Tag Archives: prayer

God Answers Prayer

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.

Just Say Thank You

When I was a teen, I observed an event on several occasions that brought me a tinge of embarrassment.  My mother and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, whenever they would eat at a restaurant together, would regularly fight over the check.  I witnessed these epic battles several times, and I still cringe when I think about them.  These women were my primary role models.  Parts of me were afraid of them, all of me respected them, except in these moments.

My mother and grandmother are not alive to defend themselves, and I have no doubt they would try if they could.  They were both strong women of high moral character and normally very dignified in their behavior.  My family is better for them having been a part of it, and I spend much of my life living up to their memories.  I always wanted them to be proud of me, and I know that I made them proud.  They were loving women with great fortitude who saw their families through very difficult times.  They both suffered from debilitating, lifelong illnesses–my mother from rheumatoid arthritis and my grandmother from type one diabetes–and lived lives of grace and faith in spite of the toll disease ravaged on their bodies.  One of my greatest sorrows is that my girls had precious little opportunity to know who they were.  My younger daughter was only two years old when my grandmother passed, and she was five when my mother passed.

The stubbornness which buoyed my mother and grandmother through heartache and physical suffering also contributed to the battles over the checks.  Each could match the other in determination and focus.  Most of the time these battles ended with one grabbing the check from the waitress and the other letting out a huff of disapproval.  My mother could also add an eloquent eye roll.  What I learned from these skirmishes was to say, “Thank you.”  Every time someone picks up a check for my meal, I think of my mother and grandmother and the battles of the checks.  After the cringe, the memory brings me a smile.  And, I just say, “Thank you.”

I wonder how many times when God blesses me does He wish I would say, “thank you,” instead of all of the other things I come out with.  Sometimes, I think I deserve the blessing He bestows and pat myself on the back for a job well done.  Ingratitude is never pretty and puts much too much distance between my heart and His.  From time to time, I overlook His blessings completely because I’m not paying attention.  Occasionally, I don’t recognize a blessing because it doesn’t look like I think it should.  Amazingly, at times, I will fight with Him for the check.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”  1 Timothy 4:5, 6

Now and then, God bestows a blessing, the answer to a long held prayer, to which He has been saying, “not yet.”  I am overwhelmed.  I don’t believe it because it comes in a package I did not imagine.  I wonder what the catch is, why it is so much more than I asked for, so different from what I thought it would be.  “Why now?” I ask myself.  I feel the burden of it, a steward’s responsibility, and I want to say, “no, thank you.”  I don’t trust God to know me well enough to know the best timing and appropriate quality of His blessings for me.  I look to either side of me and start to reach for something, anything, that feels like I deserve it or looks like I think it should.  Mediocrity.  Imperfection.  Triviality.  Surely I don’t deserve the blessings that belong to the child of a King!

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28, 29

But, I am the child of a King!  A gracious and glorious King who loves me.  I am a joint heir with the Savior of all humanity, entitled to every blessing in Heaven, even though I have not earned them.  If I don’t know how to handle a blessing, I have only to look to Him for guidance and strength.  If it doesn’t look like the blessing I was expecting, His package is much better for me.  If the burden of the responsibility of the gift is heavy, He will help me carry it.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”  Ephesians 1:3

Every blessing from God comes with some kind of responsibility.  Every holy gift is to be treasured and used for His glory.  Every godly endowment is to be nurtured and grown and shared for the benefit of His reputation.  Every good thing from God is to be accepted and opened with a gratitude that never fades.  Refusing a blessing from God or settling for anything less than what He deems I deserve is like spitting in His face, an affront to His great and glorious generosity.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:16, 17

On this day of thanksgiving, I try to remember as many blessings as I can and thank God for each one.  I remember the times I almost did not accept a gift God provided, and I am deeply thankful He gave me the wisdom to walk past my fears into His gracious blessings.  My life would be much less full, much less happy, much less abounding in love if I had given in to my fears and trepidations.

I accept His gifts and, with all my heart, just say, “Thank You!”

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  Psalm 118:1

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.

Puzzle Piece

I don’t like waiting for anything, but I seem to do a lot of it.  Waiting is the nature of this life, I suppose.  We wait to grow up so that we can be independent.  We wait for the birth of children.  We wait for cherished holidays, for beloved relatives to arrive, for the appointed time to open gifts.  We wait in line to check out at the grocery store, wait endlessly for an amusement park ride, wait our turn to graduate, all for an expected payoff for our patience.  The world waited centuries for a Savior.

We wait for prayers to be answered, nightmares to end, dreams to be realized.  We wait for medical treatments to work, for test results, for heartache to go away.  I once waited to relocate to a more desirable locale, much longer than I ever expected or wanted.  Many years ago I gave God permission to work His will through the details of my life and He took me seriously.  It has been quite the adventure, and it has been a lot of waiting.

Now, I am waiting again for big changes in my life.  I believe I am ready for them; I know I welcome the idea of changes.  Many days I find myself tempted to twiddle my thumbs and drum my fingers, actually catch myself doing them, because I am impatient with the waiting.  I am ready for life to move forward in a big way.  God gave me the gift of analysis, to see a situation and devise solutions.  I have a solution to my current situation plainly mapped out in my head, steps one through ten neatly spelled out.  Deep inside me, though, I know God says it isn’t His time yet.  His time.  Isn’t it MY life?

The great temptation for me is to take matters into my own hands rather than waiting on God to work circumstances and people into the places He wants them before I make my changes.  I feel the pull to rely on my own logic, to cut God out of the process of deciding what changes to make and how to make them.  I question if God truly cares about the details of my life, if He really is working all of the mess and confusion of my life into something that is good for the long term.

“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

God causes.  All things.  To work together for good.  It is one of the many wonders of God that He sees all of time all at once as one big picture of good.  I am but one small puzzle piece He shapes so that I will fit in His plan for eternal blessing.  If I choose to shape myself, I do not fit anywhere in His limitless mosaic.  Some pieces in the puzzle need more shaping than others, but all are precious to Him.  Each and every piece is a treasure to Him.  With my permission, He works on me like a craftsman, honing intricate edges and fluid curves.  He fashions the events of my life so that they put the right facet in just the right place on me.  So that I will fit.  He wants me to fit.  I want to fit.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8

I learned a long time ago to take Mr. Rogers’ advice to heart and “find something to do while I am waiting.”  So, during each and every interlude of waiting I find productive things to do.  Things which honor God.  Things which bless those around me.  And I seek God more earnestly than ever before, begging for His guidance, still asking for His moving of me to the next place, to show me plainly how and when and where and why.  He eventually provides the when and where.  He doesn’t always provide the how and why.  Silly me!

Looking back, I see that sometimes the periods of waiting have been times of healing and rest.  They last longer than I want them to, but they are important to my well-being.  Occasionally, the time of waiting is an episode of profound growth when I learn new-to-me truths and flesh out an unknown-to-me about God.  Such times are filled with wrestling with God, figuring out how to align my will to His, letting go of my idea of what should come next and adopting His idea.  Once in a while, the waiting is not about me but about someone else God is working on to bring to the place of blessing for both of us.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27: 13, 14

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.”  Psalm 130:5,6

“Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls.”  Isaiah 26:8

“Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  Isaiah 40:31

“But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7

The first century Christians anxiously waited for Jesus’ return.  (Romans 8:25, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Philippians 3:20, 1 Thessalonians 1:10)  Do I wait eagerly for the Lord to return?  Is it more important to me to be ready for His return than it is to be ready for the next big change in my life?  I prepare for the next chapter of my life by doing what I need to do to hear God’s instruction and leading.  Am I listening for the trumpet call that will announce the arrival of the Son of God? (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

So I wait in promised hope of a blessing greater than I can imagine–the next step in my adventure with God in this life.  And I wait for my Savior to return, to take me Home with the rest of His beloved.  Waiting for God is never a wrong move.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him,  It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:25, 26

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.

Change

As a child and young adult, I enjoyed change.  Each day was new and sometimes exciting, bringing both good changes and bad.  I liked the challenge of learning new things and the thrill of new experiences.  Feeling destabilized faded in the face of meeting changes with my ability to analyze and assimilate them into my life.  My family moved three times while I was growing up.  Each move involved climate and cultural and social changes that felt difficult but not unconquerable.  As a child, I thrilled at the anticipation of moving to the next grade, thrived on learning new concepts and passing the tests to demonstrate my mastery of them.  Finally starting high school was a high point in my adolescence.  Going to college was a fabulous new adventure.  Getting married, the triumphant culmination of many dreams.

Somewhere along the way, I lost the thrill of life changes.  In my heart, challenges started representing losses instead of exciting voyages.  Relocating became frustrating and tiresome.  Learning new things became an unwelcome chore.   I found myself emotionally recoiling from change, anxious to protect what was mine and maintain the status quo.  Realizing the years were piling on faster than I wanted them to made me want to slow everything down and keep life stable and predictable, unchanging.

And now, I find myself in a season of change–unplanned changes I did not anticipate brought into my life by tragic loss.  To avoid this season would mean certain stagnation, getting stuck in my current frame of mind and heart, so change is the path I prefer.  Personal, financial, mental, emotional and social changes stare me in the face.  Many of the changes are blessings, new responsibilities which give me a sense of security, newly found footing that feels solid.  Some of the changes require me to expend a tremendous amount of energy to accomplish them.  Nearly all of the changes necessitate that I feel motivated to achieve them,  an emotion that is too often illusive.  For the first time in a long time, the choices are mine alone.  I now have options, but they materialize with no clear path as to which road is right or best for me.  I feel myself going with my ‘gut’ more often than I am comfortable with, relying on instincts honed by experiences I am not confident qualify me to make good choices.  Anxiety is a frequent and unwelcome companion.

Change in my life moves me to reach out for something solid, something unerringly reliable.  Change moves me to pray to God, my heavenly Father, the One who is always the same.  To seek not only His help, but His leading, His desire for me, His choices for this season in my life.  Not only His preference, but also His will for what comes next for me.

To pray before seeking any other activity to fix my dilemma is new to me.  I am a problem-solver, one who analyzes, assesses and chooses a solution.  I am fairly successful at this, consider it a gift I can use confidently.  I nearly always ask for God’s blessing, for His encouragement, in my life choices.  Now it is different.  I am different, changed by upheaval I was unable to prevent or stop.  Now life is upside down and inside out.  It is nonsensical and illustrates to me how little I know and how little I control.  I am unsure when or where to raise my sail, in what direction to move the rudder.  A boat on choppy seas, and all I feel like doing is curling up in a ball and wishing it would all go away.

So I pray.  I talk to the One who knows my ending before I know where to begin.  I seek the counsel and encouragement of the One who charts my path through all the turmoil of my human existence.  I learn to trust the One who loves me in ways I neither understand nor am able to emulate.

My prayers are no longer wish lists to satisfy me.  They are now recitations of gratitude for His care of me, for His provision of my needs and wants and comforts, for His protection of me from the Evil One, for His leading and strength and love.  I ask Him to continue His loving care of me.  I ask Him for His wisdom so that I make choices which not only please Him but choices that bring Him praise and glory.  I ask Him to lead me in righteous paths so that in no situation am I too far away from Him.  I ask Him never to let me let go of His hand.

With each prayer, He rebuilds my confidence, not in my abilities, but in His desire and  His ability to lead me into the best life for me, a life that keeps me close to Him, loving and serving in the ways He wants me to love and serve.  With each prayer, my anxiety subsides and I start to know that I am secure in what the future, which remains a mystery, holds for me.  The fear abates; the heartache at what might have been, what is forever lost, recedes from importance.  Life starts to make sense again.

“Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.”  Psalm 28:6, 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.