I believe that God answers prayer. Twenty-five years ago, a friend of mine came to faith in Jesus Christ. He began attending my church faithfully and a number of things began changing in his life.
One day he shared a concern that he had pondered for some time. He had a collection of hundreds of movies on videotape. Most of them, from his new Christian point of view, were unsuitable and he’d decided to dispose of them. He explained that he’d thought of throwing them away, but they were worth a lot of money. To sell them or give them away would be to pass along material that he now considered questionable and potentially harmful. “What should I do?” he asked.
I suggested that we pray and ask God for direction. We did that and I closed my prayer by saying, “God, please answer this prayer in a way that will surprise and delight us!”
A few weeks later, my friend came back and told me that the prayer had been answered. He explained that his house had been broken into and all of the tapes had been stolen…he further exclaimed that the break-in had surprised him and the cash settlement from the insurance company had delighted him!
I could tell more stories of a similar nature, but prayer doesn’t always work that way. For example, I’ve been bringing a particular request to God for 42 years and I am still waiting for His answer. How can we reconcile this?
It is imperative that prayer be a matter, not of my petitions, particulars or personal preferences, but of His (God’s) principles. First, there is the matter of timing. God answers prayer in His own time, “He has set the right time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Second, God in His wisdom, answers in His own way. Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts, says the Lord, are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours.”
Third, God answers prayer according to His own purpose and pattern. “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8).
Finally, God has a plan as to how and when He answers prayers. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper…plans to give you hope and a future.”
Prayers are not blank checks, but communicational stepping stones. The timing and manner in which God answers our prayers is an important part of our spiritual growth and maturation process.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6).
“Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!” William Culbertson
FAITH & REFLECTION