By Dr. Bill Mounce
It is easy to focus on what we don’t know about prayer, but despite all my personal questions about it, I find it better to focus on what we do know about prayer from the Bible.
First, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that God hears us. Even if we don’t sense his presence, and even if we don’t see the answers we want when we want them, we can still know that he is always present and listening. One of the beauties of the doctrine of God’s omnipresence is that God is as present in your mind as he is in mine as he is present in the galaxies on the other side of the universe. He is present in all his fullness in your prayers and can therefore give you his “undivided” attention. Don’t ever think that he doesn’t hear you.
Second, God has the power to act. Nothing happens that he decrees shall not happen; and everything he decrees to happen does happen. He is sovereign; he is omnipotent (Psalm 115:3).
Third, God knows what to do and what not to do. He is all-knowing, and his omniscience is directed by his love.
So how do we pray in the face of a pandemic? I think we pray with confidence because he has told his children to pray boldly, to come into his presence and ask whatever we want. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Since he has made these promises, if God does not listen and respond, he is a liar.
But he will respond in his way and in his time, since he knows what is best for his children. This is why we follow Jesus’ example and end our prayers, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Despite the death of my two daughters and the loss of a church that I loved, I truly believe prayer moves God to do what he might not otherwise do. I have to believe; the alternative—that God does not hear, or care, or is unable to do anything about it—is too monstrous to contemplate.
This is why, especially in frightening times such as now, we pray with confidence, and accept what God graciously sends us as his best. There may be sickness. There may be death. There certainly will be loss. But God sees the end from the beginning, and someday so will we.
In the meantime, we pray.
Dr. Bill Mounce
Bill is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation (which is responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible) and has written numerous Greek resources including the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek. He speaks and blogs regularly on issues relating to trusting the Bible, the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus), Greek and issues of spiritual growth.