Creation Mandate and Unanswered Prayer

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, April 28, 2020

God made us humans to rule. It’s part of God’s will for us as humans. In Genesis 1:28 this is stated explicitly in what is known as the Dominion Mandate: Here’s what it says: God blessed them; and God said to them [i.e. Adam and Eve], “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Quite a mandate, isn’t it! God has never taken it back. 

What has happened since that mandate was given, though, is the Fall into sin. The Fall resulted in a fundamental reordering of the human soul. In that original mandate the Ruler over all was God, and He delegated rule over creation to mankind. Mankind was to rule within the boundaries of God’s rule. The fundamental reordering that came with Fall was mankind’s desire to be the ultimate Ruler. We want to do it our way, not God’s way. A significant element of Christian discipleship is learning that we can’t have it our way. But since we’re Christians, we have very “sanctified” ways of trying to assert our way as God’s way. I’ll give you an example.

The hymn Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart has a verse that begins Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh. Then the verse goes on the speak of the struggles of one’s soul: To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh; Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer. Those are the sort of struggles that will cause one to doubt the Lord is nigh, right? But some Christians think it is not right or good to acknowledge such struggles. To do so would be a sort of negative confession, saying something uncomplimentary about us or about God. The solution: change the words. 

Every hymnal I’ve consulted has the verse end with the reference to unanswered prayer. The only exception is the new hymnal we’re using at Leidy’s Church. It’s published by LifeWay, the Southern Baptist publishing house. Instead of unanswered prayer this hymnal has unceasing prayer. I don’t know, but I suspect the reason for the change is the publishers were afraid the notion of unanswered prayer would present an idea too problematic for Christian souls to struggle with! Of course, that’s what the verse is all about! Can we as Christians acknowledge that we have unanswered prayers? Well, we need to acknowledge that reality, otherwise we’ll live in an unreal world.

Can you think of any major biblical figures who had unanswered prayers? Well, how about Moses? He prayed to enter the Promised Land. That did not happen. How about Paul? He had a physical affliction he prayed that God would take away. That did not happen. How about Jesus? He prayed the cup of crucifixion would be taken from Him. That did not happen. In each instance God did answer the prayer; He answered each prayer with a very specific NO. That’s not unanswered prayer, though we think of it in those terms, just as the hymn states. But that is God’s rule over our rule, His way not our way. 

Sometimes we try to manipulate God by saying He has told us something, something we really want or really want to have happen, and then expect Him to make it come to pass. We’re saying, “God, it must be my way, not Your way.” I had a friend years ago who declared that God had told him He had healed his eyes. He did not need to wear glasses any longer. My friend really wanted God to have said such was the case, and he said God had said so. To emphasize his point, he threw his glasses into a nearby river. His vision did not get better. But he was a strong-willed fellow. He insisted the healing of his eyes was a done deal, it simply had not been manifest yet. 

For the next 25 years my friend could not drive a car because his driver’s license required him to wear glasses. He could not read a book normally because he needed glasses. As a result, he always carried a magnifying glass with him to use for reading. He did all this for 25+ years. Finally, he came to the conclusion that God had not answered his prayer the way he wanted, but according to the way God wanted. God wanted him to wear glasses. 

We humans are amazing creations of God. We have vast powers and abilities. But, as Christians, we ought not to be about building towers of Babel, that is, saying we will have it done our way rather than God’s way. We need to exercise the rule God has delegated to us with the knowledge that He is The Ruler over all. We rule well only so far as we rule under Him and according to His will. May He teach us His ways and lead us in His paths. It is a wonderful and blessed reality to walk in His ways and follow in His paths.

Let us pray: O Lord God, You are the Ruler of all. We can forget that so easily. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Help us remember You are the Creator and we are Your creations. You made us; we didn’t make You. We know You hear our prayers; help us have the grace to hear Your answers to our prayers even when those answers go against what we desire. We believe You know best and will provide us with all things necessary for life. We pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.