Two friends, one an avid churchgoer, the other a seldom church visitor, went on a fishing trip. On their way out to sea, they got into a heated conversation about whose prayer God answers. The churchgoing friend said, “God hears me, and he answers me when I pray. Does God answer you when you pray? The church visiting captain responded, “I may only be a church visitor, but I have faith in God, and God hears me and answers all of my prayers.”
His friend replied, “Impossible; I go to church every Sunday, and God doesn’t answer all of my prayers. Why should He answer all of your prayers when you seldom go to church?” The captain answered, “All I know is, God hears, and He answers my prayers when I pray.”
While they debated about church and prayer, they noticed a small cloud on the horizon, and within a few minutes, the sea got rough. Soon it started to rain, and suddenly, their engine stopped. They were in a terrible storm with no engine. They were at the mercy of the storm. Their boat drifted further out into the sea.
After several hours, the storm ceased, and the sea became calm, however, they did not know where they were. The two men tried for hours to start the engine to no avail. They scanned the horizon for signs of land, and they spotted a small island about two miles away. But the tide was taking them away from the island, so the friend said to the captain, “If we’re going to make it to that island, it looks like we’re going to have to swim. Let us pray that we make it safely to that island.” So they prayed and began swimming toward the small island.
God Answers When We Call
When they reached the island, the captain said to his friend, “You see, I told you God answers all of my prayers.” The captain’s friend replied, “You forgot; I also prayed with you.”
“Now that we made it safely to the island, let’s split up and try to find food and water,” said the captain. His friend still wanting to prove his point, responded, “Very well, you go to the other side of the island and pray, and I will stay here and pray. Then we will see whose prayers God answers.”
So the two men separated. The friend started walking toward the interior of the island. As he walked, he prayed for food and water. He lifted his eyes, and there in front of him stood a Coconut tree, ladened with coconuts. After he had his fill of coconut flesh and coconut water, it started to rain. So he prayed for shelter. To his amazement, there was a cave just beyond where he had found the coconut tree. The friend, now warm and his belly filled, sat in the corner of the cave and prayed that a ship would come and rescue him. Then he fell asleep.
When he awakened, he stood in the cave’s entrance, and lo and behold, there was a ship near the beach, near where they had come ashore. He hurriedly ran down to the beach, jumped into the water, and swam to the ship.
You Never Know Who Is Praying for You
When he boarded the ship, he heard a voice from within quietly say, “What about your friend, the captain? Are you going to leave him on the island?’ He thought to himself, “The captain is going to be alright. He said God answers all of his prayers. I guess he didn’t earnestly pray.” The voice answered, “That’s not true. He did pray.” The friend replied, “Then what did he pray?” The voice answered, “Your friend, the captain, prayed for your prayers to be answered.”
The Scriptures say, “God hears the prayer of the righteous.” But what makes a person righteous? Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” It is easy to become legalistic in our view of God. We forget that God is Spirit. We start believing that God answers prayer, and we gain favor with God because we do all of the right things outwardly. Abraham was not righteous because he kept the law. After all, Abraham lived before the law was given. Not only that, Abraham lied twice, yet God called him righteous.
God examines the heart. The captain’s friend thought he merited a response from God because of his self-righteousness. He believed his church attendance made him righteous. On the other hand, the captain believed in God. He believed God would answer his prayer based on what he believed and not what he did.
Pray for Others
If you are facing hardship, don’t just pray for yourself. Try praying for your friends as well. There is a story in the Bible of a man named Job. The Bible says that Job was blameless and upright. That’s another way of saying Job was righteous. The Scriptures tell us that sores covered Job’s body. Job’s friends thought God was punishing him for hidden sin. However, Job’s sickness was an attack from Satan. What’s interesting about Job’s story is that Job was restored when he prayed for his friends (Job 42:10).
Job had suffered much through the unkindness of his friends. They had criticized his conduct without feeling or mercy. Job had reason to be irritated with his friends. Instead, he chose to be merciful toward them. The Scriptures say that God shows mercy to the merciful. Because Job was merciful to his friends, God was merciful toward him. The message here is a simple one. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).