Do You Only Praise God When He Answers Prayer?
“Anne, is Nathan around?”
I could tell Kyle’s tone was different. Kyle was Nathan’s youth pastor and usually his voice was light. But not today.
“What’s up Kyle?”
“I have reason to believe Nathan is going to hurt himself,” Kyle answered.
“No, he’s not here,” I answered quickly, and then we said our goodbyes.
The phone rang again. One of his friends thought she knew where Nathan might be. My stomach tied in knots as I waited to hear if Nathan was okay. The clock barely moved for a couple of hours. It was not one of my better times in leaning on God. I was scared to death. And when I got the call that he was okay? I cried. And I praised God for protecting my son.
I remember another call years earlier. I had just left Chicago where my brother and sister-in-law lived. Annie had just given birth to the cutest little baby with brown eyes. I came and stayed with them and got to know little Joseph Steven. I held him, I rocked him. He was adorable. And then after helping them for a few days it was time to head home to my own family.
The hour-long trip zipped by as I shared with my husband about Joseph. When I got home a friend stopped by and we sat over a cup of tea. It was good to be home.
The phone rang and it was my brother Steve. But this time his voice sounded urgent.
“Anne, you gotta pray. It’s Joseph. He’s all blue. I’ve called the paramedics and they’re working with him now.”
“I’ll pray,” I said as I hung up the phone. And I began pleading with God.
“Lord, not the baby,” I said over and over. I had been to a baby’s funeral before and I remembered the utter devastation for the parents.
I paced back and forth as I prayed. I could not settle down. And then the phone rang again. But this time Steve was not rushed at all. On the contrary. Steve spoke in slow deliberate sentences.
“He’s gone,” he stated. “The paramedics worked on him for an hour.”
I could hear the pain in my brother’s voice. Pain that would stay with him for years. Every February he would relive that pain on his son’s birthday and then 12 days later on the anniversary of his son’s death. Never again would he experience being a father.
After Steve’s call, praise was not on my mind. Instead my mind was full of questions. The kind that have no answers. Sometimes God answers our prayers. Sometimes he says no.
When Things Go Wrong
So what do we do when our prayers don’t get the answers we wanted? At those times we struggle to keep it together. Praise is not the first thing out of our mouths. Questions bombard us: Didn’t God hear my prayers? Why didn’t he answer them? Why did this happen?
Through the years I’m learning praise is something we give God no matter what. He’s not a performer who gets applause if his act is good.
God is to be praised for who he is, not what he can do for me.
Our feelings get in the way and try to run our trains. We can’t trust our feelings.
The apostle Paul shows us a higher road we can take. Chained in a dark dirty prison, Paul had little to look forward to, and yet, what did he choose to do? He sang. He praised God. Do you think he felt like praising God?
Paul showed us what the sacrifice of praise looks like. It’s that choice we make to praise God when things go the opposite of what we’d like.
When We Have Little
We can praise God when we have little money and tomorrow doesn’t look any brighter. We’re able to praise God because he is sovereign. Read Philippians 4:19.
Abraham learned about God’s character. Read Genesis 22:14. One of God’s names is Jehovah Jireh, God will provide, not God might provide.
God knows every penny I will ever own.
When Loved Ones are Ill
When our loved one takes a turn for the worse, we praise God that nothing is too big for him. That he is Jehovah Rapha - the God who heals. Read Psalm 103:2-3.
God doesn’t always choose to heal, but even in those times we can trust his character. He is always concerned with our ultimate good. That’s the anchor we hold onto when our world seems to be crashing in around us.
I remember one day rushing my three-year-old son, Nathan, into our Le Car. A time before safety seats for children. As I slammed the door shut, his scream cut through the air. Looking down I saw his hand still in the door. After I quickly released his hand, his big brown eyes brimmed with tears. He asked, “Why did you do that, Mom?”
My actions did not match his idea of who I was.
We do the same thing with God. But as we grow in our walk with him, we learn to trust him even when things make little sense. Difficult times are still difficult, but we know that God has a purpose in what he allows. He always has a purpose.
As I sat with my grandchildren, their back door opened and their parents returned.
Eagerly I waited to hear the details of Heather’s trip to the doctor, excited about our 4th grandchild soon to be born. Heather wasn’t smiling. My stomach tied in familiar knots.
I heard words I had never heard before. “Trisomy 18…a genetic disorder.”
Heather explained with Trisomy 18, her baby might not make it to her birth, and if she did, she had a 90% chance of dying shortly afterwards.
My emotions flew everywhere. Praise was not on my mind at all. Hadn’t God heard my daily prayers?
But little Olivia did live through her birth. And she lived past the time the doctors predicted. In fact, she is still here. This sweet child is now seven months old, though under nine pounds.
I remember how difficult it was when I first held her. I always wondered if it would be the last time.
I do not praise God for Trisomy 18, nor the challenges ahead for Olivia. But I have praised God that he made her. Read Psalm 139:13. God was not absent, nor was he surprised by her Trisomy 18. He formed her just as she is, every cell of her body.
There are things we cannot understand with our finite minds. Those things will make sense later. In the meantime, we need to decide. Will we praise God?
Praise Glorifies God
God is good. There will be times when the answers to our prayers do not seem good, but we only see a partial picture. In those times we need to lean into God with any faith we have, and trust wholly in who he is.
Every hard situation is an opportunity to trust God. He gets the glory when we praise him in our adverse situations. And the world watches in wonder.
Need a reason to praise God? Are you breathing? Read Psalm 150:6. God thinks that’s reason enough.
The next time God answers your prayer, I’m sure you’ll be praising God. But I’m challenging you with this: Praise him no matter what.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker and published author of four books: Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, and three children’s books: Emma’s Wish, The Crooked House, and Lulu’s Lunch. Anne has recently published a poetry book for those in grief, Droplets. She has also authored 42 published Bible Studies and over 30 articles with christianbiblestudies.com/Today’s Christian Woman. Her poetry is available in gift stores throughout the U.S. as well as in 23 countries. While Anne enjoys being a poet, speaker and published author, her favorite title is still, “Grandma.”
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Publication date: August 31, 2015
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.