Sometimes prayers that seemingly must be answered apparently go unanswered.
Had, for example, we been in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, we might have earnestly sought the help of God for a man unjustly accused and tried for capital crimes against the state. The horrible injustice of Roman execution by a cross awaited the accused if found guilty.
“Lord, this man has done nothing amiss! On the contrary, He has done all things well! I have seen Him help so many people by His words, His actions, His attitudes, and even miracles that You must have inspired and empowered! Please, Lord, save this man from the terrible fate that will cause Him undeserved shame, suffering and death. Please, Lord, help this man!”
No nobler or well-meaning prayer could be imagined or offered. If answered, however, the consequence would have involved the eternal damnation of the entire human race.
“Christ died for our sins… we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (I Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:9).
God would not and could not answer the aforementioned prayer in the literal sense in which it might have been prayed. He had sent His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world for the very purpose of suffering and dying for us. However, He did respond to the good and well-meaning intention of the prayer, albeit in a far greater way than the supplicant who prayed could envision. God saved His Son from death by resurrecting Him (Hebrews 5:7). He then exponentially amplified the glory by imparting the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection to untold multitudes of the redeemed. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight” (Colossians 1:22-23).
With God, there is always more to the picture than meets the eye. If good and noble prayers seemingly go unanswered, it may be that our Lord’s response involves far greater purposes than our eyes can envision. Yes, sometimes a cross is His answer, or at least, a cross initiates God’s working in response to our praying. His ways transcend our understanding, and the bestowal of His grace often flows through tributaries that wind their way through dark valleys of pain, sorrow and loss. “We went through fire and through water: but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:12)
2,000 years ago, seemingly unanswered prayers on behalf of a just man led to eternal salvation on behalf of multitudes of the unjust. The same principle may apply when our current prayers seem to find no response in the heart and hand of God. He may well be accomplishing some purpose far beyond our capacity to fathom and ask, some purpose of redemption that requires a cross in order to make possible a resurrection. Yes, as we pray, let us remember that with God, there is always more to picture than meets the eye.
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”