There are two things that seem to fly out of everyone’s mouths when they hear that you’re struggling–read the Bible and pray. Surely those are the most obvious answers, and they’re genuinely the best suggestions. Right?
But for some reason, those answers can still feel empty. They can still feel hollow. How will reading a book, or talking to someone that I can’t hear help me with this problem I have right now?
Because for the longest time, I didn’t feel that God really answered my prayers.
Does God really Answer?
Back when I was in fourth grade, I sent a prayer to God that I didn’t remember until years afterward. I was having a hard time at school and at my church because the people that I hung out with weren’t true friends. I was frequently left out and isolated, so I prayed to God for just one person who would be a true friend for me. I didn’t matter to me if I knew them or if they were new to school, or new to church–I just knew I needed someone I could trust. And then, after I prayed about it–I forgot about it. I pushed it aside, because it seemed like nothing happened. It seemed that my answer from God was silence.
While I didn’t lose my faith in God or stop praying, I began to assume that He just didn’t have any special answers for me. Maybe he was saying that he’d given me enough to figure it out myself. But it still nagged at me occasionally, especially when I trawled through my Bible and read over and over again about times when God answered prayers.
God’s Answers are powerful
In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah goes head-to-head with the Israelite priests of the idol Baal, and he gives them a challenge. If both sides take turns making a sacrifice to their gods and pray to them, they would be able to see who the true God is– the one who burned the offering that they prepared.
The priests sacrificed to their statue. They prayed, and danced, and yelled, and wept. But Baal did not answer them.
Then Elijah called out to the God of Israel, first drenching the entire altar and sacrifice with water–and all of it was completely consumed by fire from heaven. That was an awesome and powerful example of prayer! God proved that he could hear his people, and he would answer them, even if they couldn’t touch him.
God’s Answers Are Better Than Ours
Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even been able to light a candle through prayer, much less have a soggy cow spontaneously combust in front of me. So, what is the problem? Does God not answer my prayers?
Or am I just not seeing it when he does?
The problem wasn’t that I was looking the other way when God sent fire out of the sky. The problem was that I was looking with human expectations for something that I had given to God.The problem wasn’t that I was looking the other way when God sent fire out of the sky. The problem was that I was looking with human expectations for something that I had given to God. Click To Tweet
In the Scripture, it says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory…” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Suddenly it was far clearer. I was looking for God to make my solution, the solution I had thought of come true! But where is God’s glory in doing things my way? Would I think he’s in charge if he just does what I expect him to do? Ephesians is very clear that God’s plan is always bigger, more complex, and more wonderful than we can imagine.
In regard to that prayer that I sent to God so long ago, I’m happy to tell you that several years later, I realized how God had answered my prayer in typical, awesome God-style. That same year I had asked for one friend, I began making friends with several young people of a new church. Even though it took a while to really become close, they were so patient and kind to me through the process that I knew I had made forever friends. Over time, they helped me to grow and become a better follower of Christ. It was so much better than I had imagined!
Praying to God can still be hard, and I still struggle with the fear that God won’t answer. But when I read through passages like Ephesians, remembering the blessings God has given me beyond my imagining, I can humbly and patiently trust in his faithfulness to answer my prayers.
Can you think of a time (in your life or in scripture) when God answered a prayer in an unexpected way?
How do you think our communication with God can improve when we acknowledge that his way is the best way, instead of my way?