And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious. Exodus 22:27
Gracious – We come to God in prayer because we believe God is willing to give. That’s the bottom line. If your god is reluctant, petulant, temperamental or immoveable, then you need to add this Hebrew word to your prayer vocabulary: chanan. God is gracious.
But chanan has some implications that you may not have realized. God gives His grace. You do not earn it. You cannot negotiate it. You can’t barter, bully, demand, claim or cajole God’s grace. It is entirely His to freely give as He sees fit. Prayer is not a negotiating tool. It is an expression of human need, placed in the hands of the sovereign God. This means that prayer is followed by acceptance. There is no place for disappointed rejection of the Giver. When I come to God in prayer, I have no leverage with Him. Anything and everything He grants is pure gift.
There is another implication behind chanan. Since graciousness belongs to God, all His gifts of grace also belong to Him too. God’s gifts never transfer ownership to me. The gifts I receive are still His, and His alone. This idea is expressed in the ancient Semitic idiom, “to find favor in the eyes of the Lord.” The favor I seek is not mine. The favor belongs to the one who grants it. I am merely the recipient of someone else’s good will. Without voluntary benevolence, I walk away empty-handed. But even if I rise from my knees with God’s gift in hand, it is still His favor. What I receive from God continuously belongs to Him. I am merely the temporary borrower.
Now we know why Paul tells us he can be content with much or with little (Philippians 4:11). The favor he receives is God’s, not Paul’s. Since the owner is the King of kings, whatever the King decides to lend to one of His children is entirely just and entirely good. When I understand chanan, my prayers result in contentment. God answers – always. And His answer is always enough for me.