The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer – F. B. Meyer
A few years ago, my beloved Grandmother fell ill and needed surgery. I remember being rooted in front of the operation room doors as they wheeled her in for surgery. The front of that door would have become a landmark just like Jacob’s Bethel had been in the old testament times. I was stuck before that door chanting ‘please, please, please, please’ repeatedly until they brought her out again. She survived the surgery and my prayer was answered. I was relieved and grateful. But two days later her heart failed and she passed away.
Why didn’t my prayer work? Did those three hours of pleading make no difference to God? What is an effective prayer? Is it one accompanied by 40 days of fasting and striving? Is it the perfectly worded argument for why God should act on my behalf? Is the effective prayer agony like it was for me outside that OR door?
One of the most agonized prayers in history received ‘No’ for an answer. The ‘no’ wasn’t because the one offering prayer had sinned. It wasn’t a ‘no’ because the one on His knees didn’t know God. It wasn’t even because of the person praying that the answer was ‘no’. Jesus received ‘No’ for an answer in the garden of Gethsemane because of Love.
‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16’
‘Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Mathew 26:39.
The striking thing about this prayer was that irrespective of what the outcome was, Jesus addressed God as “my Father”. No matter what happened before or after that prayer, the relationship remained intact. Even on the cross, He cried out “Father, forgive them”. This is only possible because of the complete trust Jesus had in the will and work of God the Father.
For a prayer to be effective we need to know whom it is we are praying to. Today because of that ‘no’ at Gethsemane, we get to acknowledge the relationship between God and us as a Father-child relationship. The prayer also acknowledges that irrespective of the answer, I can trust in His unfailing love and goodness to be enough to see me through whatever it is I am going through. The effective prayer is also about God’s will. Prayer is an opportunity to acknowledge that God’s will is the best and that He will make all things work together for our good.
When I lost my grandmother, it hurt just like I thought It would. However, I was not prepared for the comfort I received from God who helped me up and got me ready to let my faith take flight. Even though she didn’t survive the surgery, I survived her death and my hope is alive in Him.
So then, prayer is not about striving it’s about resting and trusting. Whatever your prayer today is, Jesus has an answer for you. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”