1. GOD WORKS THROUGH DELAY
a. What request did Mary and Martha bring to Jesus? John 11:1, 3. What faith was this expression meant to convey?
“When Lazarus became sick, [Mary and Martha] sent Jesus the word, ‘Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.’ There was no further word, no urgent message for Him to come. They fully expected that their beloved Friend would at once come and heal their brother.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, p. 109.
b. Did Jesus answer the sisters’ prayer? John 11:6. What was the result of Jesus’ delay? Verses 11–14.
“As soon as the messenger had gone, [Mary and Martha] saw a decided change for the worse in the sick man. His fever rapidly increased, and soon they realized that in the fight between life and death, death had triumphed. With hearts full of anguish, they saw their brother die.”—Ibid.
2. GOD’S PURPOSE IN MAKING US WAIT
a. Why did Jesus allow Lazarus to die? John 11:4, 15. What honor came to Lazarus as a result of Jesus’ delay in coming to see him? Verses 38–44.
“For [the disciples’] sake He permitted Lazarus to die. Had He restored him from illness to health, the miracle that is the most positive evidence of His divine character, would not have been performed.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 528.
b. What can we learn from the experience of Jesus with Lazarus? Psalm 37:5, 7 (first part).
“Nothing wounds the soul like the sharp darts of unbelief. When trial comes, as it will, do not worry or complain. Silence in the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. ‘Then are they glad because they be quiet’ (Psalm 107:30). Remember that underneath you are the everlasting arms. ‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him’ (Psalm 37:7). He is guiding you into a harbor of gracious experience.”—In Heavenly Places, p. 269.
c. Why does God sometimes delay answering our prayers? Hebrews 10:35, 36; Job 23:10.
“We are sometimes tempted to think that the promise, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,’ is not fulfilled unless the answer comes immediately when the request is made. It is our privilege to ask for special blessings, and to believe that they will be given us. But if the blessings asked for are not immediately granted, we are not to think that our prayers are not heard. We shall receive, even if the answer is delayed for a time. In carrying out the plan of redemption, Christ sees enough in humanity to discourage him. But he does not become discouraged. In mercy and love he continues to offer us opportunities and privileges. So we are to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. The answer to our prayers may not come as quickly as we desire, and it may not be just what we have asked; but he who knows what is for the highest good of his children will bestow a much greater good than we have asked, if we do not become faithless and discouraged.”—The Youth’s Instructor, April 6, 1899.
3. REFUSING TO PRAY FOR A WAY OUT
a. As Jesus was to become a sacrifice for our sins, how did His human nature respond to the conflict before Him? Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42.
“A mysterious cloud seemed to enshroud the Son of God. Its gloom was felt by those near Him. He sat rapt in thought. At last the silence was broken by His mournful voice, ‘Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour?’ In anticipation Christ was already drinking the cup of bitterness. His humanity shrank from the hour of abandonment, when to all appearance He would be deserted even by God, when all would see Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He shrank from public exposure, from being treated as the worst of criminals, from a shameful and dishonored death. A foreboding of His conflict with the powers of darkness, a sense of the awful burden of human transgression, and the Father’s wrath because of sin caused the spirit of Jesus to faint, and the pallor of death to overspread His countenance.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 624.
b. Even though His human nature shrank from the conflict before Him, how did Jesus express submission to His Father? Matthew 26:42; John 12:27.
“In the supreme crisis, when heart and soul are breaking under the load of sin, Gabriel is sent to strengthen the divine sufferer, and brace Him to tread His bloodstained path. And while the angel supports His fainting form, Christ takes the bitter cup, and consents to drink its contents.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1123.
c. What did Jesus refuse to pray for, thus revealing His full submission to His Father’s will? Matthew 26:52–54.
“Jesus bid [Peter] put up the sword, and said unto him, Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? . . . Jesus added, But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? The hearts of the disciples sunk again in despair and bitter disappointment, as Jesus suffered them to lead him away.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 48.
4. THE DIFFICULTY OF HELPING THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS
a. How did Jeremiah rebuke the people of his day, and how did Jesus apply these words to those around Him? Jeremiah 7:3, 4; Matthew 21:13.
“The priests and rulers had hardened their hearts through selfishness and avarice. The very symbols pointing to the Lamb of God they had made a means of getting gain. Thus in the eyes of the people the sacredness of the sacrificial service had been in a great measure destroyed. The indignation of Jesus was stirred; He knew that His blood, so soon to be shed for the sins of the world, would be as little appreciated by the priests and elders as was the blood of beasts which they kept incessantly flowing.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 590.
b. How does this same condition exist today? Revelation 3:14–20.
“God is true to His covenant with His people. His word is infallible. His people bring suffering on themselves by forsaking His counsel for their own human wisdom. It is impossible for their prayers to reach His throne, because the rebellion of disobedience is the substance of their petitions. Christ came from heaven to teach the word which His Father committed to Him for the fallen members of His family. Those who hear and obey walk in safe paths. . . .Through the power of Christ they are victorious over every foe.”—The Review and Herald, April 8, 1902.
c. What harsh instruction was given to Jeremiah about praying for people who cover sin by pretended holiness? Jeremiah 7:16. What only can we pray for those in this condition? Acts 26:18.
“God will use the members of His church as His helping hand, if they will place themselves where they can be used. But He does not communicate through impure channels; for this would dishonor His holy name.”—Ibid.
“The line of demarcation between the church and the world has been well nigh obliterated; and unless there is reformation, unless the eyes of those who have been blinded by the enemy are opened, they will be lost.”—The Signs of the Times, July 25, 1892.
5. PRAYING ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL
a. What limitations are placed on all prayer? 1 John 5:14.
“To pray in Christ’s name means much. It means that we are to accept His character, manifest His spirit, and work His works. The Saviour’s promise is given on condition. ‘If ye love Me,’ He says, ‘keep My commandments.’ He saves men, not in sin, but from sin; and those who love Him will show their love by obedience.
“All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
“In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that everyone who would make his lifework a success must understand. Christ says, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’ (Mark 11:24). He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.”—Education, pp. 257, 258.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What happened as Jesus was delayed in coming to see Lazarus when he was sick? How did his sisters react?
2. What should we do if our prayers are not answered in the way and in the time we expect? Why does this happen?
3. Describe Jesus’ suffering before dying on the cross. What attitude did He have?
4. Why is God unable to help the self-righteous?
5. When will God give us the things we pray for?