“Sometimes you ask God to send you some money or maybe a new car and all you hear is silence, followed by the distinctive chirping of that one, lone cricket. But, ask Him to make you more patient or more loving, or to make you behave more like Jesus, and it seems like there is a stampede out of heaven to answer that prayer!”
That opinion came from one of my friends telling me what she believes happens sometimes when we pray. Seriously, there are moments when it feels so inconvenient to be in relationship with an absolutely perfect God, …cue my very best whiny voice. He has His own priorities and values, and insists on doing what He knows is actually the best thing for us; not what we think is best. So, let me be the first to confess…
Sometimes…wait… most times when I pray, somewhere, waaaaaaaay in the back of my mind or maybe even on the very tip of my tongue, I already have a few ideas about exactly how God should go about answering my prayers. Subsequently, when it appears He has no intention of listening to my ‘suggestions’, or doing what I ‘suggest’ ought to be done, how it should be done, and when it should be done, I am tempted to get an ‘attitude’ and pout. It is almost as if I forget who is God, and who is NOT God in this relationship. I have decided to go with the ‘temporary insanity’ defense.
Things get even more complicated when He seems to sit back and allow things to get a lot worse. For example, recently I prayed,
“God, please work a miracle and let my car pass this smog test.”
Well, the car did not pass smog, and I the next day I got a citation for non-registration, when, wouldn’t you know, I am away from the car and cannot show the officer proof that the registration had been paid, and the car was being repaired. Not long after the repairs that allowed the car to pass smog, the water pump and timing belt both needed to be replaced at the same time, and the girl at the citation processing center chooses to be particularly rude on a day when I was already finding it hard to behave like Jesus!
“God! Seriously? What are you doing? I ask you to help me with one thing…”
Then there was the time a friend of mine asked for prayer for her husband who had become a Christian, but seemed not to want to pursue an authentic, growing relationship with the living God. Now doesn’t that sound like a perfectly good prayer request? So perfectly aligned with the revealed will of God, you should almost hear the stampede out of heaven with the answer. But, after many sincere and earnest prayers for her husband, he started losing a ton of money from investments, her father ended up in the hospital, they both struggled with serious illness, and on, and on, until I was soooooo embarrassed for God I wanted to avoid my friend, and hide under a rock.
But a funny thing happened on my way to Deeply Disappointed In God Hill, in the town of Sulksville, just north of Pout City. I realized that I had unknowingly just driven my car four hours to San Francisco and back with the faulty water pump; which lasted till I was safely home, five minutes from the repair shop. Oh the mercy of God! And, despite the cost, the repairs on my paid-off car gave me another three to five years without a monthly car payment, to save towards eventually getting a newer car. Oh the grace of God! As for my friend, both she and her husband grew closer to God and to each other as they struggled to deal with the troubles and trials. Now I’m embarrassed for me! Oh the wisdom of God!
Writing to the church in Rome Paul says,
“…He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son… Romans 8:27-29 italics mine
“He makes intercession for the saints…” It never ceases to amaze me that the Holy Spirit talks to God the Father on our behalf! As if He doesn’t have enough to do! But here’s the rub; He only asks for that which is according to, that is, in keeping with, or lines up the will of God. No matter how hard I try to twist, stretch, or bend the promises in the Bible; no matter how much I “name it and claim it”, or ‘explain’ to God why I must have what I ask for, He knows and understands perfectly that some things He sends that appear so horrible, will actually help me, heal me, refine me, and some things I pray for which appear perfect to my eyes, could end up destroying me.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 11:29-30
“…and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” Is Paul really saying that in every single circumstance, God is working for our good? There is absolutely no situation that lies outside the realm of ‘all things’, but I distinctly remember vehemently disagreeing with God about that many years ago, as I was on my way to the hospital to see my son after I had received a devastating call from the county sheriff.
“You cannot fix this!” I screamed at Him, “How can You fix this?!” After which God promptly began to work things together for good in supernatural ways, and He is still doing it today, in ways I sometimes see only in hindsight. This is me, shutting up!
So here’s the thing, who has the character, the power, the absolute control, or the limitless resources, to help you along the path your life will take from beginning to end? OUR GOD DOES! Believe that when you ask Him for help, the answer He sends is the answer you need, no matter what it looks like.
“He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not give us everything else?” Romans 8:32
So, go ahead, ask God for anything you want, and He will answer, guaranteed. If the answer is not what you expected, it is also guaranteed to be exactly the right one, so have faith in His perfect love, be flexible, adjust your perspective, and keep on… just living the thing.