It has nothing to do with His power, but His word.
Watching my wife in violent labor pain was not fun.
It is pretty high on my “Top 10 Things I Don’t Want to Witness Again Because It Makes Me Feel Powerless” list.
Hearing all the screaming, knowing my wife was in intense pain, feeling like a giant baby that couldn’t do anything was a soul sucking experience.
For the 20 ish hours of my wife’s labor, almost all of it was spent in prayer.
Whether it was out loud prayer or quiet internal prayer, I was holding onto the truth that my God heard me and that He would answer my prayers.
So I prayed over and over and over again.
“God, please take away my wife’s pain.”
“Lord, please make the pain stop.”
“God, help my wife and make the pain go away.”
The pain finally did go away when the doctors gave my wife the epidural.
It was an answer to prayer, but I was left with questions.
Why didn’t God answer me?
This question has been asked since the beginning of time. People have pleaded, interceded, asked, sought, knocked, insert Christian word for prayer for God to do something and He has not done it.
Different people have offered possible answers, like:
God didn’t answer your prayer because there is sin in your life.
God didn’t answer your prayer because you didn’t have faith in Him.
God didn’t answer your prayer because you didn’t have faith in you.
Or in the person that was praying for you.
God didn’t answer your prayer because you were asking for selfish reasons.
God didn’t answer your prayer because it is not the correct time.
God didn’t answer your prayer because He loves you and has something better for you.
Now, I am not an authority on the topic of prayer.
There are some cases where I believe that the answers provided above are the right reasons as to why God didn’t answer.
Other times, these answers are a crutch we use to stand on so that we do not have to admit that we do not know.
But when my wife was screaming and bringing our baby girl into the world, these answers didn’t help me.
These answers did not comfort me or bring my wife any kind of relief.
In fact, they irritated my soul.
Why wouldn’t God stop my wife’s pain?
It was between my wife’s deep breathes and pushes, that the Holy Spirit reminded me.
Sometimes God can’t answer prayer because He gave His word.
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
– Genesis 3.16 NASB
Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of the Serpent. They disobeyed the command of the Lord, to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Because of their disobedience, there was a consequence.
Eve would experience pain in child birth.
It would be great pain.
It would forever be a reminder of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and thus a reminder of the sin of their offspring.
That child birth pain would move from Eve to every generation of women, throughout the globe.
Eve, my wife, your mother, your sister, every woman will experience pain in labor.
A great pain that would not go away.
Because God said so, God gave His word that this was going to be the way things were.
My wife’s labor pains couldn’t go away because God said otherwise.
I was praying for something that God couldn’t possibly give me, because He said there would always be pain.
No exceptions. No way around it, only through it.
God had given His word, and His word will endure.
Maybe God doesn’t answer our prayers, because our prayers, the things that we are asking for, go against what God has commanded, the things that He has said.
When that revelation hit me, I didn’t know how to process it.
What do you mean, God can’t answer my prayer because He already said something?
What kind of Almighty and Sovereign God is He?
Can’t God just change His mind, take back what He said, and answer our prayer?
It was then the Spirit moved my mind to recall what Jesus said about God’s words.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. – Luke 21.33
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.– Matthew 5.18
The prophet Isaiah affirmed this, but said it hundreds of years before Jesus was on Earth.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever. – Isaiah 40.8
Since those hours in the hospital, I have sat and thought through what the Spirit revealed.
God will not go against what He has said.
God would not remove the pain my wife was going through because He gave His word.
And God upholds his word.
He doesn’t back down.
With that truth being brought up, I called into question my prayer life.
And I’m sure when you look at these verses and examine the events of your life, you may start questioning what you prayed.
God will not do something against His word.
We pray to God to “override” or “change the mind” of our wayward brothers and sisters so that they would return to Christ.
But God won’t do that. God will not impose His love on them, force them to love Him against their will.
We need to realize that God isn’t going to do something against His Word.
We ask God to financially bless us, to give us another raise, another promotion so that we can buy more stuff.
But God won’t do that. God promised to give us our daily bread, to give us what we need, not to feed our whimsical desires.
We need to realize that God isn’t going to do something against His Word.
I think that for too long the church has ignored the “gentleman” nature of God. That He is a “Man of His Word”, that He will do what He says He will do.
And that has an impact on what prayers are answered.
And it should have an impact on what we pray.
I prayed in vain for the release of pain for my pregnant wife.
We pray in vain for more spending money.
We pray in vain for children, siblings, spouses or friends to be politely brainwashed by God.
We need to check ourselves, before we wreck ourselves and our relationship with God.
I found that before the Spirit directed my mind and heart to those portions of Scripture, I was angry at God.
Why wasn’t God doing this?
Where was God and His ever listening ear?
He seemed far away. Or He was ignoring me.
Or He was standing smug in the clouds, watching me in my weakness, enjoying the fact I had to ask someone for help.
When we ask amiss, when we start praying for things that God cannot do, we are driving our relationship with Him into a dangerous place.
We start assuming things about God that are not true.
We let our “flesh” as Paul calls it, run wild and come to conclusions about God and His nature that we don’t actually believe, but in the moment, we do.
This can lead to our own destruction. It can lead to a longer lasting anger than I experienced.
For some people, it leads to an anger that lasts a lifetime. A bitterness festers and poisons everything within us, killing a once fruitful relationship with God.
Images of an angry God, or a judgmental God, or God as a child with a magnifying glass and we are the ant tend to fill the mind and drive away the truth.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be mindful of this.
God cannot go against what He has already spoken.
And we would be fools to ask amiss for what He cannot give us.
But in all this seemingly discouraging talk, there is a ray of hope.
And what a hope it is.
But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. – 1 Timothy 2.15 NIV
This is probably one of the most problematic, confusing passages in Scripture.
Paul is writing to his partner in ministry and seems to make a weird salvation statement.
While this verse deserves its own post, I’ll say a couple things and point to how it all relates to God and our prayers.
First, Paul is not making some weird salvation statement.
It looks like it, it sounds like it, but it isn’t.
Read the rest of Paul’s letters. He is very clear that there is only one way of salvation. See 1 Thessalonian 5.9, 2 Timothy 2.10 and 3.15 for references. Or see what Jesus said and how Paul agrees with that throughout his other works.
The only way of salvation is through faith or trust in Jesus Christ.
It is not by works that we are saved, and that would include bearing children (Ephesians 2.8-9).
Second, this statement isn’t about salvation but God’s grace.
Remember what happened in Genesis 3?
Eve, and Adam, sinned and were subject to a curse, a punishment for their disobedience.
Eve would have to deal with a very painful child birth, as would every woman after her.
But in the midst of this painful child birth, in the moments of screaming and pushing, there is grace.
“Through childbearing” God will be with you.
“Through childbearing” God will make a way for you to survive.
“Through childbearing” God will see to it that you are not destroyed by the curse.
God makes a way, a way of grace through the curse.
For my wife, it was an act of grace, a blessing in the midst of pain to have my hand to hold onto.
For my wife, it was an act of grace through childbearing to have an epidural, medication to relieve the pain.
For my wife, it was an act of grace to be surrounded by competent doctors and nurses.
For my wife, it was an act of grace to know that her God had not abandoned her, even in that hour of need.
In the midst of her pain, I prayed in vain for something that could not be.
I wanted her pain to be removed, but God cannot go against His Word.
While my vain prayers did discourage me, the Spirit reminded me of who this God is.
God is a gentleman. He will not go against His word. His word holds strong throughout all the ages.
That includes His promises. That includes His blessings. That includes His provision through the curse.
This God, the God of the Bible is a constant God. He is not changed by the setting of the sun or the moving of the ocean’s tides.
Even though I am doubting Him, even thought I may question His character and His ability to save, He stays the same.
His character remains unchanged by what happens to me.
I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13.8
War, famine, earthquake, fire, you name the disaster, God is the same.
Bankruptcies, job loss, sickness, divorce, even death, God is not altered or diminished in the slightest.
What a joy and comfort to know that God is this way, no matter what we go through.
A gentleman, a “man” of his word, and yet gracious to us through everything.
What started out as discouragement, God not answering my prayer, took me to a place where I was confronted with the real character of God.
Not a weak, passive deity, but a God of honor and great love.
An eternal Being that couldn’t answer my prayer for me, and that is awesome.