Thursday, 17 December 2009

When God answers prayer!

Ecclesiastical democracy is a most wonderful thing - more wonderful, indeed, than Northern Ireland's pretended democracy! Especially when that democracy is "bathed in prayer." Discovering God's will in a complex situation within a mixed congregation is not that easy, not if you have already made up your mind what God's will is in any given situation.

Then when God answers your prayer in a way that you did not expect, where does that leave you? More importantly, where does that leave your discernment, and your faith? Is strong spiritual conviction really a sanctified term for fleshly stubbornness? Or, is it nothing but selfish ambition, a worldly desire to 'keep up with the Jones's,' wanting to have as nice a place as someone else? Is it a form of thinly disguised pride?

But what about God answering prayer? Is answered prayer that which agrees with the pray-er's asking? Is prayer not answered when it goes against my asking? What do we make of it all?

I think the lesson here is that God's ways are not our ways, and we are very foolish when we think that we can demand from Him what we want! Christians must learn to say, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." God is sovereign in Himself and in everything He does, or does not do. We might try to restrict Him and the outworking of His sovereign purposes. But we cannot. He will crush our desires to dust, if we persist in our stubbornness. God is God, and we are but mere men, and sinful men at that.

But when a church leader gives the impression that he knows God's will or has had a secret, private and personal revelation of what He intends to do, and calls the people of God to prayer, and it still does not work out the way he wants, where does that leave his leadership? He has some very deep thinking and reflecting to do - not least about his own spiritual maturity.

Truth is that church leaders often do get it all wrong at times. And when they get it wrong, it can and often does have a fundamental effect on the unity of the congregation. Divisions are created, and disharmony becomes visible. Those who were once fellowship partners can be driven apart. Disunity becomes the norm, and when that occurs, the spirit of prayer is seriously damaged. The result is that that leader's ministry may be damaged beyond repair in that congregation. It may be time for a move.

But if he goes, he will then be accused of running away from a situation which might well be of his own making. Either way, the minister cannot win.

However, in some minds, there will be devastation and disappointment, while in others, glee and the semblance of spiritual pride. God answered our prayers, but He didn't answer yours! While that might be factually true, the end result is a worse situation than before. One section of the congregation feels humiliated and the other is full of pride. Not a good situation for any evangelical church to be in! Maybe that's why God does not give us as many answers to prayer as we would like! Perhaps there are lessons that we need to learn here too!