Monday, January 29, 2007

What Happened to My Unanswered Prayers?

Some time back, I sent an email to my friend’s Gmail account. However, for many weeks there was no response from my friend. Then I wrote another email to him to the other email ID of his that I had. He promptly replied. Later we discovered that the mail I sent was sitting in the Spam folder of his Gmail account. My mail was automatically filtered to the spam folder!
This made me contemplate on the prayers. I have been praying ever since my childhood. From short bed-time prayers to long intercessory prayers, pastoral prayers, prayers for the sick, in desperate need, etc. God answered some prayers but many are yet to be answered. What is happening to those prayers of mine that are not answered? God did not get it, or are they sitting in his spam folder?
I wish I could just visit heaven and see what is happening to those prayers of mine that are not ever attended to. For that, I will have to wait. However, God has specially favored John the Apostle with some special privileges. One such privilege is that he had an opportunity to peep into heaven and the throne room of God.
In Revelation chapter 8, John reports from heaven what is happening to our prayers. I draw a lot of encouragement from those words. In verse 4, we see that the angel who stands in the throne room of God offers the prayers of the saints to God along with incense. Verse 3 clarifies that the prayers are held in a golden censer. A similar picture is found in the fifth chapter also. Here the twenty-four elders are offering the prayers in golden censers before the Lamb who is our risen Savior. In this picture the incense are the prayers of the saints held in golden censers. They have harps in one hand (symbolizing praise) and censers in the other (symbolizing our prayers).
With this assurance, I still pray though all my prayers are not answered. I pray because I am assured that my prayers are not going to the trash bin, nor are they deleted my mistake. They are offered to God. They are valuable to God: the cries of anguish and questions that I presented in my prayers are so valuable to God so that they are offered in a golden bowl before him.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

No Exit from God's Will

God expects us to be fully submitted to his will. Sometimes, we will have to go through difficult times. We cannot get out of this before God's time and by our own means. This is what we learn from the life of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.
Babylonians who defeated Judah in 597 BC had made him king. In fact he was their puppet king. Usually the reign of kings in the Bible mentions their achievements and failures, in the case of Zedekiah, there is no mention of anything that he did. The account in 2 Kings (Chapter 24-25) only mentions only one thing he did. "Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon" (2 Kings 24:20). Then there is a long description of how the Babylonians retaliated to this rebellion by their vassal kingdom, how they besieged the city of Jerusalem, Zedekiah's flight, capture, punishment, imprisonment, the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the city, second exile.
This king could not anything for his people. Only complete the destruction of a nation by making the Babylonians destroy the temple.
What was Zedekiah's mistake?
His mistake was to rebel against the will of God. Prophets of his day, particularly Jeremiah had made it very clear that God's punishment is upon his people. He has sent the Babylonians to attack them and take them exiles to Babylonians. It happened in 597 BC. Then Zedekiah was made king over the Judah. The Babylonians were happy as long as Zedekiah paid the tribute that they demanded. The prophets also had prophesied that God will certainly bring those who were taken to Babylon after 70 years. Zedekiah was supposed accept God's will and lead his people. However, he was not. He probably was swayed by the loyalist party and rebelled with the help of Egyptians who were the enemies of Babylon. If he had not rebelled Babylonians would have let them live! In fact Zedekiah and his people were rebelling against the will of God.
A Second mistake he did was to trust in human power. Historians say that Pharaoh Apries encouraged Zedekiah to rebel against the Babylonians. He must have offered him military help also to do it. Zedekiah and his people thought by the help and support of the Egyptians they will be able to get out of the punishment that God has brought upon them. They took the sovereignty of God very lightly.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Maintaining a heart of gratitude

Maintaining a heart of gratitude
Though they have to start their lives again from scratches they are happy that God has brought them back. Maintaining a heart of gratitude even in difficult times is important to please God.
Psalm 126 illustrates the importance of maintaining a grateful heart even in difficult times. The psalmist(s) is excited about what God has done and hope that God will continue to be with them. Though what God has done for them actually has landed them in difficulties, they are still thankful; they believe that eventually everything will work out for their good.
The God of Israel had done a great thing by bringing his people back to their land from where they were exiled. However, it took more than sixty-five years for the first exile to return. Leaders like Zerubabbel, Nehemiah, Ezra and others led people back in different waves of return. The man who was captured and sent to exile when he was thirty is now 95 years old at least. The baby who was just born is now 65 and his parents are already dead. Some people have stayed behind in Israel and Judah. They had built houses and cultivated the lands of those who were taken captives. It has been theirs for about two generations now. In fact, those who came back are losers in one sense. They were nostalgic about the return, but they are now aliens in their own land.
Psalm 126, probably reflects such a historical situation. The sorrows and the struggles of the returnees are reflected in this psalm. It is good to be in ones own land. It is a sign that God has forgiven them and is faithful to the promises and covenants that he has made with their ancestors. However, now they are strangers in the land that was their home.
However, they will not complain about it. They look back to their coming back with great enthusiasm. It was so exciting to be real. They thought it was all a dream (Psalm 126:1). They were so joyful and happy (Psalm 126:2). However, they are in a situation now where they are in tears and have to go about weeping. Still they will not complain. They will just make a quick prayer to God to "restore our fortunes" (verse 4) and go to work hoping in him. Their hope is that God will trade their sorrows for joy. The imagery of farmers who in their desperate attempt to produce some food in times of famine, throw their last seeds to their ground and return home singing carrying a good harvest motivates every returnee. They won't waste complaining to God for landing them in such an unsettled situation while they were leading much more settled lives with houses and vineyards, etc in Babylon. Though they have to start their lives again from scratches they are happy that God has brought them back. Maintaining a heart of gratitude even in difficult times is important to please God.

Strength in Weakness

'For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy...