WERE IT NOT for the fact that He is long-suffering and all that, I’d be prone to wondering whether God doesn’t sometimes feel like throwing up His hands and saying, For My sake, I just don’t get them! Because so many of us spend a lot of time asking Him to unanswer our prayers.
Here’s how: we find ourselves in a challenging situation, and what’s our usual prayer? God, get us out of this, please! But what might happen if we paused for a moment to consider whether the difficulty we are facing is, in fact, His answer to something we have previously asked?
I think of Paul, telling the recipients of his letter to the Romans how he longed to get to visit, and how he had repeatedly prayed that he may somehow get to see them (1: 10-12). He probably did not have in mind his subsequent arrest and transportation to Rome, where he would eventually be martyred.
But when that’s how his prayers appeared to be answered, he did not grumble or complain. He just made the best of his imprisonment, not only getting to meet some of those he’d longed to, in due course, but also penning words of life and light to other churches.
God, make me more like Jesus, may fall from our lips in a moment of fervor, but we tend to forget that He was made perfect through His suffering (Hebrews 2:10). Ergo, being conformed to His image is not necessarily going to be a pleasant experience.
Becoming a channel of the power of God may seem appealing, but could require some kind of infirmity—physical, emotional, relational, financial, who knows—because, after all, as God told Paul (1 Corinthians 12:9), “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
And how are we going to become more loving and forgiving than by being put in situations where we have to deal with people who hate or hurt us, or become more patient than by having to wait a really long time for something?
Maybe the dots are not so easy to connect, but that job lay-off that requires downsizing and moving to a smaller home in a new neighborhood, or the conflict going on at church, could somehow be related to something you have previously prayed about, you just don’t see the link.
As a bumbler in the school of prayer, I do not pretend to have all the answers. Nor do I diminish the terrible situations that some people face that are in no way their remotest choosing. But I am challenged to think more carefully before I view circumstances negatively.
Before I look for the “delete” key maybe I should ask myself whether what’s before me could be an answer to previous prayers that I just don’t recognize yet.
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