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Grace Notes

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"BEFORE THEY CALL, I WILL ANSWER"
by Philip Owen

            I have just finished my first solo stint of babysitting our seven-month-old granddaughter.  For two hours, I tried to keep her happy by anticipating what she might want and by attempting to provide what she was unable yet to ask for.  Though I am keenly aware of the imperfection of the analogy, I was, nevertheless, reminded of a promise that God has made concerning His people, Israel.  Isaiah records the fact that during the Kingdom Age, God has promised that “it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (65:24).  The church is not Israel, so the promise is not ours per se.  Additionally, we exist in various stages of carnality that hamper God’s ability to respond to our prayers.  But despite those disclaimers, our text reveals the personality of a God who is anxious to hear and answer our prayers, a God, who, as incredible as this may seem, is more anxious to bless us than we are to be blessed.  While God is not an ethereal genie, who lives to do our bidding or who is forced to respond to our wishes, He is yet infinitely gracious toward us.

            Does this verse not teach us the power of prayer?  James assures us that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16).  The prayers of the godly serve as laser beams that focus the power of God on a particular target.  If God is of a mind to be gracious, there is literally nothing (within the parameters of His holy character) that He cannot do. In the view of the world, we may be voiceless, powerless, or weaponless, but a believer may enlist the infinite power of God on His behalf in a righteous cause.

            Perhaps more than that, does this verse not teach us the privilege of prayer?  Believers have the ear of God.  While giving the warning that “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” the Psalmist continues with assurance, “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer” (66:18, 19).  It should be a constant source of amazement, rejoicing, and thanksgiving that God is attentive to our petitions.  He is never preoccupied, never too busy, never unconcerned.  There is never a more important person, never a more influential human at the front of the queue.  Because of Christ, the eye of God is upon us, His heart is for us, and His desire is toward us.  While we may not receive everything we want if those wants are carnal, we already have everything there is because He is ours.  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” Paul asks rhetorically (Rom. 8:32).

            In addition, does this verse not teach us the prevenient purpose of God?  Though we never put the idea in so many words, our thoughts and prayers sometimes suggest that God is neither focused on nor even aware of some need unless we bring it to His attention.  On the contrary, as our text suggests, right prayers are not so much a request for a response from God to our cry as they are a response from us to the prompting of His Spirit.  He sees a problem; He observes a need; He knows a potential desire—all before we are aware of any of them.  And He burdens us by His Spirit or moves us to pray even as He is already in the process of answering the petition before we pray it.  But He graciously brings us into the equation to increase our faith and to multiply our blessing. 

            At the moment, my youngest granddaughter can do nothing for me, but I am delighted to have her as a part of my life.  In a much more profound way, we can do nothing for God, but He is delighted to make us a part of His life and work.  How privileged we are.             

             

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