As I sat with her and her mother, I thought about what she said. “Well, I guess the only thing we can do now is pray.” As we say those words, it almost sounds like prayer is what you do when everything else has failed – the last ditch effort.
Prayer should never be a last ditch effort. Prayer is our first ditch effort. As soon as trouble strikes, God wants us to pray to him. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” he tells us, “I will deliver you and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).
Jesus himself invites us to pray with confidence, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7,8). Jesus’ half-brother, James, tells us, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray … The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13,16).
God hears our prayers. God answers our prayers. Prayer has power because the all-powerful God is on the other end of the line.
Sadly we often see prayer as a crap shoot – maybe it will work and maybe it won’t. The truth is prayer always works. It just doesn’t always work the way we want it to. When you ask God for something in prayer, he has three ways of answering: “Yes,” “No” or “Wait.”
Sometimes God says, “Yes.” You get the raise you wanted. Your daughter’s cancer goes away. Your boyfriend pops the question. Sometimes God gives us exactly what we are asking for.
But sometimes God says, “No.” Just because you pray real hard or have faith that God is going to do something for you, that doesn’t mean he is going to do it. It’s not because God doesn’t love you. Actually, it’s because he does love you that he says, “No.”
My son loves Doritos. He calls them “red chips.” He asks for them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As loving parents, we often say, “No.” It’s not good for him to eat Doritos 24/7.
God can see the future. He knows what is good for us and what isn’t. Our Father knows best. So trust him when he says, “No.” What you asked for wasn’t good for you. He’s got something better waiting for you.
Understand, though, sometimes God isn’t saying, “No.” Sometimes he is saying, “Wait.” Look back at Psalm 50:15. God invites us to call upon him in the day of trouble. He promises to deliver us, but he doesn’t say when he will deliver us. You may have to suffer for a while. God may be teaching you patience. But he will deliver us from all our problems, if not here, then when he takes us to heaven.
So pray. Don’t wait until everything else has failed. Talk to God every day and trust that he will answer you for your good. Make prayer your first ditch effort.