I will never forget the first time I became aware of how we limit the answers to our prayers.
Scripture teaches us that God answers prayers. Even if it takes forever, God answers prayers. Yet, many Christians do not pray because past efforts seemingly, proved futile.
I once had a similar thought about a particular, crucial prayer request about eleven years ago.
God had miraculously led me, as it were, to the brink of the Red Sea and I was waiting and praying for the sea to 'part' and nothing was happening. In frustration, I went back to the LORD in prayer to ask "why?"
The answer I received from the LORD, forever changed how I would view prayers from then on.
This was a momentous life-changing event and the LORD was stalling on the answer, or so I thought. But it turned out I was really the one stalling, as the LORD showed me.
He said to me, "Tega, the reason I haven't answered your prayers is because you've already made up your mind how you think I will answer it. Oftentimes, when you, my children, pray to me, you've already decided how you think I should answer the prayer, so that when I do answer it, you miss the answer because it wasn't packaged the way you expected or thought it should be."
This response blew my mind and sent me on an introspective search to see what the LORD could mean by this response. Thankfully, I was able to detect ways my mind had already construed how His answer would come, and I was able to detect how I could correct and make myself amenable to His 'will,' whatever that may be.
I went back to the LORD in prayer and told Him I was ready - any way He wanted. This simple yieldedness and surrender opened the door to a series of miracles in my life. Miracles that continue to come because I have chosen to keep that revelation in perspective whenever I pray.
And it is that perspective I wish to share with you all today.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to both invite and surrender to 'God's will' before we demand anything of Him.
Whereas, there's often an unspoken fear on our part that surrender toGod's will might limit our own agency, Scripture and Jesus' life teach otherwise.
When the LORD is allowed to have 'free rein' His activity exceeds everything we could ever ask or imagine (Eph.3:20).
Because He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, He is able to work every kind of miracle there is - according to His will.
Finally, He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 (one of my favorite verses) that His plans bring us into and beyond what we'd hoped for!
So why don't we get answers to prayers???
Because we don't let God have 'free rein' in answering the prayers! He answers them, but we don't see them!
For instance, a poor person might ask God to take away his or her poverty, and inadvertently think the answer would mean God would make him or her 'wealthy.' But because poverty really means 'lack,' God ensures that person never lacks anything. Such a person might never have a million dollars in the bank, but yet have every need met. Well, because his or her bank account or material capital never increases, it might be assumed that that prayer was unanswered, right? Wrong! God did answer, but just not in the way such a person expected.
Another example might be a person praying for God to take away their loneliness. The default expectation would be that God would send such a person a spouse, right? Well, if God deems it so, He might. But He also might deem that the best answer for such a person would be enlarging his or her heart to love and be loved by others in such a way that their relationships abound, filling every area of their lives. For what is loneliness anyway, if not the fact that we feel the lack of people to participate in our life's journey?
However, if such a person thought (in our limited human way of providing solutions) that a spouse was the answer they needed, they might miss the blessings of community the LORD places before them.
Likewise, the one that prays for community (as a number of people to connect and do life with) might receive just one person to make his or her life more productive. And such a person might miss and reject that 'one person' because they were expecting a 'multitude.'
Flexibility. Flexibility in our own wills is what is needed when we come to pray to God. It is what Jesus had when he faced the most painful experience of any human life - the knowledge he was about to be killed and yet he had to let it happen in order to let God's activity supercede his.
Flexibility, because God is the Potter and we are the clay, and as such He has the right to fashion out of us what He, as the Potter, knows the clay would best represent (Jer.18:1-6).
Yet, we do not let God be the Potter, although we are invariably and always the clay!
We do not allow God act because we are scared He would do what we don't want!
But to quell this doubt that hinders (seeing) the answer to our prayers, Jesus asked in Luke 11:11,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?"
We need to reconcile the fact that although He is God, whose ways are not our ways, He is also a Father! A parent, if you will, and a Good one at that! As such, He cannot and will not give us what will not give us pleasure, but He instead uses every agency at His disposal to enhance, not minimize what we ask for, but only if we let Him.
I've learned to let go and 'let God' and it's led me on some of the most exciting adventures of my life. I don't need to climb Mt. Everest to have an adventure, because I'm climbing higher mountains and casting them into the sea every day!
I don't need to 'part' the Red Sea, because He decided to make it into a puddle I can jump across! Either way, He answered my prayer - which was to let me 'cross over' to the 'other side.'
Will you 'let God' answer your prayers today? He can and He will, if you just let Him have free rein.
Tell Him what you want or need and then back off and let Him work it out.
Look for the response and be willing to receive it however it is packaged! After all, the King and God of the whole world came packaged as a baby(!) in a manger! It didn't make him any less King and Creator. Just packaged differently.
So, yes, God does answer prayers. If we 'let Him.'