God is still God
The group was gathered for one purpose, to pray for one circumstance. They had been praying earnestly for some time. As I listened to their words, ranging from praise and thanksgiving to pleas for help, I considered the situation we were praying about and did not feel very hopeful. When silence fell for a moment, I added my voice to those of the others, pleading for God to intervene, but even then I realized I did not have confidence that our prayers would be answered in the way we hoped. The end result of the situation, though it was unjust, seemed to be a foregone conclusion, one that could not be avoided. I went home that night with a heavy heart.
The next morning, before praying again about that same thing, I looked up a scripture verse that I’d heard quoted earlier in the week. It was in one of my favourite books in the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah, so I found the passage easily, then began to scan other parts of the book. I stopped at chapter 41, verse 10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I knew that verse had been written during a very difficult time in Israel’s history, a time of fear and uncertainty, a time when God’s people had become complacent and turned away from Him. Yet, that promise, that comfort.
Suddenly I had complete confidence in God, complete assurance that our prayers had been heard and answered, no matter what the outcome. Then I realized the outcome was not really the issue. The issue was the very character of God. Job recognized this as he suffered the loss of all he owned. He says – “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Job knew no matter what happened, God was the same, God was there, God loved him. He knew all he had suffered was nothing compared to the joy of knowing God, the assurance of knowing God was showing Himself to him. Some of his last words in the book reveal that understanding – “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)
That is the basis of our confidence when we pray; not that the outcome is assured, that circumstances will change and always go our way, but that God is God and His primary concern is that we know Him. The issue then becomes what God wants to teach us, each one individually, through the circumstances and the experience of prayer. When we are assured of His character, His goodness, we can be assured that he wants one thing for us – the best thing – a closer relationship with Him.
I don’t know if the circumstances about which we were praying will change, if a “victory” will be won, in the way we desire it. But I know God will continue to reveal Himself, no matter what the outcome. I know He will continue to strengthen and guide and love each one involved. It is up to us to decide if we will continue to receive His love and grace and continue to know more of Him.