Ever wondered if your prayers make a difference? Does it matter if you pray at all? Why does it seem that there are so many unanswered prayers? Is prayer even necessary?
Over the years, I have come to believe that all prayer is answered prayer.
Often in prayer, we ask for a specific resolution to a problem, plead for a circumstance to alter or a person to change. We wish to be quickly rescued from discomfort, airlifted out of a trial, and have peace in our relationships.
But God is after the best. The trouble is that his idea of best doesn’t always match ours.
God is present in every situation we face. He says he never leaves us or forsakes us (Deut 31:6), and we can be sure he hears all our prayers. We may misinterpret answers when a situation fails to improve as rapidly as we’d like, appears to fail altogether, or we don’t see a specific answer to our supplication. At such times, I choose to believe that God loves us too much to give us all we pray for, exactly when we pray for it if he knows it isn’t his best or isn’t best for us.
Perhaps other times God remains quiet, or delays answering, in order to produce something of great value within us—increased faith and trust, perseverance, repentance, deep inner healing, and a character that reflects his.
What if the no’s are really delayed yes’s for something far greater and more beautiful than we could have asked for or imagined? A more complete work? At times it appears God holds back and allows something to die so he can beautifully resurrect it (see John 11:1-44). Though we may regard this as silence or unanswered prayer, it is an incredibly loving act on God’s behalf that allows room for the miraculous and God to be glorified. Though he’d rather we trust him, God can handle our disappointment, disillusionment, frustration, and fear for his greater purposes.
Could the no’s also be God’s loving protection, keeping us safe from sure disaster? God knows the beginning from the end, knows every detail about us, our hearts, and the situation. He alone knows whether or not our desires will cause us to prosper, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m sure there are times he lovingly withholds what we think is good for our own good.
The no’s, or delayed answers, also give us the opportunity to align our will with his and gain a Godly perspective. They give us time to adjust our hearts to a posture of thankfulness.
There are also times when our troubles reflect our choices, and God allows the natural progression of cause and effect as a result of our sin. He also shows mercy and comes to our aid when we repent and pray. To hear the story of how God answered my prayers when I was in physical pain see Moving Mountains.
It’s easy to forget that prayer isn’t just asking things of God. In prayer, we seek God and acknowledge his presence like we would anyone we desire to spend time with. Since he is holy, we praise him and declare him worthy. We acknowledge our failings and ask for forgiveness. We trust him with our troubles knowing he is all-powerful and in control of all that appears chaotic. We hand over our fears and concerns to him for safekeeping.
When I first became a Christian, I learned a helpful acronym—ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Though I don’t always follow this guide, it can be a useful tool to aid prayer.
Over the years, I added meditation, which for me is a time of quiet, a chance to rest with God and listen. Perhaps I should change the acronym to ACTS+M. This part of prayer allows silent space for God to awaken me to his spirit, whisper into my own spirit, refuel me with his joy, spark an idea, enliven or a verse, or alter my perspective or my heart.
All prayer is answered prayer. It may not arrive in the form we imagined, but it will be in the form God desires.
This week in the Journal Journeys, I read a few thoughts on prayer from my prayer journal. Click here for a video of this week’s excerpt. You can also read an abbreviated version below.
Feb 28, 2016
“At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved…” (Daniel 9:23)
“Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.'” (Daniel 10:12)
This is such a beautiful segment of scripture, reminding us that God hears our prayers, and is working on our behalf. Our prayers—our words—are powerful. God hears them.
Some may wonder, as I have at times, why pray? God will do what he wants anyway. But here (Daniel 9:20-23 & 10:12) we see illustrated that prayer makes a difference. Daniel is confessing his sin, has a repentant heart, and is asking God to forgive them. These kinds of prayers shift things.
The angel was caused to fly swiftly and the command went out at the beginning of his supplications. And notice that the angel says, “I have come to tell you, for you are greatly loved.” It is a beautiful affirmation to know that we are loved, even though we grapple with sin. Our sin may distance us from God, but it does not change the truth that we are greatly loved by him.
Lord, thank you for showing me this. It is a poignant reminder that you hear my prayers. And though I may not ever see the spiritual forces acting behind the scenes, I can rest assured that you are working all things for good.
For more reading on prayer, see Un)Answered Prayers