Impossible Answers to Prayer
I Samuel 19:20-28
What happens then when we pray? God answers! But does He always answer in the manner or timing in which we expect? Let’s pause in our story of Hannah for just a few moments to look at some other Biblical examples of seemingly impossible answers to prayer.
The first example is a case of freedom from slavery. In Ex. 2:23-25, the children of Israel are under bondage in the land of Egypt. This word for bondage is “abodah” in the Hebrew, meaning service or work. They have endured inhumane slave conditions year after year and finally, when the king died, they “sighed by reason of bondage.” What does this mean to us? We have to be sick and tired of whatever binds us spiritually. That sin that is “working us over” has got to go for the Lord to make use of us. Finally, the Israelites turned to the Lord. Their cry went up to God and He “remembered” them; it was high time to make a memorial of the children of Israel. The Red Sea parting is just the beginning of the memorial that God made of the children of Israel. They cried out to God and were delivered from slavery. Perhaps you know someone who is in bondage in the age we live in. Whatever addiction or vice has gripped their soul; it is not too late! When looking at the circumstances surrounding the deliverance of the Israelites, one would think that it was impossible. Sometimes, I believe God allows things to get so bad, in our opinion, in order for us to realize that He and He alone can perform miracles. Only He can deliver from sinful addictions! Relief from the bondage was received by the children of Israel in answer to their plea for help. This relief is still readily available today; we just have to ask! I do find it interesting that the Israelites were not freed immediately; twelve chapters later is where we have to turn to find the description of their deliverance. What does this mean? That God has a timetable. His order of events is divinely unprecedented and supremely foreseen. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Deliverance from slavery of any kind is not impossible; but we have to be prepared that it may take longer than we would like.
The next example is an “impossible” answer to prayer regarding worldly competition. The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a favorite of mine. Such description in the Word of God to paint the picture of how miraculously God worked in answer to prayer! I Kings 18:17-38 covers this story of a clash of worship. Elijah has challenged the people of Israel to face the prophets of Baal and their teaching straight on but the Israelites do not have a reply to Elijah. King Ahab and the prophets of Baal go head to head on Mount Carmel against Elijah, the only remaining prophet of the one true God. This passage of Scripture is incredibly detailed in explaining the order of events. The prophets of Baal take their turn at offering a sacrifice to their god. They begin to pray for fire to fall and consume their sacrifice. They prayed from morning to noon. No answer from their god. The Bible says they began to jump on the altar themselves as living sacrifices and yet their god did not answer. At this point, Elijah begins to say, “Dudes (RSV), maybe your god is in the middle of something important, a conversation, or on vacation. In fact, I think he’s sleeping and you need to do something more to wake him up. Maybe you should get an amp.” This caused the prophets of Baal to cut themselves to the point of bleeding in belief that their god would answer their prayer. And this behavior continued until evening. At this point, Elijah requests the people to come close to him and he repairs the altar of the Lord. With twelve stones, signifying the twelve tribes of Israel, he prepares the sacrifice. An extra step in this procedure was digging a trench around the altar. Then he has four barrels of water poured over the altar. Wet wood and fire didn’t mix back then either! And he has the four barrels poured over the altar two more times. By now, we should get the picture that if God doesn’t light that fire, then it is NOT going to be lit! The trench was filled with water. And then, Elijah prays. His prayer isn’t lengthy, nor does the Bible say that he did anything to try to impress God. He simply prays, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” You’ll never believe what happened next. The fire of the Lord fell and consumed every bit of the altar Elijah had constructed and I just love what it says in verse 38 “…(the fire) licked up the water that was in the trench.” What an amazing God we serve! How do we ace the worldly competition? How do we win over the circumstances, time constraints and surroundings that compete with our spiritual walk? By following Elijah’s example: surrounding our lives to Him and prioritizing our time with Him.
We’ll continue this path of “impossible” answers to prayer with two more examples, but I challenge you to soak your sacrifice with water and let the fire of God lick it up! Spoken like a little country girl who wants to do big things for God.