For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known – I Corinthians 13:12 ESV
Do you ever wish that you pray and instantly a voice gives you the answer you’re looking for? Sign me up! But I find prayer to be a much more difficult process. I need all the help I can get on understanding answered prayer.
Immediate answers to prayer: You want them. I want them. But God simply does not always work that way. And to get His best, we must be patient. In some cases, we must wait until the eleventh hour and 59 minutes for His answer to come.
I think I have learnt more in my own life from the times when my prayers have not seemed to be answered than from the times when they have been answered.
For me answered prayer is like a mosaic, many different pieces coming together to give the complete picture. I mention a few pieces of different responses that formed for me a mosaic when seeking answers to prayer.
Are You Sure?
Sometimes God wants to know if we are really serious about what we are praying for. Have we really thought this request through, or is it something that just occurred offhand and that we will lose interest in soon? Remember that God already knows what we want and what we need, so our prayers are at least in part for our own benefit. It lets us and God know how earnest, committed, focused, and prioritised we are. If we are willing to keep praying for something for a while, God knows then that we are really serious.
When God knows that the best answer is not to grant our entire prayer at one time, He may answer with a partial yes, where some of what we ask for is given and some is withheld. This can occur because God wants to answer the What of our prayer but not the How. In fact, it’s a good idea not to give God specific instructions about what we want – as He already knows.
Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is Yes, but it’s something a bit different from what we had in mind. Sometimes He answers the prayer we would have prayed if we had known all the facts or circumstances – or possibilities. Remember that God can see down the road and around the corner, while we can see only what’s in front of us – and that in a mirror dimly.
Remember that virtually all problems can be solved in more than one way. We usually fix on one solution, which we bring before the Lord. But just maybe He has a better solution in mind.
Here’s Something You Didn’t Expect.
Sometimes God answers a prayer in a completely unforeseeable way.
Remember when the disciples woke Jesus during the storm that was filling the boat, probably thinking that he might help bail it out? What was the answer but something they didn’t expect? And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:39-41 ESV
No, But You’ll Thank Me Later.
The longer we live in the life of faith and prayer, the more opportunities we will have to look back and thank God for answering certain prayers with a No. Once again, had we known all that God knows, we never would have asked for that request. At the time, it’s disappointing or even incomprehensible when the answer is No, but a few days, weeks, or even years later, we will see that God really does care about us and that No is the answer we are now glad he gave.
And my favourite mosaic piece.
No, And Stop Being Ridiculous.
God can work any kind of miracle He wants, but I’ve noticed in my own life at least, that He doesn’t suspend the laws of physics in order to get me to an appointment on time. We pray for all kinds of things in our lives, however when God is addressing our ridiculous prayers, He’s talking about our lack of wisdom – a kink in our prayer request.
God hears all our prayers and in one sense, He answers all our prayers. Whatever the answer, our best interest is always on His mind.