The answers to our prayers don’t always give us what we asked for; they can seem like a denial to us; they can take a long time coming; or sometimes, they give us just what we asked for. How we deal with the answers to our prayers says a great deal about how much we trust in God and His providence for us. If we do really trust in God, we may be surprised by His answers, but adjust our thinking/response to take in what His answers tells us about what He wants for us or the people we are praying for. If we don’t like the answer we are given, we may be angry and resentful that He doesn’t care enough about us to give us what we want. Or we may just be tired of waiting for the answer. And of course, there are all the variations in responses between those three.
My own biggest barrier to God’s answers to my prayers for a long time came from my need to know why something had come into my life, before I could consent to it. “Why? why? why?” rattled around in my head for years until I could finally admit that the “why” didn’t matter, because there was something in my life now that I had to deal with, and that I should just get to it. When I gave up asking why, I was more at peace with this new thing in my life.
What I want for myself, for my children, for my friends, for all the people I pray for, has been defined by me. Prayer teaches me that I need to give up my desires which are defined by my own lens on life and give God the room to provide what He sees that I need, rather than my own limited viewpoint, so often prescribed by the culture we live in, not by God himself. God knows us all so well–after all He created each one of us–He can see us clearly, where He wants to take us and how that journey should go.
Sometimes, we don’t pray for something and God brings it to our attention anyway. One day, I heard this thought loud and clear in my mind: “How can I say I love God, if I don’t can’t my mother?” The truth in this question was immediately apparent to me. Although I was in my early 40s when I heard these words, I was still in a teenage mode with her of “you can’t make me do anything!” As I really listened to all that He was saying to me in those words of the Indwelling Spirit of God, I saw the truth and also felt the desire to come to a place of love for her. It took me two years of trying during our weekly phone calls(we were on separate coasts) and our yearly visits, but I didn’t get too far. My attitude towards her was deeply ingrained in me.
Finally, after a weekend visit with her, my husband and my mother and I were standing on the railway station platform. She was seeing us off to visit my in-laws. We were surrounded by a cloud of love—that was my experience of it—for a few minutes. And then we hopped on the train and headed north. All the way north, all I could think in amazement was that the Lord took my rebelliousness and made it into love. And everything between us changed in those moments. My mother was then grateful for everything I did for her, and I could love her as she was. A few years later, she came to live near us in an assisted-living facility and I got to care for her the last four years of her life.
As we begin to experience God’s greater knowledge of what we need over time in His answers to our prayers, we also learn to drop our own limitations, our prejudices, our judgments in ourselves and learn to embrace God’s greater designs for our lives. We learn to give up what our families and culture have taught us to want and to embrace what God wants for us. How we receive what comes into our lives is a sure sign of how willing we are to follow Jesus. How much we trust His care for us. How much we accept what may challenge us or scare us or just affirm who we are. For it is only in following all the suggestions and answers to our prayers that we truly engage with the Lord and all that He wants for us. And, only then, do we become the people that God created us to be.
When we can embrace God’s answers and see how involved He is in our lives and our well-being, then we get to the point where we hold no objections to any answers to prayers whether they come close to what we wanted or not. We see the answer, we embrace it and take our time to figure out—in prayer—what to do about this new thing and that. And we see the capacity for love and forgiveness, for compassion and mercy grow in us. It’s a wonder and a grace for us to experience our lives as God has designed us to live. And then there is nothing in us but gratitude for all that He has in store for us, for all that He has done for us, for all the people He has brought into our lives to support us, for everything that God is in this world. And our lives are ruled by that gratitude and His graciousness. Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: How do I receive God’s answers to my prayers? With welcome and obedience or resentment and frustration? Do I really trust God with my life? What will it take for me to give up my ways, so that I can truly follow Him?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are welcoming of the answers to our prayers, who set aside our own desires and embrace what He has in store for us. May we be true believers in God and His providence for us and for the world.
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