The 19th anniversary of 9/11 recently passed. In reflection of that day, I decided to watch some YouTube videos of first responders recalling their experiences. As they were describing their memories, something stuck out to me, a few of them said people were praying everywhere they looked. I tried to imagine what their prayers must have been like and all of the emotions behind them. Prayers full of complete terror, realizations of mortality, and desperation to be out of that situation. I don’t know about you, but I tear up thinking about God listening to every single prayer that day. Now imagine with me, that those people continued to pray those same prayers every day for 5 days, 5 years, 10 years…but the world kept moving on and those prayers remained unanswered. I imagine that over time those prayers, once so full of emotion, would diminish in intensity and frequency. As human beings, is it our default mode to allow our unanswered prayers to eventually become silent, unspoken prayers?
A DYNAMIC WOMAN
I want to introduce you to the Shumanite woman (I will paraphrase her story, but if you’d like to read her full story, you can find it in 2 Kings 4). She remains nameless but embodies qualities that our world today celebrates. She is married, wealthy, self-sufficient, hospitable, and faithful to God. She has learned to be content with her circumstances and if asked she’d say she doesn’t yearn for anything this world has to offer. However, we will find that she holds an unspoken prayer in her heart.
This woman gave of her home abundantly, specifically to Elisha, the prophet, and his servant, Gehazi. She hosted the men so many times that she set up a room for them to stay in. In return, Elisha wanted to bless her due to her kindness. One day, he asked her what he could do for her hospitality. Her response was, “Nothing. I’m secure and satisfied in my family” (2 Kings 4:13 MSG). To that response, Gehazi suggested to Elisha, this woman doesn’t have a son, surely she would like a son? Elisha then says to her, in one year’s time you will be blessed with a son. Her response to Elisha was, “O my master, O Holy Man…don’t play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!” (2 Kings 4:16 MSG). Her response might be surprising, however, she knew getting pregnant would require a miracle because her husband was very, very old. I’d also be willing to bet they had probably tried and prayed, and tried and prayed, so many times that they had resorted to tucking that hopeful prayer away in their hearts and keeping it unspoken.
Well, as surely as God is faithful, she did have a son within a year. Her son grows up to be approximately 6-12 yrs. old, when one day, he complains of a headache. She lays him in her arms, and unfortunately, hours later he dies. Immediately after her son dies, she ironically puts his body in Elisha’s room, packs up her donkey, and goes to Elisha. The verses say when she first sees Elisha, “she threw herself at his feet and held tightly to him,” (2 Kings 4:27 MSG) however, she still carried that unspoken prayer in her heart. She says, “Did I ask for a son, master? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t tease me with false hopes’?”. Elisha quickly goes to the boy, lays on top of him and brings him back to life. From that point on, the Shumanite woman is in unspeakable awe at what God’s prophet has accomplished in her life.
In my daily devotions, God led me to this little story of the Shumanite woman. I can relate to her on so many levels. I have taken pride in being self-sufficient, independent and faithful to God. Yet, I confess that there is a prayer I have been praying for almost two decades! I have, much like the Shumanite woman, redirected my focus on embracing contentment in my life. I am so beyond blessed and have every reason to thank God. However, that unspoken prayer is still unmet and the measure of hope and belief that it now holds is minuscule when compared to what it held before. Through this story, God showed me that he still knows about my unspoken prayer and he can STILL work out this seemingly impossible situation in my life.
Have you found yourself resigned to accepting this is just how life will be?
Have you been living in a stage of life that is longer than what’s considered a “season?”
Are you so filled with bitterness and heartbreak that you won’t even speak of that prayer you’ve longed to be fulfilled?
Do you proclaim to God, “Do NOT get my hopes up, ever again!”?
Dear friend, I understand the degree of shame and discontentment that comes with a prayer that has been unmet. I hope, as I did, that you will find reassurance through this story- that there is indeed still hope, even if your prayer has not been answered yet. I challenge you to believe that God is able to work out what seems impossible in your life. Find the strength to continue to pray that prayer out loud. Make it known to the people who care for you. Have a renewed belief that your prayer is being heard.