Video Link: Teach Us to Pray 7-Does God Answer Prayer?* (This is a video of the reflection printed below.)
Read: Matthew 6:10; 26:36-39
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10, NRSV).
When I was a little girl I had a pet kitten. I loved her. Then she got sick, but I thought, “No problem. I’ll pray for her, and she’ll get better.” But she didn’t. In fact, she died, and I was bitterly disillusioned.
It took my tender faith a while to recover. But over time—years, to be honest—I realized that God is not a vending machine. We can’t just punch in our prayers and expect answers to drop out.
So, now, when people ask me “Does God answer prayer?” I respond, “Yes, but the answers may not be the ones you expect.” That may sound like a dodge, but it’s really just a recognition that God has the freedom to respond to our prayers in ways that are far beyond what we can imagine. As I look back at my life and think of all the fervent prayers I made as a teenager, I have to say, I’m grateful that God sometimes answered my prayers with: “No!” But that was not God’s last word. As I look back on my life, I can see that God always had a “Yes” that was better for me in the long run. Now, I just try to remember to end each prayer with “Thy will be done,” and trust God to override all of my worst suggestions.
I don’t mean to make light of the anguish we feel when our prayers appear to be unanswered. I just want to remind us that God’s response to our prayers may be more complicated than what we can see in the short term. That’s not easy. It requires faith—and a profound trust that God weeps with us in our pain and promises a day when all our tears will be wiped away.
I hope this series has been helpful for you. And I pray that your prayers will come a little easier as a result of our having spent some time together. Thanks for listening, and may God bless you!
Ponder: When you look back on some of your most fervent prayers, were God’s responses what you hoped they would be? How does hindsight change the way you look at things?
Pray: Not what I want, but what you want. Thy will be done.
*This video was written and delivered by the Rev. Dr. Carol M. Bechtel, Professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan (Reformed Church in America). Dr. Bechtel is also the Executive Director of the American Waldensian Society. These videos were produced by the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese https://www.chiesavaldese.org/and filmed in the Cottian Alps near Torre Pellice, Italy in July of 2020.
Introduction to Teach Us to Pray Series 2
On my recent sabbatical in Italy, colleagues from the Waldensian church invited me to do a series of short videos on prayer. These reflections are a result of that invitation. Although they were written and filmed in the midst of the pandemic (July 2020), they are not “Covid-19 specific.” Still, knowing that they were created in that crucible may add a certain urgency—and utility—to them. I offer them to you here in the hope that they will help you to pray even as our world’s anxiety threatens to make our souls mute.
All of the videos were filmed outside my little lockdown chalet in the Angrogna Valley in northwest Italy, so at the very least, you can enjoy the scenery. And I hope you also enjoy the Italian subtitles. Learn Italian while learning to pray!
Still learning and still praying,