The Silence of God

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Several years ago some friends and I checked in for a week-end retreat at a Trappist Monastery. There was just one rule we were asked to obey-no talking! Well, that sounded reasonable enough-silence for two days. I can do that.  It will be good for me.  The truth is that I was driven to distraction in less than two hours. The silence was deafening. It dramatically reminded me of how hungry I am for the voices of my friends and family.

But there is an even greater voice I long to hear-the voice of my God. I can identify with the frustration of Job when he protests, “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer ….” (Job 30:20). I have felt like the Psalmist, when he laments, “My God, I cry out day by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest” (Ps 22:2).

Have you ever had a negative prayer experience like this?  It can be disappointing. It can even be devastating! Some people have given up on God because he refused to answer their prayers.  Ted Turner, who as a young man was planning to become a missionary, prayed intensely that his sister would be healed of a severe form of Lupus. But she just died. She just wasted away to nothing and she died. Turner’s response was to abandon his faith and become one of the world’s most vocal atheists.

He says, “Christianity is for losers,” and that he has replaced the Ten Commandments with the “Ted Commandments.”

Let’s face it. There are times in prayer when we do not get what we want. But that does not mean that our prayers have gone unanswered. There are other answers besides “yes.” And if we have the faith to accept God’s “no” it can bring even greater blessings in our lives. The apostle Paul prayed repeatedly that the “thorn” in his flesh be removed. God refused his request because he had another plan for the great apostle. In God’s plan, it was better for Paul to live with his “thorn,” dependent upon the grace of God, than to have the thorn removed. “My grace is sufficient for you,” God insisted. And it was.

Whenever you stand bewildered in the face of God’s “No” would you remember this? There was a time when God said “No” to the prayer of his only son! In the garden, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus asked, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42). That is prophet-speak for “I don’t want to die.” God’s “No” to the prayer of Jesus cost him immeasurable pain and a terrible death. But it also paved the way for his resurrection. Jesus asked that he might not die. God answered, “You shall live again!” There can be even greater blessing in the deafening silence of God’s “No.”

“Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” If, with Christ, we can come to God with the kind of faith that is willing to take his answer, and trust that his will is best, we will never be frustrated by the silence of God. As someone put it, the goal of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven, but to get His will done in us.

Stephen M. Hooks, PhD Professor of Biblical Studies

Not my will but yours be done.