While reading through the book of Genesis, I once again came across the story of Hagar, Sarai’s maid (chapter 16), who bore a son to Abram when it seemed hopeless that Sarai would ever conceive on her own.
And there I found some of the most powerful perspectives on prayer ever.
At one point, before the child’s birth, Hagar runs away from the household after being harshly treated by the (now jealous) Sarai. There, in the wilderness, God met her, and made rich promises about her soon-to-be-born son. While the child of the promise would yet be conceived directly via the (now barren) womb of Sarai, Hagar’s child was not to be neglected.
It turns out that God was not off on some celestial errand during this family drama, and unaware of the circumstances, but as He always is, God was intimately involved in every detail – past, present, and future.
She was to name the boy Ishmael, which in Hebrew, means God hears. She called God Elroi, which means God sees. And, she marveled that God would appear to her and she would remain alive. You might call that, in much bigger words, God graciously condescends.
Amazingly, God not only saw the present, but he also told Hagar about Ishmael’s future. Because, you know, He’s God. He sees past, present, and future without our mortal and finite limits. Our NOW is this moment, today. God’s NOW is eternal.
Often, when we pray, we feel a nagging sense of uncertainty. Does God know what I’m going through? Does He even care? Will He intervene? Do the dark mists of the future contain awful and unexpected surprises that will derail everything?
There are great mysteries in the immensity of God, and intimidating aspects to a future we cannot control ourselves. Yet, like Hagar, we need to act in faith.
God hears. God sees. God cares. And He’s going to do what is best, including dispensing blessing to the undeserving.
Ishmael. Elroi. That’s enough.