Today I prayed for Japan. I pray for Japan every day. I have done so for years now.
I pray for God to change lives here, to bring people to know and trust in Him. I pray that His name would be honoured and that His Kingdom would come in Japan. I pray for God to work miracles, to do the impossible.
I pray those things because I believe in the power of prayer. Or rather I believe in the power of the God whom I pray to.
I believe that God hears and answers the prayers of His children. I believe that He is overflowing with kindness, generosity, and might. I believe that He is eager to respond in answer to prayer–indeed that He commands us to come to Him in prayer, hopeful and expectant.
But recently I’ve had to face a tough question.
Because I prayed for God to heal my dad.
And my dad died.
So what’s the point in praying for Japan?
Because let’s be honest: how can I hold onto all the stuff I’ve just written when God ignored my prayers to save my dad’s life?
I mean, seriously what was that about? Is God just not able to answer some prayers? As the classic question goes, is God willing but not able, or able but not willing? If God is not both willing and able to answer prayers then there’s no point in praying for Japan. But if God is willing and able to answer prayers, then why did He not spare my dad’s life?
Or was the problem with me? Did I not pray earnestly enough, or long enough, or did I not gather enough people to pray with me?
If that’s the case then I might as well give up on prayer altogether, because I have never prayed with more intensity than I did for God to heal my father. I fasted, I pleaded, I prayed through literal sweat and tears.
And I know that I was not alone. I have no idea how many people united in praying for my dad to recover, but I know it was more than I have time to count.
I now wear my father’s wedding ring. It’s a reminder that I am still his son, that I have a legacy to follow. Often I even forget I’m wearing it. But every time I bring my hands together to pray I feel it there and remember that God let my dad die.
So then back to the question I must answer: why bother keep praying for Japan?
That’s—He’s the answer. He’s the reason I’m going to keep praying for Japan. To be more specific, His death is the reason.
You see, I do not know why God chose not to spare my dad’s life. But I do know why God chose not to spare His own Son’s life: outrageous love. And that gives me hope to keep praying.
When I think about that moment when my prayers were interrupted by a phone call, whenI was told my dad was passing away, when I had to say good-bye to him over the phone . . .
I’m back to that moment when I couldn’t pray anymore. All I could do was weep in devastated grief.
But when I think about that moment when the baying crowds were interrupted by Jesus’ cry—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—that moment when the Son of God breathed His last and in so doing accomplished salvation for my rebel soul . . .
I am once again silenced, but this time by astonishing grace.
And then I can pray again.
It is the cross of Jesus Christ that tells me God is indeed both willing and able to respond to prayer. Because the cross of Jesus Christ shows me that God was both willing and able to act to save this world.
The cross of Jesus Christ testifies that God is neither powerless nor apathetic towards us, but that He is overflowing with kindness and generosity and might.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?(
So I keep praying for Japan.
My dad’s ring reminds me that I am not God, so my prayers are devoid of swagger or presumption. But the cross of Christ reminds me that they shouldn’t be devoid of hope.