I am terrified of spiders. Imagine my horror when sitting in church with my Dad, I saw a big — and I’m not exaggerating — hairy, eight-legged monster crawling down my coat. I was eight-years-old at the time. I froze. And in a whisper to my Dad, I cried out: “Dad, Dad, there’s a spider on me.” No response. My father didn’t even flinch. He just continued to sit still, with his eyes closed. Again, in an urgent plea, I begged for help. My Dad knew my fear of spiders. Nothing. Next, I appealed to God, my heavenly Father. I prayed as hard as I could to see the spider crawl across the floor so I would know it was no longer on my body. My prayer was not answered.
Still, to this day I wonder why my dad didn’t come to my rescue. And, as he’s no longer alive I cannot ask him. Perhaps he didn’t hear me. Maybe worship was more important than my small concern. And, why didn’t my heavenly Father come to the rescue? Surely not so I could just share the story here and find a lesson in it!
My example is small, but what should we do when we make much bigger and more important requests to our heavenly Father, but they are not answered?
How can we be reassured, when God seems to neither hear our cries, respond to them, or act and help? There are no easy answers. Instead, there are promises we must hold onto. We can be certain that:
God hears our prayers.
God doesn’t have selective hearing like my Dad seemed to in church. When we are in a relationship with God, He hears our prayers. He hears the prayers of the righteous. If you doubt that you’re “good enough” for God to hear your prayers, then be assured your humble attitude means God does hear. Read the story Jesus told about a tax collector — despised, seen as greedy and unscrupulous — who, because of his humility, was right with God.
God answers our prayers.
God does respond. We want the answer to be “yes.” A “no” and “not yet” can be difficult to deal with. When the answer we want is a long time coming, we can doubt ourselves and God. We can wonder:
Am I praying for the right thing?
Is it my lack of faith?
The Israelites cried out to God for 400 years before they got justice. That means many people died without seeing the freedom they desired. I wonder if Jesus had that historical event in mind when He told the story of a persistent widow who needed justice? Jesus said to never give up praying. Perhaps we won’t get the answer in our lifetime. But, we must trust that God is working everything out for good.
God’s timing is perfect and His plan is good.
This can be hard to swallow when the good we want to happen isn’t taking place. But, in the middle of our distress, we can be persistent with God. Even when the “no” comes, we must still worship God, just as David did.
I sat still through the service.
I stood quietly by my Dad as he chatted to people after church. I barely moved in the car on the way home. As we pulled in the driveway, I rushed in the house and to my mom. “There’s a spider on me,” I wailed. She peeled off my coat and walked around me. And then I felt a swish of her hand on the sweater at the nape of my neck.
I didn’t hold a grudge against my Dad, perhaps that’s why I never asked him why he hadn’t responded to my predicament. I still worship God, but I hope one day to get to ask him “why?” And perhaps, that is where you are with your unanswered requests — still worshipping God even though you have a “why?” in your life. Let’s encourage each other to keep trusting.