Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Does Answered Prayer Look Like?

One of the ways we remain patient in affliction is by trusting that God’s got this, whatever “this” is. We trust that God is doing what He needs to do, and that it may take a while. So we pray, we wait and we trust.

We become discouraged when we look for, and don’t see, signs that God is working in ways that meet our expectations. However, by coming at prayer or answer to prayer from our own perspective, we often miss the very work God is doing in our, and other’s lives simply because it doesn’t look like what we were hoping for.

When we are totally on board with God and have truly given people and situations over to Him, we can sit back and watch what He will do, and actually see it when it happens.

If, on the other hand, we have a one-dimensional experience of prayer, i.e. “God never answers my prayer,” perhaps we have missed His answer altogether simply because it didn’t come in the way or timing we pre-supposed.

Perhaps our prayer is in process of being answered, even as we speak. I believe we can see increments in answers to prayer. Not always, but often. Again, we have this idea of full, complete and fast answers to prayer. We believe in the act of praying to automatically bring results. What we forget is that the act of our praying isn’t what brings results, God does.

God commands us to pray. His response could be a “no,” a “not yet,” or a “yes.” And his “yes” may in fact look like a “no” because it doesn’t meet our criteria. That’s when I’ve most often missed His answer: when it came but I just didn’t see it because I was anticipating something else.

Zillions of books have been written on prayer: our motivations and spiritual condition in, our not wavering, our believing that we have already received what we’ve asked, etc. And these are all interesting areas to explore in greater depth.

But too many folks get hung up on how to pray, or which prayer to pray when, and it gets complicated. It shouldn’t. Prayer is simply talking to our Father in heaven. Jesus models this in Scripture, peppering many of his dialogues with prayer as well as prioritizing time to go away alone to pray. In Matthew 27:46 He cries out to God in prayerful reliance and dire need in His affliction.

Asking God for His wisdom and discernment to enlighten and perhaps change or refute our own pre-conceived notions helps us to gain perspective on ourselves, others and situations. We can pray in the full belief that God truly knows best and we will accept His way.

And then we wait, trusting that God’s got our prayer and is working on it (and also on us), for however long it takes. In the end, I may not see any answer in my lifetime. But then again, I may, if I’m looking from God’s perspective and not my own

Ironically, the biggest result of commitment to prayer just might be its gracious molding of us in relationship to our Triune God.

copyright Barb Harwood

“But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” Psalm 88:13

“‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” Jeremiah 33:3

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

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