One of the toughest things we need to have with our faith is a “What if He doesn’t” attitude. What if He doesn’t heal your family member? Will you still trust Him? What if He doesn’t save your marriage? Will you still love Him? What if He doesn’t help me get this job? Will you still follow Him? What if He doesn’t answer your prayer? Will you still serve Him? These are tough questions, but necessary to ask yourself. God doesn’t always do the things we believe He should. Even when we believe with everything in us that He can and will answer our prayer, sometimes He doesn’t. Trusting Him after that is something we all must learn to do. We have to remember that He sees the bigger picture and that His ways are higher than ours.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to their captor’s god. The king brought them in and commanded them to do it or die. He asked them if they thought there was any god who could save them from burning in a fiery furnace. They told him that God was able to do it. Then, in verse 18, they added, “But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up” (GNT). They were willing to sacrifice their lives trusting God, even if He didn’t answer their prayer and save their lives. It’s the type of faith that we all need to have. It’s the type of faith we must determine to have before we get into a situation that will challenge us at our core.
Psalm 34:1 says, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises” (NLT). We can’t just praise God when things are going great and when our prayers are being answered. We must learn to praise Him at ALL times. When He doesn’t answer our most desperate prayer, praise Him. When everything in life is going wrong, praise Him. Our praise, trust and love for God cannot be based on our feelings or circumstances. It must run deep within us to the point that it is who we are. Determine today that even if He doesn’t respond the way you deeply believe He should, you will bless and praise Him anyway.
As I’m driving somewhere with my preschool son in the car, most of the time he will say, “Dada, I NEED your phone.” I typically respond back, “You don’t NEED IT. You want it.” I wonder if that’s how God sees us with our prayers sometimes. We often cry out in desperation, “God, I NEED this answer to prayer!” The truth is that many of those NEED prayers are truly want prayers. We WANT it very badly and are desperate to get the answer, but the truth is, a lot of those prayers are not really needs.
I’ve been reflecting on Hebrews 4:16 quite a bit. It says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (NLT)” I’ve quoted this scripture in many of my prayers, but I haven’t really broke it down until recently. I know that if I approach God’s throne of grace in prayer, He hears me. I often assume that because He hears me, He should answer according to the way I’m praying. That line of thinking has led to a lot of disappointment misdirected at God.
The verse says that at His throne of grace, we will receive mercy. When I hear that, I think of blind Bartimaeus outside of Jericho. He heard that Jesus was passing by and knew that He healed people. Bartimaeus yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! (NLT)” Jesus called him over, had mercy on him and healed him. When we approach God’s throne of grace, we are often crying out for God to have mercy on our request. Sometimes, He calls us over like Bartimaeus and grants us mercy and other times He gives us grace.
The last part of Hebrews 4:16 says that we will find grace to help us when we need it most. In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks of a thorn in his flesh that he asked God to remove. Instead of giving him mercy by removing it, God replied to him, “My grace is all you need.” God told him He wasn’t going to answer his request for mercy, but instead He would give him the grace to help him when he needed it most. He does the same for us. He gives us grace that is sufficient when He doesn’t answer our petition for mercy.
I don’t know what makes God choose grace over mercy so often. I wish I did. What I do know is that when He chooses grace, it’s enough. He has promised that whatever I face, He will give me grace that is sufficient to endure. He will be strong when I’m weak. He will carry me when I can’t seem to find the strength to move forward. Each time I approach God’s throne of grace, I know that I will either receive mercy to grant my request or I will receive grace to help me through the situation. Either way, I know that God has heard my plea and is giving me just what I need in order for Him to fulfill His purpose.