I bet one comes to mind immediately—why? Right? We get bad news or hit a rocky spot and turn to God, asking, Why? But “why” is seldom—if ever—a useful question. I don’t think God has ever answered that question for me, probably because I wouldn’t understand if He did. But there are many questions that God has answered, at least for people in the Bible. Here are five of them:
1. Who am I?
When God assigned to Moses the task of going back to Egypt and telling Pharaoh to set the Hebrew slaves free, Moses asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, NIV). It was, of course, a protest, a statement more than a question. But it is still a good question, one of the best we can ask God in prayer. Who am I? What is my identity. What does God say about me in His word, the Bible? The person who sincerely asks God, “Who am I?” is often abundantly blessed by the answer.
2. What if?
When God revealed to Abraham His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, the patriarch posed a series of questions. “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” (Genesis 38:24, NIV). He kept asking “what if?” until God answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it” (Genesis 38:32, NIV). Abraham’s questions didn’t save those cities but they do seem to reveal that God enjoys the “what if” questions. “What if we got together with other churches in our town for this purpose?” “What if I took a different course in my career?” “What if—” You get the idea.
3. How long?
One of the most frequent Bible questions is “How long?” The Psalms alone repeat the question 15 times. “How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, NIV). “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2, NIV). “How long must your servant wait?” (Psalm 119:84, NIV). It is a better prayer than “why,” not only because the psalmists prayed it so often but perhaps also because it carries within it the seed of an answer: Not always. Not forever. Not (we hope) much longer.
4. What can I offer?
The beautiful Psalm 116 contains the question, “What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12, NLT). It is a fine question to ask any time. “What can I offer?” I see a need in my community; “God, what can I offer?” I hear the cry of someone in pain; “What can I offer?” I remember an upcoming appointment; “What can I offer?” It is a prayer question that will often squeeze sweetness out of the sourest circumstances.
5. What must I do?
When an earthquake opened the doors of the European jail in which Paul and Silas had been imprisoned, the jailer was shocked to learn that no one had escaped, and thus his life and livelihood had been preserved. The discovery prompted him to ask, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Then followed their famous answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31, NIV). It is a great question to ask in prayer, any time. “Lord, what must I do?” “What are you saying to me?” “Where are you pointing me?” “What will bring about deliverance and freedom in this situation?”
So give it a try. Feel free to ask God any question you want, but keep in mind that some are usually more fruitful than others. And these five—“Who am I?,” “What if?,” “How long?,” “What can I offer?,” and “What must I do?”—are among the best.