I like to get correspondence from friends and family–emails, letters, cards, old-fashioned, new-fashioned–it doesn’t matter to me. I try very hard to respond to written communication as soon as I possibly can, in particular if the writer makes a request of me or has a need I can assist with. If I don’t answer right away, especially if it comes by email, I am prone to get distracted and forget to respond altogether. Thankfully, God never gets distracted from the communication I send to Him. And He always, always answers me.
“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples.” Psalm 65:5-7
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear or read someone say that God answered their prayers when they receive something they’ve been praying for. The statement of celebration is not wrong, but the inference is. Their inference, whether they choose to admit it or not, is that if God had not granted their request, it would have been an UN-answered prayer. I know this is a sticky point. Shouldn’t I just lighten up and let someone celebrate something good in their lives? Be thankful that they are acknowledging God at all? Most of the time I am thankful for God’s work in their lives and grateful for God’s loving care of them, relieved that they chose to honor God with thanksgiving. Once in a while, though, it hits me hard that God is not getting all of the credit He deserves, that someone may be misrepresenting His work in their lives. The infraction is usually unintentional, but I believe it is very important for me to witness about God’s work in my life and in the lives of others as accurately as possible.
Understanding and properly communicating how God answers my prayers is a big deal because the people in the world around me have the false notion that only granted requests are answers to prayer. A quick Google search for “answered prayer” reveals numerous sites dedicated to helping the reader get the desired answers to their prayers. On Ask.com, the response to the question, “What is an answered prayer?” is “…a prayer that God, to whom the prayers are directed to, grants the wishes of the believer praying.” Prayer request sites, where one can ask for a request to be prayed over, ask patrons to notify the sites when their prayer is “answered” (read “granted”). The peoples of the world, even those who profess Christ, believe a “Yes” from God is the only answered prayer.
” ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!’ ” Matthew 7:7-11
When I read this passage in Matthew, I often stop at verse eight. Reading on, though, I see the key to how God answers my prayers. He always gives me what is good. Always. Because He is my Father. Because He is faithful to me, His child. Because I ask Him. If I ask Him for a snake, He will not give me a snake unless there is some ‘good’ for me in it. If I ask Him for a fish, He will provide what I need and it will be ‘good.’ Should I praise Him only when He gives me exactly what I ask for, even if it is not ‘good’ for me? Does He only get credit for an answered prayer when He grants what I ask for? If He gives me the snake that I ask for and I let it lead me to ruin, do I blame Him for not protecting me from myself? If I don’t understand what the ‘good’ is in His answer to my prayer, do I wait to praise Him until I know?
God, my heavenly Father, is the best of parents, not a genie who grants my wishes. He only gives me what is in my best, eternal interests in view of the best, eternal interests of all of those who love Him.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Sometimes, the answer to my prayer will be something that never occurred to me. God is all-knowing, all-powerful. He loves me beyond what I can ever comprehend. He knows me best, knows my strengths and my weaknesses, knows what skills and knowledge I need to meet the coming challenges in my life. The intense desire of any single moment may be completely irrelevant, or completely destructive, to what is coming next in my life.
So, I praise Him when He says, “No.” I praise Him when He says, “Not yet.” I praise Him when He says, “This is better than what you asked for.” I praise Him when He says, “Yes, my child. Use it to My glory.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.