Our son developed a debilitating pain in his stomach. We went to our pediatrician and was referred to a specialist at Children’s Hospital. After a brief look, it was determined that his tonsils needed to be removed and the pain would be fixed. That worked for a while, then the pain came back with what seemed like a vengeance! We returned to Children’s through the ER because of the pain. After spending a night and day doing tests we had no answers. After we did every imaginable test and scope we still had no answers. The doctors basically told us that they recognized the reality of the pain but could not determine its cause. We were referred to other doctors that could help teach him how to manage the pain more effectively. The problem was that we still had no answers. My wife and I were very stressed as we watched our child writhe in pain and scream to God for an answer. After 6 months we were desperate for answer. Our prayer changed from wanting to know the cause to just finding some solution. We did not even care any longer if we ever knew the reason as long as our child could be relieved of this issue!
I wonder if we sometimes feel like that with God. Life happens and we often do not know the ins and outs or reasons. We are a culture that demands an answer. When we do not get an answer, or one that we like, we are ticked off and start searching for second, third, and fourth opinions until we find one that we like. When it comes to our spiritual life I fear that too many are doing the same thing. We search for a god who will give us the answers we want rather than the answer that just is. Getting answers to our prayers can be tedious. Our patience runs thin and we start scrambling around like the quarterback who escapes the pocket and tries to run for the first down on his own.
Tucked away in Numbers 21:1-3 is a small episode that uncovers for us a pathway for getting answers.
Then the people of Israel made this vow to the lord : “If you will hand these people over to us, we will completely destroy all their towns.” The lord heard the Israelites’ request and gave them victory over the Canaanites. The Israelites completely destroyed them and their towns, and the place has been called Hormah ever since.
A Right Request
Israel came to God based on a covenant. They had been chosen by God to be the light to the world. He had already provided a spectacular escape plan out of Egypt. God had already displayed His protection at the Red Sea, His guidance by the pillars of fire and clouds, and His faithfulness at the Jordan River when they refused to cross over. Now they come before God based on the covenant relationship. Do you approach God based on your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you accepted God’s spectacular provision of escape from sin and death? Have you given your life to God for Him to direct and lead? Often I find that people cry out to God based on someone else’s relationship and wonder why things don’t happen and they are not getting answers. The right request is made based on a covenant relationship.
A Right Attitude
Israel is not whining here, though some have been taken prisoner. They come humbly before God. They make a request and they are prepared to honor their part of the process. Attitude makes all the difference. My kids make requests all the time. They already know my answer and sometimes quote it, “Depends on your attitude.” We are for more prepared to help someone when they come to us with the right attitude. However, if someone comes and begins demanding we are turned off. When someone comes with an attitude of expectation rather than humble request we are turned off. I believe God is gracious and kind. I also believe that God deserves our respect. Getting answers depends of the right relationship and the right attitude. Think back on times when you have not sensed a response from God. What was your attitude? Think back on those moments when you felt you were not getting answers. Did you go in search of them yourself and forget God?
A Right Response
Israel made the request properly and God, in His sovereignty, knew they would act accordingly. God knew they would actually do what they said they would do and answered their prayers. Did you know that God already knows how you will respond? Were you aware that God already knows if you will live up to your promise? We get backed into a corner of our own making (sin) and become willing to make all kinds of promises we will not keep. Let us not be fooled that just because we make an empty promise that God will have to answer the prayer. God is always looking out for our best interests. If getting answers or granting requests will only harm you then He might not.
Most of us have our grocery list of requests for God. We throw them all up and wait to see what the “benevolent grandfather” will give us. It is like the child who points and grandma buys. When we pray, ask, request, desire answers let us come out of a right relationship, with a right attitude, and a right response.