We know that God does not just hear our every prayer, but he hears our every thought (Psalm 139:2). We also know that if we believe in Christ then the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers for us (Romans 8:26).
Twice now in the past year God has provided almost instant answer to my prayers. That doesn’t mean that his is in the least big obligated to do so. As anyone who remembers the story of the prayer days before I busted my knee will tell you, he is under no obligation to answer our prayers in the way that we want or would expect.
That said, I will bear witness to the two answered prayers from this year. In October and November I was caught in a debt spiral with no real vision of how I could get out of it. I prayed to God for help, and the very next day the local convenience store put up a help-wanted sign, and they could use the weekend hours that I had available! I’m not in great financial shape, but so far working the extra job has helped finance car repairs, travel obligations, Christmas presents, and a new computer to do video processing for my martial arts business.
Over the past few weeks I have been repeatedly hit from different sources with the same command about attending church:
The Full Assurance of Faith
19 pTherefore, brothers,3 since we have confidence to enter qthe holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by rthe new and living way that he opened for us through sthe curtain,that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have ta great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts usprinkled clean vfrom an evil conscience and our bodies wwashed with pure water. 23 xLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for yhe who promised is faithful. 24 And zletu s consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 anot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see cthe Day drawing near.
-Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV courtesy of ESV.org (emphasis added)
So I prayed that God would bring me to a place where I would once again be able to attend church regularly.
You remember the part where I told you that God is under no obligation to answer my prayers according to my preferences?
Yesterday as I stopped to grab food on the way to work (I am sick and overslept so did not cook my own) the convenience store let me know that starting this week they want me in an extra hour earlier each weekend morning. Now I can handle that Saturdays just fine, but the only way to get enough sleep to do that on Sunday mornings would be to give up gaming.
I give myself precisely four hours of me-time each week, and I work the rest. Those four hours are Saturday night. I had sort of considered that shepherds were also unclean because they had to work on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath laws are part of the old covenant anyway… but the NT instruction to keep meeting together was weighing on me all the more as I had two chances to attend church this spring.
Note: If you can’t make it to church regularly, let me shere the location of my crutches:
- the Lutheran Study Bible on Kindle
- ESV Bible on Audible
So, if I wanted to go from 90-hour work weeks to 92-hour work weeks, I would not only have to keep giving up church, but also give up the only major socialization in my life. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a recipe for Bruce the Monk to go genuinely bonkers in terms of both mental and physical health.
So, God has answered my prayer by making it impossible for me to keep working Sundays and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ll work the next two weeks, as two weeks is decent notice, but after that I won’t work on Sundays any longer. I’m going to have to trust God to fill up the $400.00-or-so gap that will place in my income (I had better write novels faster.) but we’re commanded to do that anyway.
So my news and my God thought are one. God hears our prayers. He answers them. The answers are seldom what we expect! Sometimes the answer is yes. Often it is no. And frequently it is not yet (like my prayers for a new knee so I can do the cartwheels in the sword forms I teach).