One of the standard plot devices of science fiction TV shows is the fantasy of time travel. What fun it is to go back into history and interact with famous people and witness famous events! Ever seen one of the “Back to the Future” series with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd?
Inevitably, though, the travelers try to “fix” something in the past, just a little thing, and it ends up having a huge and unintended impact on the future. There’s a connection here with prayer (no, really—I’m serious.)
Remember the story of how King Hezekiah was mortally ill with a severe infection and was dying at age 39? He turned his face to the wall and prayed passionately that the Lord would extend his life. God not only answered that prayer, but he gave his ailing king a sign that healing was on the way—the sun’s shadow went backward on his father Ahaz’s sundial staircase.
“Ordinary” Bible miracle, right? God decided to honor Hezekiah’s request with an extension on his life—15 more years. But if God had chosen to say "No," it may be that he could foresee some worse things happening. In fact, during that extension to his life Hezekiah sired a son who at age 12 would succeed him. His name was Manasseh, and he was so wretched and evil that God decided to be done with Judah.
2 Kings 21:10-14 says, “The Lord said through his servants the prophets, “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. Therefore…I am going to bring such disaster on Judah and Jerusalem that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle….I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by their foes…”
‘Tis good to pray and pray persistently and pray passionately. But ‘tis also good to accept a “No” or “Later” cheerfully from God, trusting that He can see all future outcomes and realizing that we might have been requesting something that would turn out disastrously.
With the benefit of hindsight, have you ever realized that it was a good thing that you didn’t get what you had been praying for?