The Dialogue of Prayer
Answer me, Lord, in your generous love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
–Psalm 69: 17
In our lives, we often look for answers. We ask questions all day just to get an answer. What time is it? When will my package arrive? Where are my keys? What’s for dinner?
Of course, there are other questions we seek answers for. When did our marriage fall apart? How long do I have to live? Will I ever feel whole or happy again?
When he wrote this psalm, King David was in the midst of great turmoil and trial, pleading for God to answer him, and begging God not to forget him. However, the first time I read this verse, it sounded a little demanding. I’m sure David knew that God heard him, but it might have felt like God was sitting silent in Heaven, and the words poured out before David could stop them: “Answer me, Lord! Don’t You love me? Don’t You care?”
As the mother of a four-year-old, I sometimes can’t stop the words either, and they spill out in frustration: “Answer me when I’m talking to you!” Not a phrase that strikes me as something that the God of Heaven would tolerate, and in the book of Job, God answered in a way that would make anyone quake in their shoes. “Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers! Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:3-4).
We can be assured that God hears every single prayer, every single cry of frustration, every single sob and howl and scream. We can also rest assured that no prayer–not even one–goes unanswered. We have to ask ourselves: Did He just not give me the answer I wanted? My son could tell you that he’d like every answer to be yes: “Yes, you can have another cookie. Yes, you can stay up late.” And I delight in saying yes–but only when it’s good for my son. God is the best Father, and He knows what answers are for our good.
Our part is to open ourselves to God, letting Him know that we are willing to listen. I was shocked to learn that our prayers do not move the heart of God, in that they do not change His will, which is so high above our thoughts that we will spend eternity plumbing its depths. However our prayers are crucial to aligning us with His will. When we pray, we come into God’s presence, taking time to be still and search His heart. “Search me O God and know my heart,” said the humble psalmist, trying to cultivate stillness within himself (Psalm 139:23).
So the next time you find yourself wondering, “Why didn’t God answer me?” Stop, be still, and listen for His answer.