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We all pray, and are delighted when God answers our prayer. Our God is a prayer-answering God. We have many examples of answered prayers in the Bible. Moses, who led the Israelites from Egypt, prayed whenever he was in difficult situations. Abraham, Daniel and David are all examples of great prayers.

God was the king of Israel till the days of Samuel the prophet. When Samuel became old, the children of Israel asked for a king. Though Samuel was displeased with this request, he prayed to God and God answered soon enough. Israelites got Saul as their king. Can we conclude that God was pleased with them because God allowed their demand or answered their prayer? Should they go about bragging about how God answered their prayer?  In this case of heeding their demand (1 Sam. 8:4-22), it is very clear that it was not a prayer honouring God; God was not pleased with that prayer. In fact, in God’s perspective, they were rejecting Him by that prayer. Verse 7 says: “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them’ ”. But, before giving them a king, He clearly explained the consequences of their prayer being answered. Verse 9 says, “Now, therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them and show them the behaviour of the king who will reign over them.” And, as we are aware, Samuel anointed Saul as their king. If we examine the other references dealing with this event, they tell us how God felt about it and why He answered their prayer. Hosea 13:11 says, “I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.” So, this answer to prayer surely is not an indication of God’s favour to His people, nor of their standing with Him.

Let us look at another example. Balak, the king of Moab, invited Balaam, the diviner, to curse God’s people, who were on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was almost the end of their wilderness journey. They were camping next to Moab, just before crossing over to the land of Canaan. Numbers 22:3 says, “Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people (Israel) because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread…” So Moab sought the help of Midian. The elders of both Moab and Midian “departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand” and invited Balaam to go with them and curse the Israelites. But, Baalam won’t go without seeking God’s will in the matter. God’s answer was very clear. “God said to Balaam, you shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Num. 22:12). Balaam faithfully conveyed his inability to go with the elders.

But Balak was not one to be put off. He sent nobler officers in greater number, with more incentives. V.17 says, “For I will certainly honour you greatly and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.” Balak’s answer is very interesting. “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight that I may know what MORE the Lord will say to me.”

Balaam was very clear about God’s answer in the matter. God had told him not to go or curse the people, the first time itself. Now he wants to know what MORE the Lord will say to him. Why? Because he was not satisfied with God’s ‘no’ answer. His heart was bent on going. The reward offered the second time was too much for him to resist. He will go on praying till a ‘yes’ nod comes from God. Our God knows even the thoughts of our heart. He is not deceived by all the external ‘shows’ that we make. God surely allowed him to go to Moab. Balaam got exactly what he wanted. Did God change His mind? Was his going to Moab pleasing to God? Did He really want him to go? Does God say ‘no’ once and then say ‘yes’ to the same thing, a little later? Why did God allow Balaam to go, when he prayed again? God knew that his heart was bent on going. The ‘diviner’s fee’ had won him over. Jude 11 clearly tells that his error was greed for profit. God gave him more opportunity to realise his folly. Verse 22 says, “Then God’s anger was aroused because he went and the angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him”. Reading further we can see that in spite of all this, Balaam went ahead. Of course, we know that he was not able to curse the people who were blessed by God. So, from this incident also, we learn that, God allowing something in our lives does not in itself indicate His favour on us, or that we are in the right.

Psalm 106:15 reads as follows: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” This was in connection with the children of Israel tempting God in the wilderness. “He (God) saved them (Israelites) from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.  The waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works. They did not wait for His counsel. But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul (Psa.106:10-15).

So we find that all these three prayers were prayers in rebellion. Children of Israel rejected God in asking for a king. But, God gave them a king. Balaam, in spite of knowing God’s answer to his prayer, continued to pray to hear something “more”. God allowed him to go to Moab. The children of Israel, again in rebellion, asked for bread and meat in the wilderness. God granted their request, but sent leanness into their soul.

There are clear directions in the Bible as to how to pray. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. “Does it mean that anything anyone desires will be granted? No. When God’s Word abides in us, our desires will be controlled by His Word. When we abide in Him, we will desire what He desires. According to 1 John 5:14, our prayer needs to be according to God’s will. It should not be to indulge our self, as we read in James 4:3. So, let us be careful how we pray and what we pray for. Let us abide in Him and let His Word abide in us so that we will know what to pray for.

Lily Abraham

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