Few things can foster doubt more than prayer. “You do not have,” the Bible says, “because you do not ask. You ask and did not receive, because you ask wrongly…The prayer [fervent prayer, NKJV] of a righteous person has great power” (James 4:3-4; 5:16). So, when we pray and it doesn’t work, we want to know:
- Is it me? — Am I not right with God, a “righteous person”?
- Is it my praying? — Have I not asked or not asked enough?
- Is it the way I am praying? — Have I not asked fervently, with enough intensity?
- Is it that for which I am praying? — Have I asked for the wrong thing?
Prayer can even destroy our faith. I mean, why would God say, “Yes,” to Samson, a self- focused narcissist (Judges 16:23-30); but, “No,” to Paul, a self-giving evangelist (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)? Why would God save Jonah from the consequences of his sins when Jonah prayed (Jonah 2:1-10); but, not save a sinless Jesus when he prayed (Hebrews 5:7; Luke 22:39-46)? And then there’s Manasseh. We’d be hard pressed to find a more vile human being in all of Scripture (2 Kings 21:5-6,11, 16). Why would God listen to Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-13, 18-19); but, not listen to me or you?! Man, that’s tough.
Well, who says he’s not listening?! The “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2
Corinthians 1:3) is always there to do something about our cares (1 Peter 5:7). He may not work as fast as we wish. He may not give us exactly what we request. But he is always there to compassionately do what is best. So, in the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “A Higher Pantheism,”
Speak to Him, thou, for He hears,
And Spirit with Spirit can meet —
Closer is He than breathing,
And nearer than hands and feet.