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By Sigrid Fowler
The Greek Scripture, as well as the Hebrew part of the Bible, encourages us to ask for help from our God in trouble and troublesome times. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not of one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt 10:29-31 ESV and all).
The disciples received help from Jesus. Seeing Jesus’ approach, walking across the stormy Sea of Galilee, Peter dared to say, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matt 14: 28). When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter stepped out of the boat, walking on the sea. But then fear of the storm overwhelmed him and he began to sink, crying out: “Lord, save me” (Matt 14: 30). “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him saying, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” During another storm on the Sea of Galilee, all the disciples cried out: ‘Save us, Lord, we are perishing.’ Jesus got up from sleep to rebuke the wind and waves. Matthew adds, “there was a great calm” (Matt 8: 24-26).
In his letter, James writes, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4: 2b). Asking is important, so are faith and patience. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7: 7-8).
It isn’t just the inner circle of those closest to Jesus who ask for help and get it. More often, the seekers are unknowns, not even named. Jesus came to Peter’s home and found his mother-in-law sick with a fever. Then with the touch of his hand, he dismissed the fever, and “she rose and began to serve him.” That same day, he “healed all who were sick,” Matthew says (Matt 8: 14-15). Jesus cleansed unnamed lepers, set free many who suffered from demonic oppression, and broke up a funeral at a town called Nain by raising to life a grieving widow’s only son (Luke 7: 11-17). All these people were helped in life-changing ways.
Do their cases seem remote, their circumstances unlikeours? Perhaps, but I’m making the case that we can still expect help from the Lord. The Bible is clear: God does not change. My father, a U.S. forester, described to me a desperate experience he once had fighting a forest fire. The huge fire was burning in the tops of the trees, leaping highways as it moved. My mother often said of him, “He is a man of few words,” and describing this terrible fire, he only said, “Iprayed.” What was the help he got? I still don’t know, but despite the fearful challenge, he and his forest came through it. He credited the Lord for answered prayer.
The Bible says of God, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things” (Psalm 72: 18). Some translators prefer, “He only does wonders”; but however you understand this verse, the basic meaning is evident: God is a wonder-worker. However, God is also the creator of camouflage—as birds and animals demonstrate. Jesus made it clear that he is not interested in spectacle and will not be appealed to as a showman.
Often, the answers to prayer come so quietly they can be missed. Sometimes, the answer is unexpected, the thing that happened not what we had in mind. Sometimes, a failure or a clear No answer is actually the outworking a plan better than what we could even imagine. Despite appearances, I’m convinced that we live amid troubles addressed, fearful circumstances averted, and other answers to our cries for helpwe scarcely notice. I don’t think it’s just human ingratitude, though we certainly are guilty of that. No, it seems to me that the Lord does things quietly, shielding his operations, including answers to prayer, and he does this for his own purposes. Jesus constantly told people not to talk about it when he responded to their need and healed or delivered them. Matthew records the restoration of sight to two blind men and notes, “Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it’” (Matt 9: 30b-31).
The rock of our salvation, the lover of our souls is named Jesus. His very name, the same as Joshua, means “the LORD Saves.” He will be sought, and he will answer.