The Answer to our Prayers

December 15 2016
December 15 2016


Wouldn’t it be nice to know all of the answers to all of our prayers? It might even be nice to know the answers to some of our prayers? Unfortunately, we are not God, which means we may never understand or know the answers to some prayers. However, what if some of the answers are more readily available than we previously thought?

The other day I offered some of my thoughts on what worship means and why it is a necessary and integral part to life. Now, I want to take a moment to reflect on a specific part of worship: prayer. In a worship service and in a worshipful life prayer takes a few different forms. There are prayers of thanksgiving, confession, praise, and petition. For those of us who grew up in the church, we understand this by the acronym ACTS. This helps us to understand the parts of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. All these are essential parts of the communication with God that is prayer. But lets be honest for a moment. More often then not, our prayers are 90% supplicationor asking for things, and 10% other stuff. So, if a majority of our prayers are asking for something then let us focus on our supplication. More specifically, lets focus on the answers to those prayers.

A typical petition of God, at least from my own life, looks something like this, “God, please be with so and so, bring them healing and comfort. Let your will be done. Amen,” and then there is silence, a passive waiting for God to go and perform a miracle. Don’t hear me wrong, can God perform miracles in a moments notice? Absolutely. However, what if the answer to some of our petitions is right there in front of us? What if it’s not even in front of us but within us?

The Swiss Theologian Jean-Jacques von Allmen has challenged me recently in my thinking of prayerful petition. Ponder over this quote for a few minutes, “The Church too becomes responsible for achieving what it asks for…Prayer, then, commits the Church first to placing itself in the service of God’s answer to its prayer.”[1]

Unfortunately, we can become trapped in the mindset that prayer is a passive action, one that seems to not require much action after the final “amen.” It becomes something that is done as a plea for healing, blessing, or safety followed by a silent, still waiting for God to move or speak. Those who ask or plea takes no action to accomplish what was asked. Von Allmen would go so far as to say that this passive plea is not even prayer. For in prayer, the Church community binds itself to action based upon the request. If the Church asks for comfort in the midst of crisis, then the Church must become a place of comfort. If the church asks for healing, then the Church must do everything in its grasp to bring healing. Prayer is not a passive ritual but one that requires action.

Jean-Jacques von Allmen gives the example of Paul who prayed constantly for the kingdom to come but then went on in blood, sweat, and tears to bring the kingdom to those who hadn’t heard. Or take Jesus’ prayer of lament in the garden of Gethsemane. It is a startling example of what prayer-led action looks like.  Jesus begs for the cup to be taken from him but then relents and offers up a prayer that resonates even today, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”[2] Then, after uttering those fateful words that von Allmen agrees are a integral part of common prayer, “may your will be done,” Jesus didn’t sit around waiting for God’s will to happen, he participated in God’s will by faithfully living in such a way that allowed God’s will to happen.

Prayer is not something that is to be taken lightly. When the Church cries out to God in anticipation of an answer, the Church must realize that the ability to come to an answer, to see God’s will be done, has been gifted to it by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. Again, there is still wisdom in waiting for God to act according to our pleas but there is a difference between waiting for God to move as inactive members of the body, and waiting for God to move and then moving with him. God is moving in today’s world, we are privileged enough to participate in that movement. So when we ask God to move, when we ask for God to heal, bring comfort, and restore, we must also ask how God might be calling us as members of the body of Christ to move with him to bring that healing, comfort, and restoration.

So what is the answer to some of our prayers? You and me. To be active participants in the will and movement of God! Even in those instances where the answer is hard to understand or not apparent in an instant, by remaining faithful to God’s movement in the world, we become participants in the answers to all prayers.

[1] Jean-Jacques von Allmen, “Theology of Common Prayer,” in Studia Liturgica (1974-1976), 134.

[2] Matthew 26:42 (NIV)


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