When I was a young father, I prayed fervently over and over that God would let my son grow up to be normal. I prayed every night for months and months, but God didn’t seem to listen. Then I prayed to God, “What have I done for this to happen in our lives?” I prayed, “Why?”
When I was young, I prayed that I would get a minister’s job for which I had interviewed. I prayed fervently for days. I didn’t get the job and prayed to God, “What do you want of me?” I prayed, “Why?”
When I was young, I prayed that God would help us out of some financial struggles. I fervently prayed for days on end, but things only got worse. I prayed to God, “Do you even care?” I prayed, “Why?”
As time has passed, I have prayed to God on several occasions in several circumstances wondering what his plan is for me. Often afterward my prayer has been simply, “Why?”
All through life I have been faced with trials and situations that I didn’t like, thought were unfair or hurt me deeply. I prayed to God for strength to make it through the next step. Many times I have knelt in tears and prayer and just prayed, “Why?”
I have concluded that “Why?” may not be the right prayer. Just maybe I’m praying the wrong prayer to God. Maybe, instead of “Why?” I should be praying, “What do you want me to do now?” “Where do you want me to go?” “What do you have planned for me?”
I believe that God answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is not what we expect. The answer to our prayers do not come in a letter from God or a fortune cookie at a restaurant. The answers sometimes seem unclear and will remain unclear until I stop asking “Why?” and look for what God is trying to say.
Leaders pray a lot. We pray for marriages in trouble and families with tough issues. We pray for people’s health and for their comfort in times of grief. We pray for those going on mission trips and those who give their lives to Christ. We pray for the church to grow and for God to give us wisdom. The one thing that I have never heard a leader pray in a group is to ask God “Why?” I believe that is because when we pray as a group, we feel a bond that brings us together with God in an understanding that he is in control.
When we are alone, without the support of those around us, those are the times that Satan sneaks in and puts questioning thoughts in our minds. That is when he plants the seeds of discouragement and doubt. When we are alone, we are vulnerable to his influence. When we are alone, we exist only with our inner reasoning and personal feelings.
But when Christians gather together to pray with one another, there is a stronger bond. One that Satan cannot break. One that he knows is too strong for him. Strong leadership is one that stays bound together. It is one that knows that there is strength in a common bond with the Lord. It is when Christians are together that they have the strength to fight off Satan and his arrows.
In the loneliness of the Psalms, David often questions God, “Why?” But he finds strength in knowing that even though he doesn’t understand “the why” he trusts that God has a reason. When we trust in God, the “whys” don’t get us down as much, because we know there is a greater force at work.
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ