Almost all people pray in some fashion or another. Sometimes real or imagined things happen that leave an indelible imprint on our minds. For me, an incident at about age 17 is one I never forgot. I was roused by the siren of a fire truck about a block away from the hotel room in which I was living. As I tried to look out of the window, I could not see anything except the twirling light of the fire engine.
As I looked out into the night sky and saw the stars, I felt the urge to pray. I knelt down by the open window (not in view of the street) and began to talk to God. Suddenly, a fairly intense light blue light began to stream into the room; and the sudden change caught me totally by surprise. I could see no reason for this strange light and since it was right in the middle of my prayer, my mind went to the supernatural. I did what any man would do—I leaped into bed, covered my head and promised myself never to pray like that again! I can readily understand how strong grown men literally pass out when they see an angel or something strange along that line (Daniel 8:27).
Now, I am not Daniel and all I saw was a strange and unsettling light, but there are stories of people who have encountered God or an angel and were left with a lasting memory. I certainly do not feel worthy of any special attention from God or an angel.
There is a question, though, that I have asked at times of great stress in my life. I have prayed long and fervently for relief from a great trial, and no “blue light” came. I did not see anything strange, and I heard nothing. God was silent. We have learned to pray, “Your will be done,” but we really want our will to be done. When our requests are not met by God, we resort to thinking His answer was “no.” Our minds can come up with many reasons for a rejection, and we usually have many friends who try to alleviate our pain by giving possible explanations. The bottom line is God indeed has remained silent.
You and I are not the first ones to have this thought. Nor are we the first to express our anguish, only to be met with silence.
Your will be done
The understanding of “Your will be done” was given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mathew 26:39 reveals the resignation Jesus expressed when His suffering and death loomed before Him. Psalm 22 is one of the most profound Psalms ever written in its description of the precise suffering Jesus would endure. He knew this was to be the path God had laid out for Him. Jesus expressed the thoughts we may have at the greatest time of anguish we may ever know. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He cried (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). In the second verse of Psalm 22 it is obvious that no answer came—God was silent.
We have learned to pray, “Your will be done,” but we really want our will to be done.
In Psalm 35 David expresses his anguish and begs God not to remain silent (verse 22). The great men of the Bible like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Job all experienced periods of time when prayers were not answered. Abraham and Sarah waited and must have prayed often for the promised child and after years passed, they acted out of an incomplete understanding. No doubt Isaac spent many years in anguish over Esau and Jacob, and God allowed Jacob to suffer with the belief that Joseph was dead until Jacob’s old age. The story of Job is filled with the expressed anguish of a man under terrible strain and stress—but without a reply from God. “Why is God so silent?” they could all ask.
David expresses himself so very well we can almost feel his need. Psalm 6:6 is one part of his ongoing plea to God. He indicates he is weary with groaning and his couch is drenched with his tears. David also expresses his confidence in God. Verses 8 and 9 show he believed God heard and would answer. Ultimately, this is the place we must all come to. Although God loves His children with a strong, everlasting and fierce love, He is also developing something in us that can only be developed His way. When we say, “Your will be done,” we need to realize that there is nothing too hard for God to do and nothing He would not do—providing it would be good for us and it would fulfill His plan for each of us. His will is for all people to be saved in the ultimate understanding of this concept, and He works hard toward that end (1 Timothy2:4).
God’s perfect response
I have thought about my prayers for God’s intervention. I realize God sees the complete picture of my life in a way I cannot fathom. He sees my family, friends and the people I serve as a pastor. He knows what lies in my past, and He is preparing a place in the future. When He hears a prayer, He is in a position to make the perfect response.
The response may mean allowing a person to die. Peter was told he would die in a manner that would glorify God (John 21:18-19). Peter did not know the details of what God had planned for him for all eternity. Peter’s name would be forever inscribed on the foundation of the New Jerusalem—the city of God (Revelation 21:14). Since all of the saints will receive a new name (Revelation 2:17), we may not see “Peter” written on that foundation. The language will, in all likelihood, not be English (Zephaniah 3:9).
I have to marvel at the story of Elijah. He, too, came to a time in his life when he was afraid and did not feel the presence of God during a time of stress. Jezebel had sentenced him to death (I Kings 19:1-3). Elijah ran for his life—he seemed to think that her power was greater than the power of God at that moment. Verse 11 tells of the great power God displayed, but He did not come to Elijah in that power. Verses 12 and 13 are very touching. God spoke in a “still small voice” and asked: “What are you doing here?” We must not think that God had just now “found” Elijah who was hidden. God was with him every step of his journey. God heard all of his prayers and noted his great fear.
His will is for all people to be saved in the ultimate understanding of this concept, and He works hard toward that end.
We cannot be sure of all the reasons for the next event. God must have known Elijah would soon need a replacement and, in time, would give the responsibility over to Elisha (verse 16), God had used Elijah in a very powerful way in His work. It seems Elijah was not able to continue. His work for God was very strenuous. Perhaps he had grown old and perhaps other things had developed in his life interfering with him serving God in this particular manner. He had to confront a whole nation and hostile leaders. God would have scanned the whole picture and then made His decision for what was best for Elijah then and forever, as well as what was best for His work then and forever. Elijah is mentioned with great respect in Malachi 4:5 and Matthew 11:14. He had run his course, and God understood the point at which he had arrived at in his life.
God is the Almighty Creator and He is all wise. He can do anything, but He also has reasons for doing exactly what He knows is the best for all of His creation. His silence can only be something we need in order to further develop the character points of patience, trust, faith and perseverance. All of these traits are very good and necessary for us. God considers each person carefully and knows every hair on your head (Matthew10:30; Luke 21:18). His silence is an answer we need to understand.