Sovereignty and Prayer

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera

God is sovereign over all creation. He is Lord and he is in control at all times. What does this mean for the Christian life of faith? Like Doris Day, some people think divine sovereignty means “whatever will be, will be.” When something bad happens, they rationalize it and ask themselves, “What can I learn about God and myself from this trial?” They don’t repent of sin, pray for earthly healing, bind Satan, or cover themselves and their families in the blood of Jesus.

It takes two wings to fly. God’s sovereignty is one wing. Man’s faith is the other. Too many Christians who emphasize divine sovereignty in this world are flying on one wing. I wonder if human responsibility – prayers of repentance, faith, and spiritual warfare – scares them. Maybe acquiescing to what they think is divine sovereignty is just easier. No one said the road of faith would be easy. If we want ease and comfort in this life, we’ve picked the wrong path! Let us thank God that the hard road leads to heaven. The “easy” one leads to hell.

Is it God’s will for some women to be barren or see a child die in infancy? Is it God’s will for his people to die from disease or a car accident? Pointing to divine sovereignty, too many Christians say “yes.” I say no! Real faith in God’s sovereignty doesn’t lead to fatalism. It births prayer. That prayer isn’t one of naïve acquiescence to God’s will either. Instead, it defiantly says “no” to what is in order to usher in the promises of God. Such prayer confesses and repents of sin too.

jacob and esauIsaac’s wife Rebekah was barren for twenty years (Genesis 25:26). But he didn’t point to divine sovereignty and tell her, “Whatever will be, will be.” Isaac had God’s promise to Abraham that his seed would be like the dust of the earth and the stars in the sky (13:16, 15:5). So he ignored reality and asked God to open Rebekah’s womb (25:21). God answered with twin boys, Esau and Jacob (25:21-26). Some people may say, “It was God’s will for those boys to be born.” Yes, it was. But God’s will didn’t happen without the human prayer of faith. It takes two wings to fly.

Elkanah’s wife Hannah was also barren (1 Samuel 1:2). Unlike Isaac and Rebekah, she didn’t have a divine promise of descendants. Her husband essentially told her, “Whatever will be, will be” too. He gently scolded Hannah for fasting, weeping, and grieving (1:8). Hannah still ignored reality, and her husband, and pleaded with God in prayer for a son (1:10-11). He answered with Samuel, a man divinely chosen to be a prophet and Israel’s last judge in a time of national upheaval (1:20, 3:20). Unlike Eli and his sons, Samuel treasured God’s words (3:19). Hannah’s desperate prayer of faith brought him into being. It takes two wings to fly.

King David’s first son with Bathsheba became sick and died, just as God had promised (2 Samuel 12:14, 18). He still ignored reality and prayed for the child’s healing, hoping God would be gracious and let him live (12:16-17, 22). Did David sin by praying? Did he refuse to bow to divine sovereignty? No. I think his prayer showed great faith. God has been gracious to his saints in the past. Only when the child died did David accept God’s final “no” (12:20, 23).

book of jobWhen diagnosed with a disease, fatal or otherwise, too many Christians think they’re like Job. They accept God’s “adversity” or ask themselves, “What can I learn from this trial?” (Job 2:10) Such people ignore the fact that Job’s case was unusual, a heavenly contest between God and Satan, and that God had kept Job and his family physically through a hedge of protection (1:10). After “the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind,” he repented “in dust and ashes” (38:1, 40:6, 42:6). God then healed Job of his sickness and blessed him (42:10-12). If more Christians were like Job, they’d hear God’s voice in the whirlwind. They would be healed physically too, not submit to death.

Yes, sickness comes from diseases and germs. For Christians, it can also mean that God has removed his hedge of protection (the blood of Jesus Christ) and Satan is allowed a free hand in their lives, even though he’s on a divine leash. Wise Christians search their hearts and minds for sin and repent. Others pray in faith for physical healing, even if it takes months or years. Still others bind Satan on this earth and plead the blood of Jesus. Why? These people know that physical sickness in the body is the outward manifestation of the spiritual sickness of sin in the soul. Often when Jesus healed people, he also forgave their sins!

So many biblical miracles of physical healing are the result of people seeking such healing from a prophet, apostle, or Jesus Christ. None of these people naively pointed to God’s sovereignty. None told themselves or their loved ones, “Whatever will be, will be. It is the Lord’s will for you to be sick and die.” Instead, they ignored reality and prayed for divine healing.

jesus-healing-the-lame-manJesus physically healed all those who came to him in faith for themselves and others, even if that faith was the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). Unbelievers didn’t come at all. Jesus healed few people in Nazareth because few had faith to be healed (Mark 6:1-5). He didn’t commend their fatalistic acquiescence to divine sovereignty, their pitiful cries of “it is the Lord’s will” on their sickbeds. Instead, Jesus “marveled” at their unbelief (Mark 6:6)!

Nearly 15 years ago, a former Christian English teacher was murdered. I asked God why he let this happen. A few days later, I received my answer: “Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5). My teacher had no spiritual shield or hedge of protection in her life. God had given Satan free reign and murder was the result. I will not point to God’s sovereignty or blame him for this event. I blame my teacher instead.

God guarantees us a hedge of protection after our conversion, unless we leave it through sin or willful neglect. We cannot ignore human responsibility. Our sovereign God answers prayers of faith, however small. He also answers unbelief. Let us not be fatalistic and tell ourselves, “Que sera, sera.” With spiritual defiance, let us ignore physical reality and pray in faith for God’s promises. Only then will we see his salvation – healing, power, and victory. It takes two wings to fly. In the words of George Herbert, let us imp our wing on God’s in prayer and soar!

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