Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Thoughts on Prayer — Part 2

Last week we discussed prayer, and the reality that quite often it seems God does not answer our prayers. The fact is, we live in a fallen world. We all experience a lot of pain and heartache going through this thing we call life. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it corrupted everything. We can take comfort in knowing that God understands our sorrow and desires to bless us. 

Even though we wish God would answer all our prayers immediately and take away our pain, we can be confident that He loves us because of two important things He did. First, He sent His one and only Son to pay the price for sin and make it possible for us to be reconciled with Him. Second, He created a place called Heaven, where all of our pain and heartache will cease for all eternity.

This week I’d like to address a couple of other important aspects of prayer. Many people get discouraged and claim that God does not answer prayer. Well, we can look at it this way: God answers all of our prayers. Sometimes He answers, “Yes.” Sometimes He answers, “No.” And sometimes He says, “Wait.”
If we look back on our lives, we surely can remember times when we prayed for a certain outcome, maybe regarding a relationship or a job. That prayer seemingly was not answered, and we were very disappointed at the time. But soon after, something much more wonderful occurred, for example, a new and better relationship or a new and better job.

Speaking personally, if every plea I sent up to God was answered right away, in the exact way I asked (or more accurately, demanded), my life would’ve been a total mess. I probably would’ve died decades ago.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I need, but in reality my list is more what I want. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows exactly what I truly need. Many times what I truly need does not match my often selfish list of what I want at all. So, it’s a good thing God answers many of my prayers with, “No,” or, “Wait.”

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Within that prayer is this petition we should say to God: “Thy will be done.” 

However, if we’re really honest, most of the time when our mouths are saying, “Thy will be done,” our hearts are thinking, “My will be done.”
Regarding “thy will” vs. “my will,” I’m reminded of a scene in the movie “Shadowlands,” a biography of the famous Christian author C.S. Lewis, starring Anthony Hopkins. During a crisis in his life, when his wife was dying of cancer, Lewis explained to a friend why he was praying so fervently. He said (and I paraphrase because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film), “I don’t pray so God will want to do my will; I pray so I will want to do His.” In the Bible, Jesus clearly instructs us to bring our petitions to our Heavenly Father. We should not be shy about asking God in prayer for what we need, and even for what we want. But sometimes the most perfect prayer is not when we plead, “Heal my loved one who has cancer, O Lord!” It instead is when we sincerely pray, “Give me the grace and strength to deal with whatever happens, O Lord!” 

It’s not that God is unable to heal every sickness immediately. He certainly has that power. But in His infinite wisdom, He has decided to let the awful results of sin — pain and heartache and death — to play out in our world during this era of history. 

When God so chooses, He does answer prayer with a miraculous healing. But more often than not, he answers our prayer by giving us the grace and strength to handle the heartaches of life. It may not be what we want at the moment, but it’s exactly what we need.
And when we get to Heaven, we’ll look back and realize that God’s wisdom is perfect, and that He did in fact give us exactly what we needed. 

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