"Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6
There are some who would not see it as a prayer. Job was not asking God for anything when he said it. Still, it is a great prayer; maybe one of the greatest of all. The prayer ends with these profound words: "'Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.'" (Job 42:6)
How did Job come to such a confession? Back at the beginning of the book, Job was a man of much blessing and extravagant means. He served God unreservedly which Satan chalked up to the fancy way God treated him. "'Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?'" (Job 1:9-10)
But things were about to change. God agreed to - even suggested, a severe testing of Job in which blessing by blessing was stripped away from his life. Would he still serve God? When the worst of it hit, his wife's advice to him was; "'Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:9)
Job did not listen to her and neither did he buy into the advice of the friends who came, first to comfort him and then to point their fingers of blame for what they figured must be his fault. Job insisted upon his own innocence. Though he didn't understand "why" it was happening he clung to God anyhow. He told his friends; "'Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.'" (Job 13:15)
Eloquently Job did argue his ways with the friends who tended him in his misery. All they wanted was for him to admit that he must have sinned in some way to bring these consequences. All he wanted was for them to trust in his innocence and his right standing before God.
In the end God took over the argument. Listen to the sarcasm dripping from the Lord's voice. "I will ask you, and you instruct Me. Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?" (Job 40:8) Really now - what brought that on? Had Job been guilty after all? Were the friends right? No! It was God himself who said that Job was "'a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.'" (Job 18) What then?
Job reached the place where he discontinued justifying himself in favor of acknowledging the superior greatness of God. There is a place spiritually beyond why something happened - a place beyond who's right and who's wrong. As human beings we want all our ducks in a row. We want to say that if "A" happens, "B" will result. We don't want to feel that we are pawns on a chess board with no control over where our life is sent next.
Most of us will not have tests and trials like Job - especially not within such a short time span. All of us though, will have unexpected downturns in our life. There are times when the big WHY looms over us. Many times our "friends" are right there to tell us why it all happened to us. Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong (like they were with Job) but that's not the final say on the matter.
If we are smart we will eventually get past it all to the place Job came to. Here is his prayer - his final say on the matter.
"I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Here, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.' I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)
Are you in a place of great questioning because God does not appear to be faithful in your circumstances? Instead, is he silent as you go on and on in suffering? Go ahead and argue your case and work through everything you must to reach some semblance of understanding. But beyond all that there is another prayer: Job's prayer. When all is said and done, will you be ready to pray it?
Read next about Jesus' great prayer.