Friday, March 30, 2012

Does God Answer Prayer

I was doing a little word study this morning as part of a new bible study on Isaac, Jacob, and Esau. I started by looking up the word pray in my KJV concordance. I was looking for a couple of things. First, I wanted to find the first occurrences of the word pray in the bible. And second, the Hebrew meaning of the word pray and it's synonyms. The definition of the Hebrew word for pray is: to judge, by extension (either officially or mentally), to intercede, to make supplication. Another word that the KJV used as a synonym for pray was intreat. The definition of the Hebrew for intreat is: to burn incense in worship; intercede; listen to prayer; make prayer.
How interesting that by definition, listening to prayer is part of prayer itself. Two-way communication.
The first uses of the word pray in the bible are found in Genesis 20:7 and 17. These verses refer to a time when Abimelech, King of Gerar, had actually taken Sarah to have relations with her, not knowing that she was Abraham's wife. God came to him in a dream to tell him she was married. God tells Abimilech to return Sarah to Abraham and Abraham would pray for him. Abraham did pray (intercede) for him, and God healed Abimilech and his wife so they could have children. (It is interesting to note that this incident took place several chapters after God had clearly promised that not only would Abraham have a son in his old age, it would be Sarah who was barren all her life, that would give birth to Isaac when she was ninety. If Abimilech had had relations with Sarah, that would have made a mess of God's provident plan.)
The next occurrence of the word pray is in Genesis 25:21.  (The KJV uses the word  intreat this time.) Isaac prayed to the Lord, or intreated the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was barren.
He pleaded with God, interceding for her.
The Lord answered his prayer,
granted his plea,
intreated him,
and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
I'm sure it felt to Abraham, while he waited for God to fulfill his promise for Sarah to have a baby, and to Isaac, all the years that Rebekah was barren, that the answer was 'NO'. Clearly, based on what we know about the story, God's answer was 'YES'. God's covenant with Abraham would be fulfilled through Isaac, his son Jacob, and his twelve sons who would become the chosen Nation of Israel.

Isaac prayed for twenty years for Rebekah to have children!
But...notice that God answers that prayer in the same verse that Isaac asks.
It was all part of God's perfect timing and provident plan.

In the next verse, Rebekah inquires of the Lord, asking, if all is well, why did she feel this struggling within her. The Lord answered her by telling her there were two 'nations' in her womb. She would give birth to twins who would become the nations of Israel and Edom (which is located in modern day Jordan).

What I have learned from all this is that
regardless of which word is used or which translation of scripture,
prayer involves two-way communication.
Abraham and his son Isaac both knew to turn to God in prayer. Rebekah, Isaac's wife, did too. I imagine that Isaac and Rebekah both learned from the example that had been set for them by their father Abraham. The prayers in the verses that we have looked at were all centered on child bearing. In their day this was probably the most important issue of the times.
What is the most important issue of our day?
In our time?
For me?
For you?

God honors their obedience. He shows grace for their disobedience.
Much like He does for us.
In our day. In our time.

When they inquire, intreat, pray, God answers.

Much like He does for us.

When we inquire, intreat, pray, God answers.

Two-way communication.

God's plan for their life unfolds one prayer at a time as they seek God's guidance and favor.
God meets their need right where they are in their walk with Him. He doesn't say clean up your act and get it right, then I will answer.
The answer was always 'YES'.
His answer is always in line with His plan and His timing.
His answer came in the same verse as the request....but Abraham,Sarah,Isaac, and Rebekah
had to wait
for the joy
that came
with the answer.