Psalms 54: How Do Prayers Get Answered?
In Psalms 54, we have David in another difficult predicament where his life is in danger once again. He obviously does not want to die here, and this is his prayer to God as to why his enemies should not be successful.
Psa 54:2 Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
Psa 54:3 For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.
He wants God to hear his prayer because strangers have risen up against him. In and of itself, I don’t see anything remarkable in that statement, but he does add one more relevant fact. The people who are trying to kill him are not people who are following what God wants.
Does that make a difference in regards as to whether or not God will answer his prayer in the way David wants?
Interestingly, this passage could probably apply to almost every martyr in church history. They prayed to God because people were rising up against them who probably had not put their focus on God. The Roman Empire was not known for following God at the beginning, and many Christians were killed through this regime.
I wonder then why some of these prayers are answered and some are not. David’s prayer was answered, and he did not end up dying in this situation. Many other people have prayed a very similar prayer, but those people have died.
This is a major problem for many people. They don’t understand why their prayers have not been answered in the way they wanted, and I’m not going to pretend to have all of the answers for you now. However, here is what I can say in regards to this question.
First of all, as Christians, we believe that God is a loving God.
1Jn 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
For a definition of love, we can go to 1 Corinthians 13 which I will not copy for you here, but I think most of us roughly have an idea of what love is.
Therefore, if God is love, we can safely assume that He is not the kind of God that would answer some prayers one way and some prayers another way only to torture people on earth. That would contradict the characteristics from 1 Corinthians 13; someone who is loving would not do that. We still haven’t answered the question, but we can at least say that we have a justification as to why God is not some kind of supernatural torturer.
We need to do a little bit more work here. Why does it seem like some prayers are answered and others are not?
This is a trickier question than it might seem on the surface. A good place to start with this one is where John confirms that God does indeed hear our prayers. He does not guarantee an answer, but we can conclude that we are heard.
1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
If indeed we are heard, what then determines the answer? I think that another verse written by John can shine a little more light on this issue and make it is pretty close to an ultimate conclusion.
Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Think about this one. If we abide in God, and the word of God abides in us, any request that we have will be granted to us. However, this doesn’t mean that we have some kind of free pass. I don’t think it means that if you are Christian, God will help you rob a bank. Rather, if we truly are abiding with God, then what we will ask will line up with the will of God, and obviously, if it is the will of God, it will be done.
Jas 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Jas 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Jas 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
Now, we are talking about the will of God. Notice how it might not necessarily coincide with what we would think. James is arguing that instead of saying we will be going to a city, it is more accurate to say that if it is in the will of God, we will go to that city. There is a bit of ambiguity there. We do not necessarily know everything that is in the will of God at the time.
I think that we have come to the end of this road for now. Think about where we started. We began with defining that God is indeed love. Love is defined in 1 Corinthians, and if God is love, then we know that he is not simply torturing people from heaven for fun. That would be inconsistent with His character. That eliminates one counterargument.
We also know that God does indeed hear our prayers. It doesn’t mean that He absolutely answers them yet, but we know that they can get from us to God. Then, we find out that if we abide in God and God abides in us, we will receive what we pray for. If we abide in God, we are living according to the will of God. In other words, if we pray for something that lines up with the will of God, it will be done. The will of God gets done.
However, from James, we learn that we sometimes don’t understand that will. Therefore, we probably would not been always pray for things that are in accordance with that will that we do not understand perfectly, so it should not be surprising then that we do not always understand why God responds in certain ways to certain prayers.
It comes down to the fact that God’s mind is so complex and massive that we cannot always understand everything that He might allow to happen. However, what I do know is what I have laid out here. God loves us, hears us and has a plan for us.