13 May 2024 at 00:00:00 JST

Prayer works. But sometimes even quite reasonable requests go unanswered. How can that be? And why can the believer trust in God nevertheless? District Apostle Peter Lambert from South Africa takes a closer look at this in his spotlight as he reflects on our annual motto.



What is a desirable outcome to a request? To answer this, one needs to consider whether the request itself is acceptable. As human beings we have clear ideas about what constitutes an acceptable request and what does not. It could, therefore, be said that a desirable outcome is when an acceptable request is granted.


As believers, we bring our requests to God in prayer and we ensure that our requests are acceptable to Him. Being human it is perfectly normal that we hope for a humanly desirable outcome to our prayers; for example, when we pray for health and for survival. Yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, we want to grow in seeking a godly outcome to our prayers—even if it does not satisfy our humanly acceptable desire.


Jesus did not insist on a humanly desirable outcome to His prayers; rather, He prayed with the trust that His Father’s response would be exactly the right one.

  • Jesus asked His Father to remove the cup of His suffering and death, but did not receive the humanly desirable outcome of escaping such a fate. Instead, He received a godly outcome, namely, the strength to complete His mission (Luke 22: 42–43). In that prayer, Jesus indicated that He would submit to His Father’s will; this resulted in a godly outcome with universal implications: redemption for sinful human beings.
  • Jesus urged His disciples to pray that the Father send labourers into the harvest (Matthew 9: 37–38). Yet, in the visible church we often experience a shortage of workers. This is not a humanly desirable state. Jesus did not promise that prayer would reverse the shortage of labourers. Rather, prayer results in the fulfilment of God’s will: it yields those workers through whom God chooses to fulfil His purpose. The prayer for God to send labourers is not a logistical solution, but aims at a godly solution.
  • Jesus prayed for oneness among His disciples. Yet, the visible church has experienced turmoil and division. This too is not a humanly desirable outcome. At one point, many of Jesus' followers left Him because they were offended by His teaching (John 6: 66–69). In terms of visible unity, this was a failure. Jesus did not respond to it by lecturing the remaining few about the importance of oneness, or by trying to salvage their numbers. He did quite the opposite: He asked them if they too wanted to leave Him! Their answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” reflected a godly outcome: oneness with and in Jesus Christ—despite suffering the effects of separation and numerical decline.


May we learn from the Lord Jesus to always pray for a godly outcome, and to trust implicitly that God hears such prayers! 

Author: Peter Lambert


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