A Silent God Between the prayer and the answer
Sometimes we beg the Lord for help, yet receive no immediate answer. Prayer seems to bounce back to earth. The woman of Canaan experienced this. Her need was very great, for her daughter was grievously vexed with the devil’s power. When she found Jesus she begged, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me.” But what a disappointment! Christ didn’t answer her!
Here was a praying mother and a silent Jesus. All her hope was fixed on him, but he who could help apparently did not want to help. He asked a man who was sick for 38 years, “Do you want to be made whole?” when that man did not even ask for healing, and now he acted as though he didn’t hear or see this woman.
This woman’s situation is not an isolated case. The psalmist, too, cried out, “You don’t answer!”
Perhaps you have experienced this too. You pray, but see no light. Not one word comes from heaven, and you cry like Job: “O that God would answer me!”
What could the woman of Canaan do now? She had heard Christ say that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, but she was a heathen. But she did not return home! True need cannot be repressed, for there is nowhere else to go.
Some people say that they have prayed enough already, and so they stop. This proves that the need of the soul does not weigh heavily enough. Those who have a true need cannot stop; they would rather die at the feet of Christ than stop. So it was with this woman. We read, “Then came she and worshipped him.” Now she could only say, “Lord, help me!”
Maybe you understand this woman. Perhaps you have, like her, often made your misery and wretchedness known to God. Many words are often laid at the throne of grace — many words, and not one answer. Nothing is worse than a silent God.
What did the woman of Canaan do? Did she become bitter? Did she say, I am no worse than others? Did she perhaps say, “Can I help it that I am a heathen?” Or was she offended because she was called a dog? Nothing like that happened! She agreed with what Christ said. She agreed that she had no rights. She acknowledged her unworthiness and sinfulness. Listen to her reply: “Truth, Lord.” When she was called a dog and not a child she agreed that it was true. “Truth, Lord” — that is the right attitude of prayer. That is where the Lord wants His people.
Scripture says, “Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you; seek and ye shall find.” No one has ever found that this is not so. But between the prayer and the answer lies the sovereignty of God. The lesson which a silent heaven teaches is that God is not under any obligation to a sinner. Grace teaches the sinner to beg for grace.
What did the woman of Canaan do next? She didn’t give up; she held on. To what? To a crumb which she hoped might fall from the Lord’s table. “Yet,” she said, “the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” In other words she was saying, “Lord, let the bread be given to the children of Israel. If I may have only the crumbs, I will be satisfied.” One crumb from God, one ray of His light, one mark of His favor would be sufficient.
What had this woman done? She had taken hold of Christ in His own words. She caught him in what he had said to her. Jesus had spoken of the dogs who were given the leftovers, and thus set the door ajar. Her perseverance serves for instruction in secret prayer and encouragement for poor supplicants.
But of far greater importance is the question, “What did Christ do?” With the one hand he took away her courage and with the other hand he drew her to himself. The Lord still works this way. He lets us see the impossibility from our side to make room for the possibility on God’s side.
This history is written for discouraged strugglers who ask themselves whether God’s blessings can ever be for them. Learn from the woman of Canaan to lay hold on God’s Word.
God cannot answer you because of your worthiness and your prayers. But He can do it because of what He has said in His Word — for His own name’s sake — because of Christ. That is your pleading-ground and not anything in yourself. When it is a lost cause from your perspective, there is hope that it is a good cause from God’s perspective. Your prayer will then be, “Lord, isn’t it possible for Thy sake?”
There is no worthiness in those who pray, not even in their persevering prayers. Even if every year of your life you would call day and night without Christ — God would have to be silent forever. It is only because of the drawing love of Christ that a sinner cannot stay away from the throne of God. Therefore, looking back, the saved say, “Lord, I did not take hold of Thee, but Thou didst take hold of me.”