We pray…but nothing changes. We pray some more…still nothing changes.
Regardless if our prayers are for repairing a troubled marriage, the end to turmoil and fighting within a family, or for a promotion at work…the scenario seems to be the same for many Christians.
A husband may pray for God to heal his troubled marriage – yet never take the initiative to talk to his wife about problems. He ignores the issue, in reality hoping they will go away, while praying that God would fix the problem.
An employee prays for a promotion, for a pay raise, yet stays five extra minutes – or more – during her lunch break. She comes in right on time, or even a minute or so late, and then leaves on time – or a couple minutes early. She does the bare minimum of what is asked, never looking for ways to improve the company or suggesting ways to improve efficiency, and yet prays every Sunday at Mass for a promotion as she struggles to pay her bills.
Scenarios like these play out all over the world – and yet prayers eventually end up concluding with ‘God, why don’t you answer me? God, why don’t you do something about this?’
When we read the Scriptures – from Genesis to Revelation – we find out that God is indeed faithful to answering prayers (albeit it’s not always the answer we want) but he also requires us to act. We have to do our part as well.
For example, when Elijah raised the son of Zarephath’s widow from the dead, he prayed and THEN he acted.
I Kings 17 tells us the story where Elijah prayed to God in verse 20, and then in verse 21 he stretches himself over the child three times…in verse 22, it says the Lord heard Elijah’s voice and responded.
In Joshua 6:1-27 the walls of Jericho fell after Joshua’s Israelite army marched around the city and blew their trumpets.
In Matthew 14, Jesus feeds the 5,000 with a handful of loaves and fishes after he prays. But, he lifted the food up and blessed it and then he distributed it to the crowd. He didn’t just pray for food to fall from heaven (although he could have certainly done it). He used what was available and then acted by passing it out and picking up the leftovers.
What about Moses when he stood before Pharaoh multiple times in Exodus and performed miracles that God told Him to perform. He just didn’t pray for the release of the people and God came down in a big cloud and swooped them all up and freed them.
These are just a few examples of the many in scripture where people prayed or wanted God to act on their behalf and God answerd by telling them to do something and then He responded after their obedience and action.
Sometimes we never get our prayers answered because we don’t act.
Many Christians today remind me of an old joke I heard, but is very true. It goes like this (brief version):
A great flood came and a town had to be evacuated. The city sent police around in a boat to tell everyone to leave. A man refused to leave and said he prayed and God would save him.
The waters continued to rise and it got above his porch. The city sent in rescuers on a boat to get him to leave. He refused to get in the boat and told rescuers God would save him.
The waters rose to the top of his roof and he climbed to the top of his roof to get away from the waters. First responders came in a helicopter and dropped a ladder down for him to climb in. He refused and said God would save him.
The water rose above his head and he drowned. He got to heaven and told God “Why did you let me die? You made me look like a fool. I told everyone you would save me and you let me die?”
God answered: “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what did you want me to do?”
Let’s remember when we pray and we want something to change, God often requires us to act and do something. If we want our marriage to be better and stronger, what can we do to make it better? Then…do it.
If we want a promotion, what can we do to make ourselves valuable enough to receive a promotion?
If we want an end to racism, what can we do to make ourselves a voice for unity and not separation?
If we want our church to grow, what can we do to help it grow?
If we want God to be glorified in our cities and country, what can we do to glorify Him in our life?