From Genesis to Revelation, the God of the Bible answers prayer. And that is quite extraordinary – an accessible God, a caring God, an action God, a responsive and loving God. Survey the religions of the world and you find this God to be utterly unique. But answers to prayer are not a panacea. God received Abel’s worshipful sacrifice and to him God was favorable. In that sense, He answered Abel’s prayer, but Cain, his brother, refused to meet the conditions of the altar. He insisted on coming to God in his own way and God did not receive Cain’s sacrifice. He could not retaliate against God, so being full of rage; he murdered Abel (Genesis 4:8). God answered Elijah’s prayer and the fire fell on Mt. Carmel. When Ahab went home from church that morning and told his wife Jezebel what had happened, she put a price on Elijah’s head and issued an all-points bulletin for his arrest. Elijah’s prayer was answered, but his life endangered in the same movement (1 Kings 19:1-3). An angel came to strengthen Jesus as He prayed in the garden, but He was still headed for the cross (Luke 22:43).
We tend to see prayer as an exit route from trouble, as an escape. At times, God does open a Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), cool a furnace (Daniel 3:25), shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:20-22), heal the bite of a viper (Acts 28:3-6) and raise the dead (Acts 20:8-10). But prayer is more than mere magic. Sometimes prayer is the fountain from which miracles seem to flow. But mostly, it is the mysterious means by which we are allowed to be partners with God in ways we will not completely understand until we arrive on heaven’s shores.
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.