Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
“I can’t get no satisfaction.
I can’t get no satisfaction.
‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try…”
-The Rolling Stones (Satisfaction)
Do these lyrics speak to you? Then maybe you should go about things differently. You may have tried the rest, now it’s time to try the best. The Holy Spirit has a message that you should consider as you strive for the things you want as you go through your life.
Asa was a “good” king of Judah; however, in later years he had some issues with God. Eventually he got sick and history records what happened:
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers (2 Chronicles 16:12-13).
The Holy Spirit pointed out to me that the Bible makes an effort to mention that Asa didn’t seek God’s help for his sickness. The implication of that is that had he actually asked the Lord about it, Asa probably would have been healed. After all, that’s what King Hezekiah did when he got sick and the results were certainly positive; Scripture reads
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayers and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life’” (Isaiah 38:1-5).
I’ve actually seen this exact scenario played out in my family when I was younger. Honestly I hadn’t realized how close to the story it went until typing this up; but my relative came home and we heard on the answering machine the doctor say those exact words: “Put your house in order.” And after prayer, said relative ended up living about fifteen more years-Holy crap how did I not notice the parallels until now? Anyway, as you can see, when Hezekiah asked the Lord, he had no problem extending the king’s life, unlike Asa, who decided just to stick to the world’s healing methods.
Although you’re trying to achieve and trying to get things you want and need maybe you should…stop doing that. James writes, “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Maybe instead of trying to do everything yourself, you should try giving it to God. As far as healing is concerned, James thinks that praying should come as a first priority. He recommends,
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).
Now, I’m not knocking doctors; of course go to the doctor when you’re sick. Who knows how God will work- but pray first and then continue praying in tandem with whatever sort of treatment your doctor recommends (if you’re not immediately healed by the hand of God). When it comes to things beyond healing, like improved situations or things that you want; God can handle that sort of stuff too if you pray;
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops (James 5:17-18).
You know, for a guy who’s most well known for his speech on the importance of works, James puts a lot of weight into the power of prayer and God’s miracles. And why shouldn’t he? Paul tells us, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Any believer who’s actually taken Paul up on this challenge will attest that the Lord answers prayers; even stupidly small and petty prayers. I’ve had God throw up distractions for others when I wanted to relax and not be bothered. I’ve seen God manipulate situations where I wasn’t in the right but prayed that I wouldn’t have to lie to get out of it. I’ve experienced the Lord move things in such a way after I prayed about something that I can only refer to how it turned out as a cosmic-level joke. When you pray about everything, the Lord shows up and gives you answers.
But James, Paul, and I are just normal people. What does our Savior Christ Jesus have to say about prayer? Well, according to Scripture, he says,
I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:23-24).
Why would you even want God to move a mountain into the sea? That’s a stupid use for prayer and kind of a waste of God’s time, isn’t it? I actually think that’s the point of Jesus’ example: there is no prayer too stupid. When small stuff that we can easily handle comes up, the devil whispers in our ear that there’s no need to bother God with our petty issues. Or when something insurmountable comes against us, the devil whispers that God doesn’t want to help us. But none of that is true. Jesus told his followers, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). And when you’re praying for and with other people: “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Therefore it is written, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). So get your prayer on!
Of course, if you don’t believe in Jesus and his death in your stead, then none of this works. If you can’t find satisfaction in your life, maybe you’re looking in the wrong places. Turn to Christ and let him change your life and endow you with the awesome power of prayer. For it is written in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself!