Columnists > Voices

Prayer trek

Our petitions are important, even when God waits to answer

Issue: "Iraq and terrorism," Nov. 11, 2006

I like Star Trek best when it's most like The Twilight Zone. A 1967 episode titled "The City on the Edge of Forever" raises the tantalizing question of what it would be like if you could go back and edit your personal history. We've all been there.

On Stardate 3134.0 the Enterprise discovers a planet on which stands a free-standing door leading to any time or place. In pursuit of a renegade member of their crew, Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock leap over the threshold into Depression-era Manhattan, and the spaceship disappears because it no longer exists (you get the idea).

Ducking a cop after stealing clothes off a fire escape to conceal Spock's attention-grabbing ears, the two disappear into a basement, where they meet a young, idealistic social worker named Edith Keeler, who works for the 21st Street Mission and shows them kindness. Kirk begins to fall in love.

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Spock, being Spock, is otherwise occupied analyzing data from his tricorder to learn what parts of history have been altered by the party's intrusion into the suddenly unfrozen past. The information is appalling. Edith is soon to be struck and killed by a car. But wait! The time interlopers' visit will somehow save the lovely social worker from that fate. Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord? Just one problem. Her life now extended, Ms. Keeler will go on to lead a pacifist movement so successful that it delays the United States' entry into World War II enough to allow the Nazis to achieve their goal of world domination.

Now, let's beam back to planet Earth's real history: In 1937, on the eve of world war, an expulsion of missionaries from southern Ethiopia left 75 new converts to fend for themselves. Returning after the war, the gospel workers found the faith had spread like wildfire, more than if they had been allowed to remain in the country.

And now, my own story: I have been asking, seeking, knocking at the throne of grace for 17 months for simple, sweet sleep. Function is impaired by day, and thoughts assail by night. Meanwhile, my friend Kyung phoned to report excitedly a dramatic deliverance from depression three weeks ago.

Why not me? On the beach at Tiberias, Jesus has just divulged to Simon the gruesome manner of his death. The apostle casts a glance over his shoulder to John and asks (as I ask about Kyung), "Lord, what about him?" The Lord replies, effectively, that this is none of Peter's business.

There are things revealed, and there are secret things (Deuteronomy 29:29). Among the things revealed is that I should continue to "pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1). Among the things hidden are the hypothetical imponderables of regular good nights of sleep.

What are the blessings of sleeplessness? I might not have learned to pray militantly. I might not have had to dig deeper for the water table of faith. I might have confused my natural strength for His supernatural strength. When God says no, what does He foresee down the road that I do not? What if He had answered prayers to keep the missionaries in Ethiopia in 1937?

What if God is longing to answer your prayer and just waiting for the right time? There would be precedents:

"For a long time I have held My peace; I have kept still and restrained Myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor. . . . I will lay waste mountains and hills, . . . I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, . . . I will turn the darkness before them into light. . . . These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:14-16).

"God is represented as treasuring the prayers of His saints in vials. . . . They are placed like fragrant flowers in the chambers of the king. . . . And later they are represented as poured out upon the earth; and lo, there are voices, and thunderings, and great providential movements fulfilling God's purposes for His kingdom. We are called 'The Lord's remembrances.' And are commanded to give Him no rest, day or night, but to crowd the heavens with our petitions. And in due time the answer will come with its accumulated blessings. No breath of prayer is lost. The longer it waits, the larger it becomes" (A.B. Simpson).

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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