The Silence of God #3
The Silence of God #3
A situation arises. You’re praying for God’s intervention. You’re praying for healing, you’re praying for loved ones, you’re praying for the mountains to be moved and the giants slain. There’s a storm like you have never experienced and you are calling on Jesus to calm the storm. “Make it stop.” You state your case to God, you recite His promises in scripture, you’ve fasted, you’ve lit candles, you’ve given money, and you’ve made your vows “God, if you will, then I will.” You’ve called the Elders of the church to pray and to anoint with oil, your need is on the prayer chain. But nothing changes. You feel unheard, you feel like your prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling and echoing empty back to you. God is silent.
Maybe the worst has happened. What you wanted God to do wasn’t done. The job is lost, the loved one dies, the illness is long and painful, and a mind is stolen by dementia or Alzheimer’s. Beauty turned to ashes, dreams into nightmares, the day has turned to night and you’re at your wit's end. In your soul agony you cry out to God for relief, for comfort, for help, but there is no provision, God is silent.
In the silence, Eden’s serpent comes calling tempting you to doubt the truthfulness of God, the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God, and the existence of God. If you allow it, silence can motivate you to turn your back on God taking a big bite out of that apple. You are disappointed, you may feel betrayed, and you most likely are wondering what is going on. Hang on, what you trusted in the light, don’t turn your back on in the dark.
This is the third teaching in our attempt to make sense of the silence of God. We are going to explore possible explanations for God’s silence. If one of these explanations feels right to you, you most likely will find hope to cope with the situations you find yourself in. If none of the explanations feel right, we will push on and consider what to do in the silence.
Why unanswered prayer #11 Perhaps there is unseen Spiritual Opposition (Pete Greig, God on Mute, p 161)
Throughout the scripture, Angels are often working as messengers of God. Why this is so, I have no idea. In the book of Daniel, the prophet is praying, he needs Divine assistance, he needs an answer but is met with silence. When the answer arrives we learn why there was a delay.
Daniel 10: 10-14 (MSG)
“I heard his voice. At the sound of it I fainted, fell flat on the ground, face in the dirt. A hand touched me and pulled me to my hands and knees.
11. “‘Daniel,’ he said, ‘man of quality, listen carefully to my message. And get up on your feet. Stand at attention. I’ve been sent to bring you news.’ “When he had said this, I stood up, but I was still shaking.
“‘Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you understand what will eventually happen to your people.
It is generally agreed that the “angel prince of the kingdom of Persia” is a fallen angel who is attempting to thwart God’s will on earth. Michael is one of the elite angels who is sent to deal with the opposition, setting the messenger angel free to deliver to Daniel what he needs to know.
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Maybe the silence is because of a spiritual battle. The Apostle Paul encourages us to put on the whole armor of God, not just in times of silence but always because we live on a spiritual battlefield.
Ephesians 6:14–18 (NIV)
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
In times of silence, “stand firm.” It’s not easy, but the Holy Spirit will help you to stand.
Why unanswered prayer #12 Perhaps it is because of a lack of faith (Greig p. 169). I want to be careful here. There have been too many times that the accusation has been advanced that the reason you didn’t get what you needed is that you lack faith. That is so very discouraging. How does anyone know the depths of your faith and trust in God? But there is an attitude that will hinder your prayers, and that’s attitude is a refusal to go all in with God.
James 1: 5-8 (MSG)
[God] He loves to help. You’ll get his help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
It’s not a lack of faith, rather it’s looking at other options. Word to the wise: this doesn’t mean you ignore, let’s say your doctor, or your financial planner, it means you go first and foremost to God for direction.
Psalm 121:1–2 (NIV)
I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Whatever avenue God chooses to help, it is God and God alone who is to guide and provide. If you’re worrying your prayers, wondering what your options are if God doesn’t come through, such an attitude can cripple your prayers. Get rid of the double-mindedness, go all in with God, then “ask boldly, believing that God is the only One who can get you through.
Why unanswered prayer #13 Perhaps you need to persevere in prayer (Greig p. 172). One and done should do the trick, shouldn’t it? I mean it's not like God forgets what we ask of Him. The old timers used to practice something they called “Praying through” which meant they didn’t stop in their petitions until they received an answer to their request, they kept on knocking on heaven’s door.
Jesus told a parable about persistence we call the Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow. The teaching is found in the gospel according to Luke chapter 18.
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
Persistence has a refining power. It clarifies our desires. It drives us to God, urging God to break the silence. In the silence don’t quit walking with God, don’t stop, pray through and practice the 6 other habits of a disciple, reading the scripture, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation.
Why unanswered prayer #14 Perhaps there is a disobedience you have embraced (Grieg, p.175). I certainly have racked myself over the coals to make sure it was not some habituated sin in my life that was crippling my prayers.
If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.
A cherished sin is one you don’t plan on getting rid of. A habit, an attachment, or an addiction that is inconsistent with discipleship, with God's plan of transforming you into His image, something that has got to be dealt with. To hold on to it is to tell God you want His benefits but not Him. You want the blessings while you continue to do what He cannot bless. If that is the case your prayer will be met with silence.
You need to rid yourself of sin. Confession and repentance and doing the work of recovery are dealing with disobedience. God blesses those who are in the process of ridding themselves of sin.
Why unanswered prayer #15 Perhaps you are not doing your part in bringing the Kingdom. (Grieg p.175).
In Isaiah 58 the people are wondering why God is silent, why things aren’t going well, and why their prayers are not being answered. They are fasting demonstrating their commitment, persistence, their sincerity in asking God for help. But God says you are doing all these religious things but ignoring social justice.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
When it comes to our wants, desires, and needs, we often forget that Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God, then the other stuff will come our way. “Some prayers [are meet with silence] because of our disregard for the needs of others” (Grieg, p. 175).
When we have the power to make someone’s life better and refuse to act, to do our part, and then ask God to make our life better, do you see the disconnect? We all have heard the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Let’s tweak it a little. Do unto others as you would have God do unto you. The lack of compassion and action for others can result in the silence of God when you seek Him to meet your needs.
Maybe it’s time to consider yourself to be your brother’s keeper, your sister’s keeper (Genesis 4:9). The social justice issues in our culture are huge, regardless maybe just helping one helps all.
Perhaps one of these reasons for the silence of God fits your situation. That’s great. Grab a hold of that reason, and find comfort in that reason. If none fit, consider what C.S. Lewis wrote in the Screwtape Letter, Lewis's fanciful and insightful conversation between a veteran demon and a demon on its first field assignment. The elder devil writes: “Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” (Greig, p. 176. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).
When you encounter what seems like the silence of God, you keep on keeping on, doing the things you know to be righteous. Stay on course, the course of obedience. Let your response to the silence of God be “As for me I will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).