Tag Archives: Answered Prayer

Why Were the Polls so Wrong?

Until about 8PM on November 8, nobody in the media was predicting anything but a win for Hillary Clinton. Among the polls taken in the days leading up to the election, the only difference was the difference between a squeaker and a landslide. All the polls predicted a win for Hillary Clinton.

Yet, Donald Trump won, and he won resoundingly, by a healthy margin of electoral votes. Maps of results by state were clearly dominated by the color red. According to the Constitution, electoral votes are the votes that determine the election. The polls taken before the election predicted a win for the wrong candidate, and that prediction was wrong, dead wrong, profoundly wrong.

Why did all the polls miss the prediction?

The polls missed the prediction, because God is still in charge. It would be easier to explain the results by hypothesizing that the polls were unwittingly skewed by an ill-suppressed desire for a Democrat win that led pollsters to de-randomize the selection of people to be polled. I, however, attribute the failure of the polls to foresee Donald Trump’s win to the fact that God has other plans for this country, I believe that people who are in touch with God prayed in submission to God’s will, and I believe God heard their prayers. A win that topples the predictions of well-validated statistical analysis is no big feat for the One who walks on water.

The Bible teaches us that we who have been purchased by the blood of Christ can cast out deeply embedded demons through prayer. We can move mountains by prayer. When our prayers are offered in submission to the will of Almighty God, the outcome can be utterly unexpected by minds confined to the time/space universe.

The Bible also teaches us that God likes to be recognized when he achieves victory, so it would not be out of character for God to set up a situation in which his intervention is the only possible explanation for the events. I believe that this may be the deep reason that nobody got it right.

Our election story could also be delightfully in parallel with the Bible story of the prophet Micaiah. When ancient kings thought about going into battle, they routinely summoned prophets to forecast the likelihood that they would win. King Ahab asked the prophets of Israel about his prospects for success in a battle against his neighbor, and they all predicted an easy win.  After a little verbal sparring, Micaiah told the king how God had sent a lying spirit to the prophets in order to entice Ahab to go into battle and die in a resounding defeat. The polls forecasting that Hillary Clinton’s win was inevitable were like the words of the prophets deceived by the lying spirit.

It served God’s purpose for people to know that Ahab’s defeat was God’s plan. Is it possible that it serves God’s purposes for people to see that Hillary’s defeat serves God’s plan?

After Election Day, when the vote tally showed that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, a lot of people, including me, breathed a sigh of relief. We felt we had received a reprieve after 8 years under the leadership of a man who had been leading the country in the wrong direction. Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises deliberately built on the “legacy” of Barack Obama, assuring people who were pleased with his work that it would continue if she were elected. Those of us who believed that Obama’s agenda was utterly wrong for America were glad to see the Obama juggernaut halted.

Since the direction Obama took was the wrong direction, it seems quite natural to believe that the direction Donald Trump takes will be so different that it will surely be the right direction. People who yearn for the country to move in a different direction are expressing their fervent hope that Donald Trump will undo many things that Obama considers to be admirable accomplishments. They have high hopes that the new president will fix what they believe to have been broken by the Obama administration. Voters need to remember that we dare not put our hope in any human being. It is tempting to rejoice exuberantly that Obama’s agenda is off the table while we forget that Trump’s agenda is also might not be God’s agenda.

We only exchange one tyranny for another if we put our hope in Donald Trump.

People of God must be humble in our gratitude for this election outcome, and we must not overload Donald Trump by inappropriately putting our hope for the future of the USA in him. We must continue to hope only in God. Donald Trump will, I believe, be a good president, but he is still only a man. He will make mistakes. He will disappoint people who prayed that he be elected. His administration could ultimately be a terrible blot on the history of the USA (As Ahab’s reign was a terrible blot on the history of Israel) unless the people who prayed for this election continue to pray for America.

A lot of people prayed for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, because they felt that she would surely continue to lead the country in the same wrong direction that Obama traveled. Donald Trump campaigned on  taking the country in a different direction. However, a different wrong direction is still wrong. Whoever prayed that God would give us a president who would put us on the right path must continue to pray that God will guide our new president in everything he does. We must be his prayer warriors to invoke God’s guidance in all that he says and does.

We give thanks for the hope that our country will turn away from the path to destruction on which Barack Obama was embarked, but we must pray every day that our new president be protected from the temptation simply to take us down a different wrong path. We must put our hope for a blessed, safe, and prosperous future in God Almighty, not in Donald Trump.

Pray for Donald Trump. Pray for his administration. Pray every day for America.

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Answered Prayer

For the jillionth time someone just said, “God always answers prayer: yes, no or wait.” My experience and my Bible both reject that simplistic, self-centered view of prayer.

In the first place, it is not necessary for Jesus’ promise of answers to mean that an answer is “fulfillment.” In the second place, everything about prayer is about submission to God’s sovereignty before anything else.

When anyone asks me, I tell people that prayer is not an order to Amazon, guaranteed to be “fulfilled.” I am no authority, but the idea that the sovereign God is going to respond to my prayer the way I might answer a multiple choice question on a quiz is completely at odds with everything I have learned about God. When God promises to answer prayer, he does not promise that we can manipulate him till we get what we want.

In fact, one of the most important changes we experience when we get to know God in a close relationship is the change in what we want. We are born wanting to be the center of everything, but when we get to know God deeply, we begin to start wanting outcomes that are not about us. In my experience, this sort of change is a blessed outcome of prayer. I pray for something to happen, and I might pray about this outcome for a long time. According to the “yes, no, or wait” theory, God’s failure to say “yes” is interpreted as either “no” or “wait.” According to my experience, God is actually teaching me something that will ultimately change my prayer. He didn’t refuse me. He actually paid close attention to me.

Here is an example.

Peter wrote that we are to pray for our governmental leaders. I do that. When I see that one is doing wrong (way too common) I pray for him to do right. When a bad leader is in office, I pray that God will work in his heart to make a better leader. I pray and pray and pray for outcomes that will be good for our country. I have prayed such prayers for Barack Obama, because I believe he is the worst president in the history of the world.

I have never yet seen any evidence that Barack Obama was moved by God to amend his bad behavior or his bad attitudes. Does that mean that God refused to speak to Barack Obama? To believe that would be presumptuous in the extreme. Yet, if I prayed for God to speak to Barack Obama about his failures, and Barack Obama did not change, then I must ask if God is saying “no” to my prayer, or if he is saying “wait.” He certainly is not saying “yes.” If I believed that God answered prayer by “yes, no, or wait,” my train of thought would be focused on what God was doing to make my request happen.

In fact, God was doing nothing of the sort. In fact, God was working in my heart. In fact, God’s agenda was quite different from mine, and God observed that I was being arrogant and self-centered. I wanted Barack Obama to act differently than he does, and I asked God Almighty to use his power to bring about the changes I had in mind.

What was God actually doing all this time? God was working in my heart. I can’t speak about what God is doing with Barack Obama, but I know what God is doing with me. One morning, as I prayed that Barack Obama would change his ways and do the right thing, I found myself praying this prayer: “Please forgive Barack Obama for all the evil he has done.” Whoa! Did I say that?

God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. My first thought was to ask why Obama should be forgiven, and God’s response was, “the same reason you need forgiveness.” Barack Obama and I both need forgiveness for our sins before almighty, totally righteous God. It was a humbling thought. I was so angry with Barack Obama over his arrogance and presumption that I failed to notice my total inattention to God’s main thing. God’s main thing is not good government, important though it may be. God’s main thing is that everyone be cleansed of sin. I was so busy trying to change Barack Obama that I forgot that God’s main thing is to save Barack Obama from Satan. I was praying for a magical outcome in Obama’s behavior instead of praying for Barack Obama to be rightly related to God. I couldn’t even wait for the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does; I was giving him his marching orders. I was very busy telling God what I thought good government looked like, telling God how to make Barack Obama into a better president, when God thought that outcome was trivial compared to Barack Obama’s need for forgiveness and grace, just like me. He let me prattle on for days while he continued to lead me and teach me and work in my heart until he finally led me to pray, “please forgive Barack Obama for all his sins.”

This is not the only time God has done this sort of thing. I had a fractured relationship with my mother, and one day I went to her pastor to talk about the problem. He was generous with his time, and kind in his responses. He even asked questions. Finally, he asked, “Could we pray together?” I bowed my head, and he began to pray for both me and my mother. It all felt good to me. Then he said, “Would you like to pray, too?” I began to pray, and I complained about all the hurtful things in my relationship with my mother. When I had exhausted my list, I started to pray for my mother to change, but the words that came out of my mouth were, “Please help me to see my mother as you see her, Lord.” Whoa! Where did those words come from? God was answering my prayer, not with “yes, no, or wait,” but with new insight. He answered my prayer, “Please make my mother treat me better,” by saying, “Start looking at the world from my point of view.”

That is why God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. God wants me to pray about the world from his point of view. God wants me to see Barack Obama, and my mother, and the whole world, the way he sees it. When I change my view, then I pray differently. God didn’t fulfill my request. God didn’t deny my request. God didn’t even defer my request. God simply led me to a moment of personal transformation and showed me how things look from his side of the matter.

Prayer is God’s great gift to us, and I give thanks every day for the privilege of prayer, but I have learned that the blessing of prayer is not so much what I get as it is what I learn. When God promises to “answer” my prayer, the “answer” is not often the “fulfillment” I might have anticipated when I bowed my head. I am learning that the best way to pray is to begin the way Jesus taught us—focus first on the Father and his worldview.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

Then, from that perspective, all the other issues look very different.

To declare that God always answers prayer with “yes, no, or wait” is to say that prayer is about what I want. Prayer is not about me. Prayer is about God.

 

A Hymn for Meditation

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus,

English: Joseph Scriven memorial, Banbridge Jo...
English: Joseph Scriven memorial, Banbridge Joseph Scriven who wrote the hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” was born at Ballymoney Lodge off the Dromore Road (the house used to have blue plaque). This memorial is at Downshire Place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit;
oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
 Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged —
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness —
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge —
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
You will find a solace there.

                       Joseph Scriven

 Questions for thought and prayer: 

  • The hymn names a variety of problems a Christian can pray about. Which of the problems in the hymn bother your life right now?
  •  Many Christians faced with a problem immediately begin to stew about how to solve it. The hymn-writer implies that a Christian’s first response to a problem ought to be prayer. Do you agree with that viewpoint? If yes, under what circumstances did you learn that truth? If no, why don’t you think you should pray before you begin working on the problem? 
  • Do you have a human friend that you turn to with confidence that your friend won’t insult you or scorn you or belittle your problems? Think of a recent embarrassing problem in your life? Did you pray about it? Did you talk with your earthly friend? If you have solved the problem, how did you solve it? If you have not solved the problem, are you still praying about it?
  • Have you ever felt you were betrayed by a friend or family member? How did you respond? Did you pray about it? Do you still feel hurt? Will you ever be able to forgive this person? Do you want to pray about it now?

© 2012 Katherine Harms