The Gift of Freedom.
There may be a further reason why God may not answer my prayers. God may wish to say “YES” to my prayer but will not, because of his gift of freedom to humanity.
God yearns for all persons to come to him. He has made his appeal to humanity in Christ, through his Church, through creation and through wide ranging circumstances. He stands continually at the door of every person’s life and asks admittance. And the good news is that so many do come to him. Many do open up their lives to his gracious leadership.
In much of the Christian church’s theology, the death of Christ provided redemption for the sins of the entire world – “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in him need not perish, but have eternal life.” For a person to realize the full benefits of that gracious provision all he or she has to do is respond with faith.
The bad news is that so many ignore the invitation, decline the offer and go their own way. There are those who having heard the calling of God have taken their freedom of choice in their own hands and have said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And God will take “No” for an answer.
And that rejection is a sad thing. All of us have persons who are dear to us who are outside the kingdom of God. And so we pray prayers of intercession for those who are not Christians.
But God will not answer those prayers against the will of those persons for whom we pray. God kidnaps no one into his Church. He will not trick, coerce, bribe or bully any one into this relationship of mutual love. So with sadness God will say “NO” to some of our prayers of intercession. God does not always get his own way.
But then immediately comes the question, Why intercede then? Well obviously, intercession is not trying to persuade God to do something he is reluctant to do. It is not trying to get God to change his mind about the fate of one of my loved ones, as though God delighted in judgment. Oh, no. God is more concerned than we could ever be. So then why do we intercede at all? Three things come to mind.
1) Perhaps we intercede because we cannot help it. We always pray about the things that concern us. We pray about every joy and every grief, about every need and every blessing. Because Christians involve God in every sphere of life, it would be strange if our greatest concerns were not shared with him.
2) But perhaps we intercede for another reason. God wants his church to be a participant in the saving of the world. All who come into the Kingdom of God have God as their Father and the Church as their mother. It is almost as if Archimedes’s principal was at work. Archimedes is reputed to have said, “give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” and by that he knew that if he could stand outside the world with a lever long enough and a fulcrum adequate enough, he could move any object. It may be that God, whom we perceive as standing outside the world, is looking for people who will be the fulcrum in helping to lift people to him. And perhaps the interceding by some is as important as the evangelizing by others, not in coercing conversion, but offering persuasion that might lead to conversion.
3) But there is a third reason why God wants us to intercede for the lost. There is a close connection between those who intercede and those who bring others to the him. Some of our praying is intended by God to be self-persuasion. For praying is not merely asking for things, it is conversation with God about things that matter to him and to us. In that conversation of intercession God also speaks and grants wisdom and courage to the one who prays. And any interceder worth their salt is prepared to be a worker with God as well as a converser with him.
But, the fact must be noted, that intercession brings no guarantee of another’s conversion. With all the powers of heaven marshaled for the conversion of any person, because God gave the irrevocable gift of freedom, that person can still wave his or her puny fist in the face of God and stamp its little foot and say its self-destructive “NO!” and God with reluctance will say “Have it your way!” God will not infringe upon our decisions by over-ruling. But because he is who he is, he will not cease to offer invitations and conviction. Nonetheless, this is part of the reason God does not answer many of our prayers.