For much of my Christian life, I believed I needed to “pray the answers”. My prayers, I thought, should include suggestions for God, ways He could answer my requests. I’d begin with, “If it could be your will, God, would you please ___________,” and then I’d fill in the blank with ideas for how God might respond.
If things resolved the way I had prayed they would, then God had met my expectations and I was assured once more that yes, God answers prayer.
Some things were pretty clear as to what the ideal outcome would be:
- prayers that the surgery would go well,
- that this one or that one would come to faith,
- that travelers would arrive safely.
But there were others that weren’t so easy to frame up for God. I mean, what suggestions could I make to God about:
- healing an important relationship that had run aground?
- dealing with a toxic small group member whose presence threatened the continuity of the group?
- responding to a friend who had nothing but disdain for all things faith-related?
The answers to these requests seemed out of reach. I was at a loss to know how to pray because I had no idea what to suggest as a possible solution.
And those were the very situations that have taught (and continue to teach) me the most about God.
Over the years, I’ve had to learn – and relearn – that God will answer my prayers even when I don’t know how to suggest He go about it. I’ve had to put down my measuring stick, so to speak, and trust that God is always good and will answer in the best way, in His own time. I’ve had to hang on to faith . . . and practice patience.
Honestly? It’s a life-long process and I’m not there yet. I regularly have to come to God with open hands, acknowledging (again) that I’m powerless but He is all-powerful, that I don’t have the answers but He does.
Interestingly, it’s in the sticky, seemingly impossible prayer scenarios that when an answer does come, I know most clearly it has to have come from God.
To me, that’s a gift within a gift: to not only have a prayer answered, but to recognize: “God did that!”
The more it happens, the more I learn to surrender my agenda and anticipate His wise intervention. I can rest in the fact that He is both kind and trustworthy.
The fact is, He’s never once ignored me.
Frequently, it’s me He changes. When I pray, He gives me what I need: peace about whatever it is, grace to endure without bitterness, or wisdom to just take the next step in faith. Sometimes He changes others to heal a conflict or eliminate tension, and often He changes up the entire situation in ways I could not have anticipated.
The point is, I don’t get to call the shots, He does. My challenge is to remain open to Him, and in the process, to grow in my relationship with Him.
Instead of bringing God my list of expectations, He is teaching me to approach Him with an attitude of expectancy. What a relief for a control freak like me.
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- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
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