Commentary by Walter Albritton


October 29, 2006


Rejoice and Give Thanks Because God Always Answers Prayer


1 Kings 3


Key Verse: I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. – 1 Kings 3:12


          It comes as no surprise to discover that Hollywood lied to us in the popular movie, “Patton.” The movie portrays General George S. Patton as irreverently ordering his chaplain to pray for good weather. However, Patton’s chaplain James H. O’Neill tells a different story.

          O’Neill, the Chief Chaplain of the Third Army, says the General called him and asked, “Do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win this war.” O’Neill promised to find a good prayer. Unable to find one in print that seemed suitable, he composed the following prayer:

          Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

          The next day O’Neill presented the prayer to General Patton. He read it and approved it. Then he asked the chaplain, “How much praying is being done in the Third Army?” O’Neill said, “Sir, not much.” The two discussed the importance of prayer for an hour.  Patton told O’Neill that he was a great believer in prayer and that he felt it imperative to get every soldier praying.

          Finally General Patton instructed O’Neill to print the prayer he had written and distribute it to every soldier in the Third Army. Patton said,

“We've got to get not only the chaplains but every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are the margin that holds defeat or victory.”

          The famous prayer was distributed as ordered – to every soldier in the Third Army. Soldiers and chaplains prayed. The rains stopped. Clear weather made the difference as the Third Army routed the Germans. Patton and his soldiers were certain that God answered their prayers.

          King Solomon believed that God answered his prayers.  Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray with confidence that God would answer our prayers. Saint Paul’s life and ministry were bathed in prayer. Most of our favorite stories of heroic Christians have to do with prayers that God answered. As fellow believers we sincerely believe that God answers prayer, though His answer is not always yes but sometimes no or wait. The basic question for most of us is simply this: What is the key to praying prayers that God is pleased to answer?

          Solomon’s story provides help in this matter. We learn that it is important what we pray for. God is not some cosmic Genie waiting to grant our prayer wishes. God was pleased that Solomon did not pray selfishly – for “long life or riches.” Nor did Solomon pray for his enemies to be destroyed. What pleased God was that Solomon prayed for an understanding heart.  In fact, God was so pleased God that He not only gave Solomon a “wise and discerning mind” but “riches and honor” as well.

          This brings to mind the teaching of Jesus concerning “things” and prayer. “Seek first,” Jesus taught, “the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” as well. Our heavenly Father knows we need “things” but he wants our chief desire to be himself, the Giver, and not the gifts. When we get this priority in place, God usually gives us what we need, though not always what we want. In the process he teaches us to be content with what we have since “life does not consist in the abundance of things.”

          In what we call the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches that it is alright to pray “daily bread” but only after we have prayed for God’s will to be done in our lives. Again, it is the kingdom of God that should seek before we ask for food or drink. To pray for God’s kingdom to “come” is to acknowledge that we want first and foremost to live under the rule and reign of King Jesus.   Implied in the prayer for “daily” bread is our willingness to trust God to meet our need for sustenance one day at a time, not to give us tons of food to hoard. Trusting God daily is like learning to lean on Jesus without worrying where the next meal will come from.

          When we study the prayers of Jesus and Paul, we find both men to be a superb role model for praying. They prayed for God’s will to be done in their lives. They prayed for others to understand God’s will and to have the courage to do His will. Their prayers were never selfish. Jesus prayed for his enemies and admonishes us to do the same. He prayed for his disciples to have unity and protection from Satan. Paul prayed for purity and for the power to serve Christ even with his weaknesses and his trials.

          For what do we pray? Do we pray for things like a bigger house, a higher salary, and the electronic devices our neighbors own? Then we must understand that such self-centered prayers do not please God. Little wonder too that our prayers seem to go unanswered.

          May God give us some of the wisdom of Solomon so that we may pray, as he did, for gifts that will enable us to be a blessing to others. If we lose ourselves in ministry to others, seeking strength, grace, and wisdom to let our hands be the hands of Christ outstretched to the needy, surely the Father will be pleased to answer our prayers. And while we are busy praising him for our spiritual blessings, he will graciously provide for the physical needs we forgot to pray for.

          Let the redeemed of the Lord say, with thanksgiving, God answers prayer!    (Contact Walter at