Sometimes we may not see the result we were hoping for. Sometimes our answer is deferred. It is important to have a mindset that aligns our prayers with God’s best for us. We may think we know exactly what we want or have need of, but there are times when even our sincerest effort does not line up with the best. Even Jesus prayed in the garden when he was facing crucifixion, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
If we make our requests known before God and believe that He loves us more than we love ourselves, and that He will always answer in a way that is for our good, then we can have peace about whatever we commit to prayer. For some people, prayer is a “gimme” list. Give me this. Give me that. For some it is a matter of asking God to bless the mess they’ve created, and for others it is a matter of having made up their mind ahead of time what they are going to do and asking God to let it turn out right.
Prayer is more than that. It is a two way street. It is a time to communicate in both directions.
Have you ever had a phone call from somebody who just wants to tell you all of their woes, dump a load of anger on you, talk about negative things for an hour and then says, “Got to go,” you can imagine what a lot of our prayers sound like to God.
When I was younger, I’m sure I was just as guilty as the next person about coming before the Lord with an “I want” list, or a string of selfish requests. As I have grown older, I have matured in my understanding in the purpose of prayer. I never presume to know the answer to one of my prayers ahead of time. I make requests in behalf of others. I bring my circumstances before the Lord and ask for his wisdom, guidance, favor, and/or intervention according to His plan for my life.
He always answers. The answers may not be as clear as I’d like at times. The answers may not be the ones I want to hear at other times. Sometimes it takes longer to get an answer than others.
There are instances when I pray and almost immediately see the result. Yet other things become a matter of prayer for months or even years before I see the end result.
People often grow weary in praying about the long term answers. They give up and feel like God is not answering in their timing, so assume that He isn’t going to answer at all. That is never true.
A single prayer has an impact. Many prayers have more impact. A multitude of prayers has a tremendous impact.
When one of my cousins was facing a life and death struggle due to an illness, she said she had a vision of prayers going up to heaven for her. They were like wisps of smoke coming from chimney tops, many, many chimney tops, and making their way up to heaven.
Before I went for the knee replacement surgery in December, I wanted everyone praying for me who would. My students let me know they were praying for me or had put me on their church prayer list. Friends and relatives from all over the county let me know they were praying, and people across the country have sent prayers and messages. My church family has kept me in prayer. I can tell you first hand that it makes a difference in me, just knowing that people have cared enough to pray for me.
I prayed for my surgeon the night before surgery to have a peaceful, restful night’s sleep. I was the first patient on his surgery schedule the next morning. I wanted him rested, alert, and able to make crucial decisions if necessary during surgery. When he came in, I asked him how he’d slept. He had the oddest look on his face. He told me he had had the best, most restful night’s sleep that he had experienced in ages. I told him I had prayed for exactly that.
What does the Bible say about prayer?
It is a good idea to start every prayer in an attitude of Thanksgiving for all of the many prayers that God has already answered and all of his blessings. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Even though it may seem impossible to do, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “Pray without ceasing.” I believe this is more an attitude of heart where a prayer springs to our mind every time we see a need, need direction, or just want to give thanks to God for His blessings.
My belief that God hears and answers every prayer is not just wishful thinking. Mark 11:24 promises, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].” John 15:7 also assures us, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Matthew 21:22 confirms, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
James 5:16 tells us that our prayers do make a difference. “ Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
I believe one of the essential ingredients for answered prayer is in 1 John 5:14-15 – “And this is the confidence that we have in him that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”
When life comes in like a flood, when difficulties surround me, and when I don’t know which way I should go, I am thankful that I have the privilege of praying to God and knowing that He hears me and will answer.