Praying to a Hidden God – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoTonight our Sunday night discussion groups meet for this season’s final time (Faith PRC). As noted here before, this year we have been studying selected chapters out of Prof. Herman Hanko’s book on prayer, When You Pray (for the previous posts on this book, visit the Sunday posts beginning in January of this year; look at the calendar on the upper right-hand side of the homepage and run your mouse over the Sunday dates).

Tonight we are looking at the last two chapters, with the sixteenth chapter carrying the above title – “Praying to a Hidden God.” Also in these final chapters Hanko is treating “special problems” believers confront in their prayer lives. As this chapter title indicates, the problem of “praying to a hidden God” is a very real experience, borne out by the testimony of the psalmists in various places (cf. 30:7; 10:1; 44:24; 88:14; 27:9; 69:17; 102:2; 143:7 – as well as Job 23:8,9).

Hanko properly points out that this experience can be according to reality, when, for example, we walk in sin (cf. Is.64:7 and 54:8); and it can be according to feeling only, as for example, when we do not receive an answer to our prayers or are going through a severe trial of our faith and God’s face seems to be hidden from us. But, whatever the reason for this divine face-hiding, the experience often leaves the child of God in distress and doubt.

Concerning that, at the end of the chapter, Hanko has some comforting thoughts, which we share here today. These apply especially to the experience of God hiding His face when we are in great sufferings and afflictions.

…As far as our experience is concerned, we are abandoned by God when he is hidden.

Luther often spoke of this as the dreadful part of his anfechtungen. He insisted that in these experiences of life, we actually endure the sufferings of Christ. But there is a purpose. The sufferings that we are called to endure, because we are abandoned as Christ was, drive us more closely into Christ and make us more and more a part of him and his blessed body. When we submit to our sufferings as sent by God, when we refuse to rebel, and when we humbly receive these sufferings from God’s hand, then we enter into Christ’s sufferings and into the fellowship of his salvation.

Hence submission to God’s will in our sufferings is crucially important. When, therefore, God is hidden from us, we cry to him to return to us. God brings us into Christ’s fellowship and the fellowship of his sufferings, and he delivers us as he delivered his own dear Son. Suffering is for our salvation. It works our salvation because it drives us deeper into Christ and fellowship with him.

The hidden God becomes the God who is near, who smiles upon us with the glorious sunshine of his favor, and who fills us with the consciousness of his presence through Christ and for Christ’s sake. God delivers us, purified and strengthened, prepared more completely for everlasting fellowship with him in heaven (pp.150-51).

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