2 Chronicles 7:14: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

There is a communication flow going on between Heaven and Earth, and we’re in that flow as we pray. Intercession is part of it, but I would venture to say that intercession is not the essential part of that communication flow.  Comparatively speaking, if our only communication in a marriage relationship was to issue a To-Do-List to our spouse every day, love would probably go out the window after a while.

Don’t you hate those fruitless conversations which after a while turn into mere monologues? One person does the talking, the other person’s job is to listen. Maybe occasionally the listener is asked for some feedback, but mostly this person is expected to be the sounding board.

Thankfully, God is no sounding board. The communication flow between Heaven and Earth goes both ways: God speaks to us, and we listen; we speak to God, and He listens. While it is certainly OK to vent to Him and spill all our beans, prayer is a two-way-conversation. God wants to impress His wisdom, and we need an open mind to receive His directions.

Dishonesty presents a major obstacle to our communication flow with God. We can lie to our neighbor, we can lie to ourselves, but lying to God does not work. Actually, lying never works – and hiding from God does not work either. Adam and Eve were prime examples. And why would we want to hide? Why would we be afraid of Him? There is absolutely no question about God’s merciful attitude. Unlike people, God is not quick to condemn and His patience is astounding. He forgives and forgets and gives us a fighting chance as we go through our daily battles. And as we do, we just keep the prayers coming. This will positively affect our lives and the world around us.

We can pray anywhere, anytime. Let’s not give up on praying!

Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

A prayer is just a beginning. A prayer opens up a whole new world. And the best of it is: we might pray for some very specific things and hope for certain outcomes, while God has infinitely more in mind. As God responds to prayer He puts more into His answer than we could expect, and more than we could have imagined. In the scope of things, we’re asking for an ice cream cone, and in the end we’re getting an entire ice cream truck – not to overindulge in ice cream but because we might have a passion for ice cream, and now we’re in the business of selling it.

I know this is an arbitrary example, but fact of the matter is, compared to God who created us, we don’t know ourselves very well.  So, when it comes to life decisions or life changes then praying comes in really handy.

At the end of the day, when God answers prayer, all we can do is sit down and thank Him. Prayers and answers to prayer both honor Him. Prayer gives honor to God because we trust Him enough to submit our issues and problems into His care. Answers to prayer honor Him because the way God comes through for His children speaks volumes about His generous character.

Answers to prayer are scattered all over the Bible, here are just a couple of examples:

Genesis 25:21: “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (with twins no less).”

Rebekah’s twins were named Jacob and Esau. Sibling rivalry led to Jacob’s departure from home when he was still very young. Without the protection of his father’s tribe he felt extremely vulnerable. So Jacob fell on his knees and submitted this request to the only One who could help him now. In Genesis 28:20-22 we read:

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Jacob’s prayer consisted of three emergency items:

  1. Protection
  2. Food to eat
  3. Clothes to wear

God’s answer went far beyond Jacob’s initial request when He granted him:

  • Protection
  • Food to eat
  • Clothes to wear
  • Wives
  • Children
  • Livestock, which in modern terms could mean a thriving business

Jacob left home with just the clothes on his back and not a penny to his name and came back a Patriarch of a new tribe, a tribe God created to bring hope into the world. Ultimately, God’s Son Jesus would be born into Jacob’s tribe. Jesus is the ultimate answer to all prayers spoken for the sake of freedom and redemption – and nobody could have expected this kind of answer. Who would have thought or even come up with an idea such as this: God slipping into the role of a human to free us?

These are God-sized answers to human-sized prayers. Glory to God for His incredible heart to feel our pain and His incredible mind to come up with mind-blowing solutions!

  “There’s a long black cloud comin’ on down

I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door” (Bob Dylan)

Psalm 10:1: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?”

Maya, our cat, loves to hide. This photograph shows her hiding under an old blanket, her favorite hiding place. When I visited my little niece and nephew in Germany this year their favorite game was hide-and-seek. For some reason the oldest of children’s games is still very popular. While playing games and hiding out is fun, a hiding God is an entirely different matter.  Have you ever been in a situation where you were wondering: “Where on earth is God?” Welcome to the club of God-seekers!

If you have ever been in trouble or witnessed someone close to you in trouble, then you also know the feeling of helplessness creeping in when nothing seems to work – especially after praying (sometimes viewed as the last resort). The Psalmist in chapter 10 of the book of Psalms voices frustration praying something in the lines of: “God why do you stand so far away? I’m over here! Why is it that you seem farthest away when I need you most?”

We have a mysterious God and we have to come to terms with the fact that not everything about Him can be explained. I believe this is a good thing even though it drives me crazy at times. Our God is an awesome God who has lived longer than you and I, longer than this universe, longer than anything He has created; He has lived forever – you get the picture.  He has done more things than we can ever imagine and His feelings are deeper than the bottomless sea. With that in mind, can we appreciate His complexity? And we have not even touched on the Trinity yet. If you think you have figured out God, think again. On a smaller scale I’m not even sure that human beings can be figured out. There’s this tendency to typecast people. You see a certain behavior pattern and then you start predicting behavior.  Good luck with that!  Have you ever tried to have a close relationship with someone that way? Figuring a person out is certainly not the way to do it. The movie Groundhog Day plays off of that notion when one of the main characters in the movie is trying to win a girl’s favor by memorizing all her likes and dislikes in an effort to create a perfect day for her. Spoiler alert (if you haven’t watched that movie yet): it does not work!

If figuring out people won’t work, much less figuring out God; where does this leave us when we are frustrated with God’s apparent nonchalance? The best we can do is to hang in there.  We have multiple Bible stories with examples of people who chose not to wait and took matters in their own little hands.  The result is almost always disastrous.  Just this morning I read about Jacob’s grown-up kids who took matters into their own hands when they avenged their sister Dinah’s rape by killing off the entire male population in that area. Reality check: all the males are killed because one male committed a crime and raped a close relative. Disproportionate?! Yes.  This happens when emotions are clouding sound judgement.

Emotions may also cloud my perception of God. In any event, there is no recipe of how to get through tough times with people around me creating problems and a God who seems so far away. I’m a firm believer of venting in the privacy of my prayer closet.  That’s what the Psalmist did, and that’s what gets me through tough times. If venting to God prevents you from doing something stupid, your prayer is already working.  God listens and He always answers – you guessed it: He answers in most surprising ways!

“Our God is an awesome God; He reigns from Heaven above with wisdom power and love, our God is an awesome God! (Rich Mullins)”