Roy Ingle, “Answered Prayer and Divine Providence”

, posted by SEA

The Scriptures make it clear that God answers prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (NASB). Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NASB). Matthew 21:22 says, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (NASB). Jesus also promised, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14 NASB).
However skeptics and atheist often try to deny that God truly answers prayer and they seem to believe that answered prayer is mere coincidence. What they deem as coincidence, I believe is often God’s divine providence. God is in control of all things (Ephesians 1:11) and nothing happens in our world without God fully knowing beforehand all that takes place. God knows all and sees all (Psalm 139:1-16). Isaiah wrote, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28 ESV). Jesus said that God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:26-29) and yet He is merciful enough to care for me. We can cry with Paul the Apostle, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33 ESV).
Providence And Miracles
Does God do miracles? I believe He has and He still does. I don’t think that He does miracles as often as many believers like to give Him credit for. Sometimes what we see as miracles are providence at work. For example, I once knew a man who had a stroke and was placed in the hospital. He remained in a coma for several months as the family earnestly prayed for his healing. I too would visit him and pray next to his bed as he lay in his comatose state. Finally, he woke from his coma and in several days was out of the hospital. He is alive today and although the effects of the stroke are still visible, he is often heard praising God for this miracle. What he (and his family) see as a miracle, I see as God’s sovereignty and providence. God used the doctors and much medication to bring this man back to health.
I can remember many testimonies people have given about finding money when they needed it most. For example someone might say that they were praying for God to provide for their bills to be paid and lo and behold they open the mailbox to find a letter with a check in it. This has happened to me and my wife several times when we needed money the most. Did God answer our prayers? Sure but did the money just appear out of nothing or did God use providence to answer our prayers? Remember the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8 ESV).
Prayer And God’s Sovereignty
Should we then pray for miracles? I have no problem with us praying for the miraculous to take place. By definition a miracle is something that breaks the natural laws. For example, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a miracle (John 11:38-44) or Peter and John’s healing of the lame man outside the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-9) or Peter’s raising Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). These defy the natural laws of nature. And God can and does still perform miracles as His own choosing (Hebrews 2:4).
But God also uses providence. For example, God used Herod in Matthew 2:3-7 to move Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) to fulfill prophesy (Hosea 11:1). God used the stoning of His servant Stephen to move Saul of Tarsus to go and get letters to persecute the Church of Christ and God met him on the road to Damascus (Acts 7:59-8:3; 9:1-9, 17-18). God often uses the natural laws of nature and the course of history to fulfill His purposes. His sovereign control of all things assures us that He can and does use even sinful events and people for His glory. Keep in mind Paul’s words in Romans 9:17, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth’” (ESV).
So Is Providence God’s Normal Means?
Does this mean then that God often uses His providence to answer our prayers? I believe God can use anything and anyone to bring about His purpose in the earth. Keep in mind that God answers prayer primarily for His honour and for His name (Matthew 6:9-10). 1 John 5:14-15 says (ESV), “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Even the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27) so that we can declare with confidence, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).
So when the monies come in the mail or the job you have been praying for comes through or the medicine the doctor prescribes does work to cure your illness, praise God that He is in control. And when you have run out of options keep in mind that God is always in control and He will come through in His timing and not ours. We want God to answer our prayers by showing us miracles in our timing but God moves when He so decrees and dictates.