While running Sunday afternoon, I was listening to Garth Brooks and one of my favorite songs came on – Unanswered Prayers.
Prayer is very personal. Listen how people respond when somebody mentions they are facing something terrible in life. What's the first response?
"I / We will be praying for you."
Whether or not people actually pray for others when they say they will or if it is just a pleasantry is a debate for another time. But, it sure seems like everybody is praying for everyone else all the time. But do we? Do we mean it? Do we believe our prayers are answered?
Many times I have heard people quote the following Bible passage when talking about prayer:
You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! – John 14:13-14 NLT
Unfortunately, I see people using this passage as a basis to turn our prayers into laundry lists or wish lists that we give to God with the guarantee that we will get everything we ask for. Then, when our prayers go unanswered, we are told that we didn't have enough faith or our relationship with Jesus isn't real or something of the sort.
Sad really. An over-simplification.
The verse just before makes the difference.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. – John 14:12 NLT
Jesus tell us that anyone who believes in Him will do the same works He has done. But why is this so important? To do what Jesus did, we have to know him. To know Him changes our perspective so that we view our circumstances differently. This will change what we pray for and ask for.
One of my favorite Bible Teachers, Greg Laurie, says that God answers prayers in one of three ways – Go, Slow and No. He will either answer the prayer immediately, tell us it's not time yet or just say no. God knows what's best for us and answers our prayers accordingly. As God's child, I don't understand why God gives me a Slow and a No on certain prayers. But as a parent, it should be clear. My kids have asked for things in the past and I have answered 'not yet' or 'no'. Why? Because I knew my child and saw the larger picture. Either they weren't ready for what they were asking for, or what they were asking for would hurt them.
I'm glad God listens to my prayers and answers them based on what I need, not what I always want. Who knows what damage all my prayers over the years would have caused.
Garth Brooks penned a truth when he wrote the lyrics:
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
Thank God for loving you enough to say no.