Believers along the Gulf Coast of the United States often face an interesting challenge of prayer during the hurricane season. As we experienced this past weekend, powerful storms sometimes make their way into the Gulf, moving due north, or tracking to the northeast or northwest. Certainly we do well to pray about the challenge, asking the Lord to perhaps lessen the winds, rains, and storm surges. While hurricanes in full bloom do sometimes weaken as they approach land, the laws of God's creation rarely allow for a complete dissolving of the storm. We all know this, and when storms such as Hurricane Nate move into the central Gulf, we all realize that someone will be directly impacted.
The challenge we face is this: Do we pray that the Lord will direct a hurricane away from own city or town, knowing that it would mean havoc and destruction wrought on someone else's home? The answer is obvious. We don't do this. We do not pray misfortune away from ourselves and onto others. The love of Christ does not allow for such requests: "Charity (love)... seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13:4-5). We rather pray for God's will to be done, even as the Psalmist affirmed regarding tempests:
"He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof… Stormy wind, fulfilling His Word" (Psalm 107:25; 107:29).
This consideration illuminates us regarding other matters about which we pray. Just as we would never unwittingly seek deliverance from storms if it meant God's directing them toward others, so we primarily pray for God's glory and the benefit of others in our intercessions and supplications. However, we can unwittingly make requests for ourselves that, if answered, would require our Heavenly Father to cause harm to someone else. We likely will not know the nature and detail of such matters, or even that such a contingency exists. God simply doesn't answer the misguided appeal (or, as a good friend suggests, the Lord does answer with a necessary "No!"). If we knew what the Lord knows, we would wholly concur, even to our own detriment. No believer will pray a storm, of whatever nature, to be directed toward others simply to avoid it ourselves. Thus, some unanswered prayers result from our imperfect awareness of details in the lives of others and ourselves.
The Christ who sacrificed Himself in love for God and man now dwells within believers by His Spirit. His character and nature of unselfishness thus inhabits the very depths of our spiritual being: "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). Thereby we seek to live - and pray - in a manner that honors the Lord Jesus and graces others with His loving involvement. This sometimes influences our requests as we realize our calling to reflect the character of the Master who lives within us. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:3-4). We do well to remember this as we pray, which may alter or even eliminate some requests for our own deliverance that would mean storms directed toward others.
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."
Weekly Memory Verse
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4)