“It is true that ‘There is nothing too great for God’s power’; and it is just as true that ‘There is nothing too small for his love!'”
– Rosalind Goforth
These are the types of questions I have about prayer and how God works.
- If God ends up healing you from a disease, why didn’t he spare you from getting it in the first place?
- If he saved you from catastrophe this time, why not that one?
- Is a situation turns out “good” in your own eyes, how do you know it’s good in God’s eyes?
They are also the types of questions I had while reading Rosalind Goforth’s book, How I Know God Answers Prayer.
She was more confident in her answers than I am in mine (I rarely know the answers). However, I found her faith to be encouraging; don’t mistake my doubt as disparage.
She compiled this short book to document ways she did see God answer prayers (she felt so compelled, that to do otherwise would have been disobedient). I admire that. Through the years I’ve kept records sporadically of how I’ve seen God answer prayer. I wish I’d done it more.
I’m just uncertain at times about what to pin on God and what not to. So by default, I just count all good gifts as from him (James 1:17).
One answer from Goforth is this:
“Perhaps, however, the most blessed element in this asking and getting from God lies in the strengthening of faith which comes when a definite request has been granted. What more helpful and inspiring than a ringing testimony of what God has done?”
Asking a specific request, and seeing it answered that way, could be one evidence (although I’m glad God hasn’t given me everything I’ve asked!).
Rosalind shared several stories where if God had not been involved, someone would have died. She and her husband (and children) were missionaries in China during very difficult years, and faced true persecution. Yet time after time they were rescued to live and preach another day. I thank God with her for his mercies on her family.
“Our strength as a mission and as individuals, during those years so fraught with dangers and difficulties, lay in the fact that we did realize the hopelessness of our task apart from divine aid.”
But I appreciate that she didn’t tell only of the happy rescues. She also shared her times of doubt and resistance.
“The need was truly appalling, and there was no other woman to do it. In my innermost soul I knew the call had come from God, but I would not pay the price. My one plea in refusing to enter that life was the risk to the children. Again and again my husband urged that ‘the safest place’ for myself and the children ‘was the path of duty’; that I could not keep them in our comfortable home at Changte, but ‘God could keep them anywhere.’ Still I refused.”
And of her times of surrender anyway.
“A few hours later, when we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing—I had dared to fight against Almighty God. In the moments that followed God revealed himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself up to him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to him wherever he might lead.”
She also shared times of deep sorrow, such as when she prayed fervently for the healing of her child, but he died anyway.
Although few, at times I felt she placed too heavy a responsibility on our actions for how God answers prayer. I know we aren’t supposed to ask, then sit back and do nothing, but I need God’s help precisely because I can’t get it all together on my own.
“We therefore prayed that God would make the new house a means of reaching the people—a blessing, and not a hindrance. The answer to this prayer, as is often the case, depended largely upon ourselves. We had to be made willing to pay the price that the answer demanded.”
While I couldn’t always relate to her exact struggles (thankfully, because her life was hard!), I could relate to her joy in seeing how God cares even about the details of our lives.
“How to get the sewing done for my family and yet meet the pressing calls made upon me as the wife of a pioneer missionary, for almost thirty years has been perhaps the most difficult and constant problem of my missionary life. In connection with the solving of this problem, I have seen some of the most precious evidences of God’s willingness to undertake in the daily details of life.”
While this book isn’t written as a how-to guide or as a sermon to pray more, after reading it, I was convicted to not grow weary in talking to God about large or small matters, and to trust that he will answer, whether or not I understand how.
“As the past has been reviewed, and God’s wonderful faithfulness recalled, there has come a great sense of regret that I have not trusted God more, and asked more of him, both for my family and the Chinese. Yes, it is truly wonderful! But the wonder is not that God can answer prayer, but that he does, when we so imperfectly meet the conditions clearly laid down in his Word.”
* * *
- Jesus IS the kingdom
- Can we take grace too far?