Prayer is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Many often ask "when should I pray"..."is there a formula"..."do I have to close my eyes"..."should I be on my knees"...inquiring minds want to know.
At the same time, others are more concerned with what happens after the prayer. "Is God listening?" "Is He really going to talk back to me?" "What if I don't hear anything?"
...as often as possible (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
...there is no formula (1 John 5:14-15) but there is a model to use (Matthew 6:9-13)
...please don't close your eyes while you're driving
...no, you don't have to be on your knees but you do need to be in the moment
...yes, He's listening and He does talk back (Job 33:14 NCV)
...we often can't hear Him because of the noise in our lives (1 Kings 19:11-13).
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let's look at God's responses. What about the answers? How does God answer our prayer?
I have come to believe there are three answers to prayer:
"Yes", "No" and "Not Now".
Most of us are way okay with the answer "Yes." I know I am.
It's the "No" or "Not Now" that cause me frustration (and probably you too.)
God answers "yes" to many prayers. He certainly has answered "yes" to many of mine. Sometimes He even answered "yes" to prayers I had not completely formulated in my mind.
Yes's come in the form of confirmation.
You ask the Lord a question and are reading in your Bible and a "random" scripture seems to address your prayer or concern.
You're having a conversation with a friend and something you have been praying about privately is discussed in conversation and the answer you seek is handed to you on a silver platter. Wow!
Note: God will never answer "yes" to any request that goes against His Word. James 1:13 tells us "when tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone."
If the answer is "yes" and the question is contrary to the will of God, the answer is from you, not Him.
This is a hard one. We don't want to hear "no". We want God's blessing for our desires. But many times "no" is the answer that comes back to our prayer request.
When Keith and I were early in our debt snowball, we wanted build a home. We found a plot of land which was "perfect." We prayed and asked the Lord to bless us with the land. "Please Lord," we prayed. "Please allow us to purchase this land."
Very clearly we both heard "no." We were still in debt and more importantly had not learned what it meant to live a life of Christ-Centered Financial Wellness. Building a home at that point in our lives would not have been a blessing to us.
We may not have known it, but God did.
Years later, we now see the benefit of not rushing into a purchase we really weren't ready for. God saying "no" prevented us from making a costly mistake.
If "yes" is the answer we most want to hear and "no" is the answer that most disappoints, "not now" has to be the most frustrating. It's neither yes nor no and requires something more...patience.
I don't know about you, but patience is not my best character trait. It's hard for me to wait, not knowing how long it will take before I find out what the answer will be and what it looks like for my life. "Not now" is the last answer I want to hear.
But how many times have you seen the other side of a prayer whose answer was "no" or "not now" and you were amazed at how blessed you were because of it?
How many times have you thanked God later for not giving you something you really wanted?
How many times have you grown in your faith and deepened your relationship with Him because your circumstances drew you to your knees in prayer a little more often than before?
As much as I hate to admit it, I have been blessed by "no" and "not now" many more times than I have been blessed by "yes."
I have learned to not treat God like a genie in a bottle, waiting for me to rub on Him to get my wishes granted.
I have learned to accept "no" and "not now" as a part of His plan for my life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to "trust in the LORD with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding; in all [our] ways submit to him, and he will make [our] paths straight."
Regardless of the answer, His plan is the best plan. Following it...following Him has never steered me wrong.
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Until next week...be well...be encouraged.