the serious and destructive nature of sin), but I want to give some balance to that. As you and I know, sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because God has something far better.
As I was writing/thinking/trying to lesson plan, I was just writing about what I would say to these kids. This is not a finalized section of lesson plan – it’s just me lecturing and that is insufficent. But as an intro to 2011, I hope that you and I both begin to believe this, begin to trust His sovereign goodness.
(This is right after I’m going to show them this video)
Sometimes God allows broken things. He allows cancer and sickness and sin.
This is hard, make no mistake. It’s hard because I have to look at you knowing that some of you have prayed prayers that are good prayers, for good reasons. Some of you, lying awake because your parents are yelling at each other, have prayed that God would step in and heal their marriage, but things are just getting worse. Some of you know that your best friend is being bullied and you have prayed that it would stop but they’re still picked on. Some of you have prayed for grandparents and parents and relatives who are sick to get better and they haven’t. Some of you struggle with your problems with learning and have prayed that school would just be easy for you. Some of you have rebellious siblings and cousins who are making poor decisions and it breaks your heart and you don’t know what to do.
And I pray for all those things too – I pray for all of you, that you wouldn’t be scared when you go home, that you wouldn’t have to worry about being picked on when you’re here at school. I have friends who don’t have jobs and have no idea what they’re going to do with their lives. I have family members and friends who aren’t Christians and I pray and pray and nothing happens. Believe me, I know that unanswered prayer hurts.
But in those moments when you’re alone and you are feeling the weight of these things and the questions they bring, you have two options. You can give up, you can stop asking God, you can say “Whatever God, no thank you.”
Or you can trust. You can say “God, I don’t understand. I don’t know why this has happened, why it is happening, why this prayer is unanswered. But I am going to trust that You are good, that You have a plan, that You know what’s going on.”
Job dealt with that sort of thing. He had everything in his life taken from him, and he had no idea why. But in the middle of the book of Job we see Him make a bold statement of faith. He says “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.” [Job 13.15]
The book of Habakkuk is the same way. This guy, Habakkuk, is questioning God throughout this whole book, because everything in his life (and in the life of Israel) is falling apart. Life is not well. And this is what he says:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” [Habakkuk 3.17-18]
Job and Habakkuk (and many other Bible men and women) faced the same choice many of you are facing right now. They could trust God, even when they didn’t understand and life hurt, or they could peace out. Both of them made the choice to trust in God’s goodness and kindness even when it didn’t quite make sense. I hope that all of you make that same choice as well, and that you continue to trust God even when life hurts.
May I live what I’m teaching. May I, when prayers go unanswered or God just says no, trust that He is good, and He knows what He’s doing.