I recently related the account of how Jeshua prayed for his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, to win the last Super Bowl in which they played. The scene was Sunday evening at the Willow Island Church, January 28, 1996. The game was actually in progress when Jeshua responded during the worship service to the altar call, praying specifically that the Lord give the Cowboys the victory.
For whatever reason (because I cannot envision God being a Cowboys fan), the Cowboys won that particular Super Bowl game. If I would have known why it was the boy was coming to the altar, I would have stopped him before he could have gotten anywhere close to the altar. After all, the Cowboys were playing my long-time favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the meantime, little did I know that at that time our second son, Keithen, was pulling for the Steelers, his favorite team, to win that Super Bowl. He happened to read that recent article about Jeshua’s altar prayer, and he emailed me following, “I prayed for the Steelers that evening, too, from where I sat in the pew. God answered with ‘Not now.’ He told me that I would not need to wait long for several Steelers Super Bowl victories, and that the Cowboys would not.”
For the record, since that time, the Steelers have won two Super Bowls. The Cowboys have not won any because they have not been close to playing in any, which is excellent…which begs the question, “How does God filter through all the multitudinous prayers that people raise up to him?”
After all, God has opened Himself to us by granting us the privilege of asking. “Let your requests be made known to God,” instructs the Word of God. “Ask…seek…knock,” invites the Word of God. “You have not because you ask not,” intones the Word of God.
Furthermore, do you not figure that often are the times the prayers of the many conflict with the many prayers of others? In other words, one may ask God to answer in a certain way, while someone else, praying about the same thing, asks God to answer in a totally different way. How does the Lord filter through our prayers? The answer is perhaps double-pronged.
First, it has to do with the will of God. In the model prayer, the Lord instructs us to pray that God’s will be done. If we are going to pray to God, we need to accept that God knows what He is doing, and that He will respond accordingly to what needs to be done. His will is how He filters through all the prayers that are raised up to Him.
Second, it has to do with the Sovereignty of God. God is absolutely the smartest person I know. But, He is also the most powerful person I know. Because of that, He is not necessarily intimidated if we get upset that His will is not working out according to our specific requests. His sovereignty assures that His will will be done.
Regardless, it is our responsibility to get real with these realities. Take the Apostle Paul as an example. He prayed three times that God remove his particular thorn in the flesh. But, it was not God’s sovereign will that it be removed, and essentially told Paul that very thing.
Paul was satisfied with God’s answer, which is unlike many people who wind up getting angry when God makes His sovereign will evident contrary to their prayer request. Actually, Paul found that God’s sovereign will on the issue was to his advantage. We need to keep that in mind.
Jeshua has since forwarded the following, “For the record, I have already planned to respond to the altar call on Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe I will be in Mason that day to pray the Lombardi trophy home to the Cowboys! It worked last time!”
If the Cowboys and the Steelers happen to make to the Super Bowl, and Jeshua happens to be here in that service, ain’t no way I’m letting the boy get close to the altar this time!
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.