Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Day I Called...Wow!

During the long (and life-changing) journey, I've been studying the longest book in the Bible, the book of Psalms.  I've taken a psalm a day (okay, I've missed a few, but we all do) and have found wonderful encouragement and strength along the way.

While reading Psalm 138 the other day (I'm nearly at the end of my cancer treatments and nearly at the end of the Psalter), I read a phrase that caused me to suddenly look up from the page with wide-eyed surprise:

"On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased" (Ps 138:3).

Okay, I've got enough faith to believe that God hears prayers, although I have no idea how he can hear all the prayers of all who cry out to him simultaneously.  But without thinking it through, my mental picture of God's hearing of prayer has been a bit like my getting email.  You're certain to get a reply from me when you send an email and I'll do what I can to help you, but that email is probably going to sit in my inbox for a bit while I'm working on other's requests or taking some time away from my PC.  Not so God.  I like the New English Translation here, "On the day you called I answered."

Do we have enough faith to believe that God not only hears our prayers the instant they are prayed (or perhaps even before since He knows our thoughts before we think them [Ps 139]), but that the answer comes immediately?

Now it's certain that we may not realize that the answer has been given simultaneously, but just because we don't instantly grasp God's answer doesn't mean that he hasn't answered instantly.

An example of the supposed delay in answered prayer is found in Daniel 10.  Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, then one day while standing on the banks of the Tigris (in modern day Iraq) an angel appeared to him with a message from God.  The angel revealed to Daniel the immediacy of God's response to his prayer and the reason behind the supposed delay:

Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."

Okay, I have to confess that I don't totally get that "Prince of the Persian kingdom" and "Michael...came to help me" stuff.  It appears that "We don't wrestle against flesh and blood" (Eph 5) stuff was going on with Daniel, and it may account for the "delays" we experience in answered prayer, but the point is that Daniel was heard by God on the day Daniel prayed and God dispatched a messanger with the answer on that same day.

God doesn't have an "inbox," it's ALL "instant messaging" to Him!

So...pray.  I am.