many, many moons ago, there was a song sung by a famous country star that i loved…granted, i can’t stand most country music nowadays (although there are a few good songs left), but leave it to Garth Brooks to make us think:
hmm…thanking God for unanswered prayers…
i could write an entire book on this topic…however, for sanity’s sake (mine and yours), i will refrain from doing so…for now at least (haha)
as i look back over the things in my life, especially the hard times, my mind quickly recalls the many prayers offered up to God for things that i wanted, or thought i needed, or prayers for someone else on their behalf
i think about how often i prayed for God to take away all my problems, for a relationship (which was already unhealthy to begin with) to work out, for a job opportunity to come open, for a person i knew who was suffering to be healed…and how at times it seemed that God was completely silent on all of the above mentioned topics, among others…i wondered and doubted and questioned Him, His will, whether He even cared
i can bet i’m not the only one who has experienced this before
yet there comes a point in time when we have to look at all of the prayers we have prayed, and all the prayers that others have prayed, which we believe have gone unanswered, and ask the question: what if all of our prayers had been “answered?”
the problem with unanswered prayers comes from our human picture of prayer in the first place…we Christians (especially in America) seem to think that if we pray hard enough for something, God automatically should and will give it to us…and what kind of answer do we get? well, the answer that we want…what we are praying for
it is at this point that i feel i should define what prayer is, and what prayer is not, in the Biblical sense…
according to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:
Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.
according to Dr. E. Stanley Jones:
Prayer is surrender - surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.
according to Leonard Ravenhill:
To be much for God, we must be much with God. Jesus, that lone figure in the wilderness, knew strong crying, along with tears. Can one be moved with compassion and not know tears? Jeremiah was a sobbing saint. Jesus wept! So did Paul. So did John... Though there are some tearful intercessors behind the scenes, I grant you that to our modern Christianity, praying is foreign.
you see, prayer is more than asking God for something and believing that He will give it to us…when we pray, we do it to be in the presence of God, to be heard by Him and to hear from Him as well…
i have to wonder, then, if God leaves some prayers unanswered, or if He does answer them and sometimes we ignore or don’t hear the real answer, because it is not the answer we want
as i journey through this life, and walk with the Lord, more and more i see that He has answered all of my prayers, and that i have not prayed in vain…but during the times in which i prayed some of those past prayers, i had come to God with a pre-made up mind of the answer that i expected Him to give me…and when i thought my prayer was never answered, it was because i didn’t listen, or really, didn’t want to listen… our human minds have the ability to deceive us greatly when we are in desperate need or want of something,
the truth is, all of my prayers have been “answered”…sometimes the answer has been “wait”…sometimes the answer was “be still and know that I am God”…sometimes the answer was “no”…and sometimes, more often then not, the answer was “yes”
i again think of the times i prayed for the Lord to take away my problems, and i realize that most of the time, I (me, myself and I) was the problem…i think of the times that i asked, really, begged the Lord to let a relationship i was in to work out, and i realize that if he had granted my request at that time, i would have been miserable and would not have been with Paul, who i was meant to be with all along…i think of the times i prayed for a job to open or a new job, and then i realize that the job i currently had was exactly where i needed to be in order to serve Him in the greatest way, even if it was the hardest way…i think back on the times that i saw people suffer, and i asked the Lord to heal them and take their suffering away, and then that person would pass away, and i realize that by taking them to be with Him, their suffering and pain ceased and they were completely healed
you see, if we pray in true faith, we will want what God wants for us and for others, not what we want…Richard J. Foster says: Prayer involves transformed passions. In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.
when we do that, when we pray in this way, we get the BEST answer available…it may not be the answer that we want, but ultimately, God knows us better than we know ourselves…He knows what we need, which is greater than what we want…and when our desires become His desires, what we want becomes what He wants
what are some prayers that have gone unanswered for you? can you possibly look back and see that in reality, that prayer was answered, even if not in the way you wanted??? the Lord loves you, and has His perfect will in mind for you, whether you can see it or not