Contradictory Prayer – From The Pastor’s Study – 4/5/2020

In 1987 a toddler from Texas named Jessica McClure somehow fell into a narrow abandoned well.  She was wedged in place 22 feet down with her foot up against her head.  The drama of “Baby Jessica” dragged on for two days as rescue workers labored to save her.  Television crews spread to story to viewers nation-wide.

Rescuers dug a parallel shaft next to the narrow well.  After cutting through dirt and rock, a firefighter named Robert O’Donnell descended down and was able to touch the little girl and even take her vital signs.  But then Baby Jessica suddenly slid further down another eight feet.  O’Donnell was drawn up to the surface and the rescue strategy was reconsidered.

Realizing that the child could not live much longer unless freed, McDonnell was lowered again.  Once more he could touch her.  He took hold of her leg.  He heard calls from the top, “Pull hard!  You may have to break her in order to save her!”  As the firefighter tugged, the little girl weakly cried, “no, no.”  Her face was being scraped.  But she was finally dislodged.  Baby Jessica was saved.

You may have to break her in order to save her.

I have been praying for years that the Lord would send a revival like He has done in other generations.  I have prayed regularly for a great awakening and a great harvest of souls.  Lately, like many others, I have been praying that this Covid 19 pandemic would come to an end.  But as I think about it, I am beginning to wonder if these two prayers might not be contradictory.

Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”  But then He also prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.”

Sometimes what is desired naturally for safety is not what is needed for spiritual well-being for our self or for others.

Isaiah 53:7 prophetically says of Christ, “He was oppressed and he was afflicted.”  Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their afflictions, he was afflicted.”  I take great comfort in the fact that my burdens are the Lord’s burdens.  My Savior is touched with the feelings of my infirmities.  Our fears, concerns, sicknesses, and pains – they all matter to God.

But Psalm 119 says of affliction, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.”  (v. 67)  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn thy statutes.”  (v. 71)   Sometimes God uses affliction to teach us, and to shape our character.

Sometimes He uses afflictions to bring people to a place of repentance and faith.  Hosea 5:15 says, “In their affliction they will seek me early.”

It may be that God is going to use this present pandemic – the disruption of our lives, the sickness, and even the death – to help some recognize their spiritual need and turn to Christ in faith.

So I pray a contradictory prayer; that this pandemic ends; that our liberties will be restored; that people will go back to work; that we can resume normal church services.  But I am still praying for revival and for people to come to know Christ as Savior.

The second inaugural speech of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, reads more like a sermon on the providence of God than it does a political speech.  Near its conclusion he said, “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this scourge of war may speedily pass away.  Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so it still must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

Fondly do I wish and fervently do I pray that this pandemic will end.  But I am also praying for repentance, revival, and conversions in our land.  And if God wills that this pandemic continue to bring about that end, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”