It would good to think that as Christians we would always know what to do, that prayer would simply be like tapping into a hotline to God and receiving an instant answer. But that’s not how our relationship with the Lord works. I’ve kept coming back over the past few weeks to Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus is teaching His disciples here that sometimes God does not instantly answer our prayers because He wants to test and refine our faith. Are we really seeking after the Father heart of God or are we looking for an easy solution?
Later on in the year we will be starting a sermon series looking at lessons we can learn about prayer in the Psalms. So many of the Psalms wrestle precisely with the question of what happens when it seems God has not heard our prayers, even when we have put our faith on the line. For example, in Psalm 24:2: O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer. I guess most of us can identify with that cry. We have been praying patiently, faithfully, but what has been the result?
Yet even though we may struggle with the whole issue of prayer, one thing should strengthen and comfort us. And that is the astonishing fact that we can know the will of God. I’ve heard a few people say to me recently that we cannot know with certainty what God wants, but that’s not what Scripture tells us. For example, Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. Or again in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
So, yes, sometimes we can find it difficult to see the way ahead, and we may not see instant answers to our prayers. Yet we are promised that when we offer ourselves fully to our Lord, He will reveal His will according to His timing and His purposes. We need simply to be listening out for that answer, and ready to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit – together.
Last Wednesday we had a meeting about the future of the building at St Barnabas. Many of us have been praying faithfully for the work of that church over the past 14 years, and we may wonder why we are in our present position. But the Lord has not abandoned us, and we do not know what has been the fruit of our prayers. What we do know, however, is that the Lord has a specific way forward for that building and will show us what we should do with it.
But maybe, just maybe, the Lord is asking us at this time how much we are intent on seeking after His heart together. Faced with a complex issue with many factors to consider, will we be found praying as one for the Lord to reveal His will? Perhaps there is something to learn from the fact this meeting took place just after the week of prayer when so many of us spent so much time praying together. Isn’t it just possible the Lord is asking us to carry on meeting so that we learn of His ways and ultimately make a decision which honours him?
That’s why I would ask all of us to put Saturday 11th June in our diaries. Because this is a time when together we will be meeting on St Barnabas Day in St Barnabas church to seek the Lord’s will and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. So please make every effort to be there, whether you consider yourself a member of St Barnabas or St Michael’s, in order that we too can discern the mind of Christ.