The story found in John’s eleventh chapter is one of my favorites. The episode opens as a family passionately prays that Jesus would come to their rescue! Jesus didn’t! Though Mary and Martha prayed that Jesus would come to heal their dying brother, Jesus didn’t! Jesus didn’t come to their rescue and Lazarus died!
“Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha... So the sisters sent a message to him: ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’ ... Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was” (John 11:1–6).
Why? Why didn’t Jesus drop everything and come running? Was the faith of Mary and Martha too meager? Was the love of Jesus inadequate or was His power insufficient? No! No! No! Jesus explained, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). In other words, Jesus didn’t grant Mary and Martha’ request because He had a better plan! He waited until Lazarus had been entombed for four days. Only then did Jesus show up and show off! “Lazarus, Come forth!” (John 11:43, ESV). Wow! Jesus’ plan was better!
Jesus directed His disciples: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). We are to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
We are commanded to pray, even though we know that God has a perfect plan and purpose. He’s sovereign. As Mary and Martha could attest, God doesn’t always answer our prayer in the very way that we ask. He’s not a spiritual Santa Claus or a Jeannie waiting to grant three wishes. He’s God! We serve Him, not the other way around.
So, here’s how this looks to me. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven...” (Matthew 6:9). When we pray, we can snuggle up close to our Abba-Father and whisper in his ear. He’s our loving Father. We’re His children. He wants to hear from us. He wants to know what hurts. He wants to know what thrills our soul. Share it with Him. “Come boldly to the throne of grace, (to) obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV).
When my son was little, he crawled up into my lap. If he was sad, I comforted him. If he needed direction, I gave my best fatherly counsel. If he needed my assistance, I offered to fix what was broken. And, if my son requested a razor-sharp knife or a deadly snake, I said no!
When we pray, we acknowledge that we are speaking to the Father, but also that we are approaching the sovereign and majestic King of all kings and kingdoms. We pray, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10, KJV). We don’t pray to change the King’s mind. As we pray, we align our desires with His. We pray, submitting to His rule, yielding to His plan, accepting His direction.
We pray to the loving Father, and at the same time, we pray to the One and Only Sovereign God!
“Heavenly Father... Thy will be done!”
All Scripture quotation, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.