Maybe the answers to our prayers are sometimes elusive—or are they?
Posted in , Sep 26, 2021
In the Bible, Hannah prayed for a child, and later gave birth to Samuel. Elijah prayed for rain, and rain came. Daniel prayed for insight to interpret dreams, and God answered.
On the other hand, Jesus prayed for the “cup” of His looming torture and crucifixion to pass from Him; it didn’t happen. Paul prayed for deliverance from the “thorn” in his side, and instead was given grace to endure it.
I’ve prayed many prayers over the years. Some were answered in the way I hoped. Many were not. But I’ve learned that no matter the answer, I still gain. In fact, getting the answer I want is almost never the best fruit, the greatest benefit, of prayer. As I reflect on the time and energy I’ve spent in praying, I see seven ways I’ve gained, regardless of the outcome:
1) Silence. Sometimes it feels like I’m surrounded—assaulted, even—by noise. But prayer brings into my life periods of quiet that have been a boon to my soul. In prayer, I have often “calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131:2 NIV).
2) Stillness. Similarly, my prayer times become an oasis amid an ever-racing heart, mind and body. I can’t know the extent to which prayer has prevented or delivered me from stress, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. But I’m confident it has.
3) Presence. Some people live their whole lives without experiencing (or acknowledging) the presence of God. How impoverished I would be if I didn’t turn to prayer and experience the joy of His presence (see Psalm 16:11).
4) Perspective. I don’t always get the answers I want when I pray, but I almost always gain a new perspective. My problems seem smaller. My priorities are sorted. The path ahead seems clearer. Even God seems larger than before.
5) Balance. I can say with the psalmist, “as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold” (Psalm 73:2 NIV). It’s so easy to get off-kilter and out of whack, reacting to external stimuli and teetering on the emotional edge. But prayer re-orients me—“uprights” me. In prayer, I take God’s hand and regain my balance, saying, “as for me, it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28 NIV).
6) Peace. It’s hard to express or quantify the cumulative effect of the silence, stillness, presence, perspective and balance that prayer brings into my life. But I can say that the more I pray, the more I experience the promise of Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT).
7) Hope. Because I pray often and regularly, I’m never without hope. The hope of healing, deliverance, blessing and goodness perches in my soul and perseveres through every storm. And, even when the hoped-for outcome doesn’t come, my heart and soul are buoyed by the awareness that my good God is working, always working, and somehow planning something better.