The Long Walk Between Offered and Answered Prayer

Max Lucado

Max Lucado

You are walking, not on the path between Georgia and Maine. No, you are walking on a road even steeper and longer — the path between offered prayer and answered prayer. Between

  • supplication and celebration
  • bent knees and lifted hands
  • tears of fear and tears of joy
  • “Help me, Lord” and “Thank You, Lord”

Do you know the road? How it grows dark with doubts? How despair tags along as an uninvited companion? If you can relate, you’ll find this story inspiring.

As He traveled through Galilee, [Jesus] came to Cana, where He had turned the water into wine. There was a government official in nearby Capernaum whose son was very sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die. (John 4:46-47 NLT)

The father was a man of high standing in the court of Herod. He was likely a Gentile. His modern-day counterpart might be a White House chief of staff or a presidential cabinet member. He held a position of status and oversaw a houseful of servants. But none of that mattered, for he had a son who was very sick. The son was a child, just a lad (John 4:49). No doubt the prominent aristocrat had summoned the finest physicians to help his boy. But no one could. His son still teetered on the brink of death. The dollar is not almighty. Neither rank nor riches can protect their possessors from disease and death. Certainly, this father would have given both to see health return to his son.

He lived in Capernaum, a fishing village that served as the base of operations for Jesus. Peter had a home there. Jesus was known to speak in its synagogue. It’s not hard to imagine a villager suggesting to the distraught father, “Ask the Nazarene to help your son. He has healing power.” Jesus was well-known in Capernaum.

Jesus, however, was eighteen miles away in the village of Cana.1

The official set out. He gave his son’s fevered brow a kiss and his anxious wife a promise and then headed northeast around the Sea of Galilee. The trek required food, planning, and a protection detail. A predawn departure would get him to Cana by sundown. If he left at midday, he would have spent the night in an inn or taken up lodging in a borrowed room. Either way, he could not enjoy the walk, stop to see the sights, or visit with anyone along the path. By the time he spotted Jesus in Cana, the official was no doubt weary and worried.

He went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die. — John 4:47 NLT

Straightforward was this request. Urgent. He didn’t mention his position, rank, or title. He didn’t promise to make a financial contribution to the cause of Christ. He didn’t imply he was worthy of divine assistance. He came to Christ as a desperate father. He begged Jesus to come to Capernaum. I envision the man on his knees, perhaps his face on the ground, imploring Jesus to return with him and heal his son. He not only had a request; he also had a plan of action. In his mind the two would walk side by side from Cana to Capernaum until they stood next to the dying boy.

The response of Christ surprises us.

Will you never believe in Me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” — John 4:48 NLT

Goodness gracious, I did not see this starchy question coming, did you? Only one miracle into John’s gospel we hear Jesus saying, “Be careful.” He waved a caution flag against a contingent faith, a faith that says I will believe if… or I will believe when…  

What prompted this response? Perhaps the attitude of the villagers? They took note of the arriving official with an entourage in tow. They learned of his dying son and the plan to solicit the assistance of Jesus. They followed Him, not out of concern for the boy, but out of fascination with the miracles. This was Cana, after all. Word of the water-to-wine miracle was on the streets. Perhaps they were hoping to see another display of power. “Come on, Christ,” their presence suggested. “Show us what You can do.”

Or perhaps Jesus saw contingent faith in the request of the father. The man not only asked for help, but he also told Jesus the way the help should be administered. “Come to Capernaum and heal my son.” As a high-ranking official, he was accustomed to giving directives. He told subordinates what to do and how to do it. Was he doing the same with Jesus? Was his belief in Christ contingent upon the willingness of Christ to answer his prayer in a specific manner?

For whatever reason, Christ felt a warning was in order. In His first miracle Jesus rewarded the unconditional “whatever” faith of Mary. In this miracle He cautioned against the conditional faith of the people.

Contingent faith is the faith of sidewalk chalk: it’s beautiful when the sun shines, but it washes away when the rain falls.

The father did not reply to the caution. His heart was a dozen exits down the highway. He did not dispute the fact that some people demand miracles; he simply wanted to stay focused on the task at hand. “The official pleaded, ‘Lord, please come now before my little boy dies’” (John 4:49 NLT).

His appeal could hardly be more genuine. His direction could hardly have been clearer. “Come now!”

And Jesus responded to it. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Go back home. Your son will live!’” (John 4:50 NLT).

Such good news! Or was it? Jesus answered the man’s prayer — or did He? The nobleman had reason to rejoice, then again maybe not. The man asked Jesus to go with him to Capernaum. But Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live.”

This was the moment of truth for the father, the moment he set out on the longest walk. The prayer was offered in Cana. Would the prayer be answered in Capernaum? He did not know. He had to make a choice.

Perhaps the nobleman turned on a dime and floated home on the magic carpet of faith. Maybe he high-fived his way down the path, shouting, “My dying son will live!” Perhaps he slept like a baby that night and awoke with joy the next morning. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and he skipped and whistled all the way home to Capernaum.

If so, he was a better man than I am. I would’ve gulped at Jesus’ reply. I would’ve looked first at Christ, then at the road. First one way, then the next. “Are You sure, Jesus? Can’t You walk with me, Jesus? My wife is a good cook. I told her I would bring You. Won’t You please come with me?” What if he arrived in Capernaum and the son wasn’t better? What if the Messiah had moved on to another city before the father could find Him again? He made his choice. “The man took Jesus at His word and departed” (John 4:50 NIV). He believed in the spoken word of Christ.

While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well. He asked them when the boy had begun to get better, and they replied, “Yesterday afternoon at one o’clock his fever suddenly disappeared!” Then the father realized that that was the very time Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” And he and his entire household believed in Jesus. This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did in Galilee after coming from Judea. (John 4:51-54 NLT)

The good news from the servants was met with a good question from the father: What time did he get better? Reply: one o’clock. The very time Jesus had spoken the word. Jesus had worked a long-distance healing. The miracle was not just in the life of the boy but in the saving faith of the entire household. Isn’t that what Jesus desired? The physical healing was an unspeakable gift, for sure…  The life-giving miracle of Jesus was short-term. The faith-giving miracle of Jesus was eternal. The household believed in Jesus. This belief resulted in everlasting life.

  1. R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999), 138.

Excerpted with permission from You Are Never Alone by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

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Your Turn

What about you? Do you find yourself somewhere between Cana and Capernaum? Like the official you offered a heartfelt prayer. You begged Jesus for help. And like the official you didn’t receive the answer in the way you wanted. Consequently, here you are, doing your best to place one foot in front of the other, walking the path of obedience. Come share on our blog!

NIV Devotions for Couples – Week of October 7

Making Peace With Each Other

Verse: Exodus 4:24-26

But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.
— Exodus 4:25

Zipporah performed hasty surgery on her son when she realized God was about to kill her husband, Moses. While it isn’t stated, evidently God was about to destroy Moses because he had failed to circumcise his son. Zipporah took the situation into her own hands, completing the act of obedience Moses had neglected to do.

But there seems to be an air of resentment in her abrupt actions. Perhaps she was angry at her husband for shirking his fatherly duties. Or maybe Zipporah resented having to perform a spiritual rite she herself didn’t believe in.

Whatever the details of a disagreement, resulting feelings can drive a wedge between spouses. Resentment can lead to barbed words, sarcastic comments and actions that undercut one another. For example, children came early in our marriage. I used to get so angry when Dan would nudge me to get out of bed in the middle of the night because the baby was crying. Both Dan and I desperately needed sleep, but I resented the assumption that it was my responsibility to get up with the baby. Lack of sleep, combined with my expectation that Dan share in the 3:00 a.m. feedings, fueled resentment in me. In a huff, I would perform my motherly duties, seething silently as Dan snored and I rocked a cranky baby. It didn’t take too many sleepless nights like that before we had built walls of anger between us.

When you notice resentment creeping in or a disagreement escalating in your relationship, admit your anger and call an immediate cease-fire. Take some advice from marriage counselor Scott M. Stanley (Marriage Partnership, Fall 1995). Agree on a specific time when you can talk. Then sit down together and use a small object, such as a pen, to indicate who has the floor. The person holding the pen is the speaker. When the pen changes hands, the roles change. The speaker’s job is to get his or her point across. The listener’s job is to absorb information and give feedback by paraphrasing what the other has just said.

While this approach feels somewhat artificial, it greatly enhances communication by slowing things down and emphasizing listening and working together. It helps you, as James 1:19 says, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s a great tool for aiding interaction and understanding. And it helps to insure that resentments don’t fester or turn into full-blown arguments.

When you sense resentment growing within you, ask yourself what expectations you have of your spouse, particularly in a situation that’s brewing trouble between you. Very often, resentment grows from unmet expectations. Zipporah expected something from Moses. I expected something of Dan. Recognizing what your expectations are is the first step toward resolving resentment.
—Marian V. Liautaud

Let’s Talk

  • Is there some area of our marriage in which we feel that one of us has unmet expectations? Let’s talk about some of those expectations.
  • When one of us gets angry, do our arguments quickly get out of hand? How can we put a stop to that pattern?
  • Let’s try a pen-passing conversation on a nonthreatening topic. How does that approach differ from the way we usually try to resolve a problem? In what ways could this approach help?

This devotion is from the Couples’ Devotional Bible by Zondervan. Used with permission.

Family Talk Night Light for Couples

ERROR OR OPPORTUNITY?

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

Many years ago, at what was then Standard Oil Company, an executive’s mistake cost the firm more than two million dollars. On the day the news leaked, the firm’s employees feared the wrath of the powerful head of the company—John D. Rockefeller—and found various ways to avoid him. One partner, however, kept his previously scheduled appointment. When he walked into the president’s office, he saw Rockefeller writing on a pad of paper.

“Oh, it’s you, Bedford,” Rockefeller said calmly. “I suppose you’ve heard about our loss?” The partner said that he had. “I’ve been thinking it over,” Rockefeller said, “and before I ask the man to discuss the matter, I’ve been making some notes.” Across the top of the page was written, “Points in favor of Mr. ________.” There followed a long list of the man’s virtues, including a description of how the executive had helped the firm make the right decision on three separate occasions. Since the earnings from these decisions had added up to many times the cost of the recent error, Rockefeller told Bedford that he had decided to seize the opportunity to encourage the executive instead of censure him.

The next time your spouse fails you, you could cut him or her down in a torrent of angry words… or you could see a golden opportunity to encourage.

JUST BETWEEN US…

  • When was I most encouraging to you during a crisis?
  • Is there a particular Scripture verse you cling to during tough times?

Lord, we so often underestimate how much influence our words can have. We ask for wisdom to speak encouragement—especially when criticism might be expected. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Illustration from More of… The Best of Bits and Pieces, ed. Rob Gilbert (Fairfield, N.J.: The Economics Press, 1997). Reprinted in Stories for a Man’s Heart, comp. Al and Alice Gray (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1999).

8 UNIQUE LANDMARKS THAT WERE ORIGINALLY SOMETHING ELSE

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

It’s a shame when buildings with long and interesting histories fall into disrepair and are abandoned. Fortunately, when this does happen, talented architects and planners often have the vision to inject new life into them. Examples of this around the globe include a Dutch church turned into a bookstore and a Beaux-Arts railway station transformed into a world-famous art museum. Here are eight unique landmarks that were originally constructed for different purposes.

Boekhandel Dominicanen, The Netherlands

Maastricht in The Netherlands.
Credit: Jorge Franganillo/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

Book lovers can enjoy a heavenly experience at Boekhandel Dominicanen. This independent bookstore is located on a cobblestone street in Maastricht’s picturesque city center, but its walls weren’t always covered by books. The store originally opened in the 13th century as a Dominican church. Ecclesiastical activities continued until 1796, when the church began to be used as a stable and exhibition space. A plan was made in 2005 to return the landmark to its former glory following several years of neglect. The original stained-glass windows, vaults, frescos, and 700-year-old secco painting were all restored. Then a modern, two-story steel book tower was added. Nowadays, the store receives roughly 700,000 annual visitors who come to peruse around 50,000 books, order coffee at the café, and bask in the celestial ambience.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Argentina

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Argentina
Credit: Jeison Higuita/ Unsplash

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is another example of a bookstore moving into a historic landmark. The shop opened in 2000, but the building’s history dates back to 1919, when it was known as the Teatro Grand Splendid. For a decade after opening, the theater was an esteemed venue for ballet, opera, and variety performances. It welcomed tango singers such as Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini to its stage, and it had its own radio station and recording studio, the latter of which was responsible for some of the earliest tango recordings. In 1929, the theater became a cinema and was the first place in Argentina to screen sound films. Fast forward to today, and the shop maintains its opulent theater decor. Exquisite frescoes, friezes, and sculptures adorn the balconies and ceiling. Visitors are welcome to browse through thousands of books while sitting in the theater’s boxes and on the stage café.

Haus des Meeres, Austria

The house of the sea is a ZOO mainly with marine aquariums and terrariums.
Credit: PleskyRoman/ iStock

After the RAF Bomber Command launched air raids on Berlin in 1940, Adolf Hitler sought a way to protect his cities. Consequently, he ordered the construction of anti-aircraft gun blockhouses called flak towers. Many were demolished after the end of World War II, but some remained as stark reminders of a bygone era. One such example stands in Vienna’s Esterhazy Park. This imposing concrete structure rises 154 feet above the park’s leafy gardens. Since 1957, it has been the venue for the Haus de Meeres Aqua Terra Zoo. Nine floors were added to the tower’s original two to create an aquarium home to birds, crocodiles, fish, monkeys, and snakes. It also has an exhibition about the tower’s wartime history, a panoramic observation deck, and a 98-foot-high exterior climbing wall.Culture4ptsTest Your Knowledge!What are Colombians known for enjoying in their hot chocolate?PLAY!

Landschaftspark, Germany

Landscape Park Duisburg North Industrial Culture park Germany.
Credit: Nachteule/ iStock

Landschaftspark, which is German for Landscape Park, is a paradise for cultural, leisure, and sporting activities. This isn’t your average urban city park, however. It occupies nearly 445 acres of an ironworks site that was abandoned in 1985. Award-winning landscape architect Peter Latz won a competition to redevelop the area. Rather than tear down the arresting structures, Latz chose to use them creatively and honor the region’s industrial heritage. The old casthouse is now an abseiling course, the ore deposit bunker is a climbing wall, and the gasometer is Europe’s largest indoor scuba diving pool. The park is also home to biking and walking trails, playgrounds, a performance stage, and bird’s-eye views from the summit of a blast furnace. Those who visit in the evening get to see the ironworks glimmer beneath a light installation.

Musée d’Orsay, France

Main Hall of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris
Credit: Tim Wildsmith/ Unsplash

Art lovers delight in the displays of 19th- and 20th-century European art at the Musée d’Orsay, which houses masterpieces by artists including Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh. But the museum is also notable for its historical, grandiose Beaux-Arts building. Inaugurated for the 1900 Paris Exhibition, the building operated as the Gare d’Orsay railway terminal until 1939, when advances in train technology led to the decommission of the terminal. Almost half a century would pass before the opening of the museum. In between, the obsolete station was a wartime mailing center, the place where Charles de Gaulle announced his return to politics, and a filming location for Orson Welles’ drama and mystery movie The Trial.

Seoullu 7017, South Korea

View of Seoullo 7017. the pedestrian road of the Seoul Station overpass in South Korea.
Credit: MakDill/ Shutterstock

Pedestrians in downtown Seoul benefit from intimate encounters with nature amid the city’s skyscrapers at Seoullu 7017 sky garden. This 0.6-mile raised walkway is an ever-changing arboretum decorated with roughly 24,000 flower, shrub, and tree species. Plants are exhibited in alphabetical order and change with the seasons. Alongside gardens and lily ponds are cafés, a children’s theater, play areas, a public foot bath, and shops. The sky garden was unveiled in 2017, but for the 47 years prior it was an overpass of a downtown highway. It’s part of a plan to make Seoul a greener and friendlier city. And it isn’t the first time the city has turned a thoroughfare into a public recreation space. In 2005, an elevated highway was removed in order to reopen the 6.8-mile-long Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Tate Modern, United Kingdom

View of the Tate Modern from across the river
Credit: Hoyoung Choi/ Unsplash

If not for the sign, you might not expect the building of the Tate Modern to be home to one of the United Kingdom’s finest modern art collections. Overlooking the River Thames from London’s South Bank, the monstrous, brick-clad landmark is the former site of the Bankside Power Station. The man responsible for the building was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed Battersea Power Station and Waterloo Bridge. From 1947 to 1989, the power station generated electricity for the city and was a training center for engineering apprentices. In 1994, the Tate Gallery announced its takeover of the site for a new contemporary and modern art gallery. Architects created a huge exhibition space by stripping the building back to its steel-and-brick shell and adding a rooftop light box. Today natural light illuminates a collection of masterpieces by Dali, Picasso, and Warhol, among others.

Tequendama Falls Museum, Colombia

Credit: Petruss/ CC BY-SA 3.0

The Tequendama Falls Museum occupies a luxuriant, French-style mansion perched on a clifftop above the Bogota River. Revered for its uninterrupted views of the 433-foot Tequendama Falls, the museum features exhibitions about Colombia’s biodiversity, cultures, and history. Travel back in time to the early 20th century, however, and life here was somewhat different. In 1923, a mansion-like train station was built to celebrate the 1920s affluence of Colombian high society. It operated as the Hotel del Salto from 1928 and was the scene of decadent banquets and parties. In 2016, plans to transform the train station went underway, but there are still traces of its glamorous past. Ghostly apparitions have shrouded the landmark in mystery for many years. Local lore states that the Muisca tribespeople jumped from the waterfall to flee from the Spanish in the 1500s. Some say that the voices of their spirits continue to resonate around the museum and falls.

Portrait of Bradley O'Neil

Written by Bradley O’Neil