“Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21 Common English Bible (CEB),
I have been in church all my life. I thought I had heard everything. I have heard people tell me they didn’t believe in God; they were atheists. I have heard people tell me I was Miss Goody two shoes; I was too nice, too sweet, I didn’t know how to have fun. This last week though was a new one for me.
Bertha (not her real name) came into Harvest House where I volunteer. She came in with her adult daughter. She is on dialysis and has numerous problems. I helped her with groceries and clothes. After we get them signed in and give them help we always talk with them about what’s going on. We offer up prayer for each client. Now in all the years I have worked there I have had people say to me, “No, I am good. Thanks though.” They go out the door and I offer up a breath prayer. This lady was different. I asked if (which I don’t know why I did, usually I don’t) she believed in prayer; most of the time I just say may I pray with you. She informed me she did not believe in prayer. She went on to say she has prayed in the past for others and as she said it, “they get what they want and their prayers are answered, mine are not. So no I do not believe prays work.”
Needless to say I was shocked. I have never had anyone tell me they don’t believe in prayers. My heart instantly broke for this woman. I wasn’t angry or mad just terribly sad for her. I told her I was going to pray for her anyway. I took hold of her hands and prayed. Maybe I was wrong, but I prayed God would prove her wrong. She had applied for disability and had been accepted. She was just waiting for the checks to start. Each week they would tell her it was going to be another week before they started; each week they didn’t come. She needed for the checks to arrive. I prayed the checks would arrive soon and she would see God’s handiwork in all of this.
Later I talked with some of my co-volunteers. I asked them to pray for her as well. I am still lifting up this woman in prayer hoping she will come to know God’s love, God’s grace and God’s mercy. I don’t know how she has prayed, what her prayers consisted of or her situation. I know God answers prayers. I have seen Him do it in my own life and in others. I am on the prayer team at church. We receive prayer requests and then we come together on Wednesdays and pray for them. We have had members come back and thank us for our prayers; they were answered. Earlier in the week we had a client come in and she didn’t want any services. She just wanted to thank the advisor that had prayed with her. She was to have surgery and the advisor prayed with her. Surgery was a success and she was doing well. Prayer works.
Normally I ask, but this time didn’t. My best guess is she doesn’t attend church, open her Bible or have much of a relationship with God. “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” (John 9:31) Now in no way am I calling this woman a sinner. I don’t know her and it is not my place to judge. I am sharing what scripture says. If we are not living a Godly life according to this scripture God does not listen. God is not a magic Genie. Magic Genie’s live in a vessel and when we want our wishes to come true we rub the vessel and the Magic Genie pops out and grants our wish. The only time I saw that happen was on the show, “I Dream of Jeanie.” In real life it doesn’t happen. God wants a relationship with us. He does not want to be our Magic Genie.
“You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.” (James 4:2-3 Common English Bible (CEB)) It may seem simplistic, but if we don’t ask, God won’t answer. And when we do pray, our reasons for asking must not be selfish. Now if she was praying for her health to be restored that does not seem selfish does it? But, maybe God was teaching her to fully rely on Him instead of having perfect health. It could be God wanted her to teach her children to follow God, trust Him for all things instead of asking for prayer and getting results. When we go to our earthly Father or even our Mother with a request do they always answer? And is the answer always the one we want? Sometimes what we want is not always the best answer. God can see the whole picture; we only see part of the picture.
“This is the confidence that we have in our relationship with God: If we ask for anything in agreement with his will, he listens to us.” (1 John 15:5) God WILL answer our prayers, but only if they line up with His will for our lives. I have gone through much difficulty and hardships. I had asked God on numerous occasions for God to make my life better and to remove the black cloud I thought was hanging over our home. As I look back I realize it was God’s will for me to go through those difficult times so I could help others go through similar experiences. It was my calling. I wouldn’t have a calling and ministry if I hadn’t gone through those things. We have to make sure what we are asking for is in accordance to God’s will in our lives.
So let’s say we are living for Christ in our attitude and actions and praying according to His will. What do we do when all systems are go, but the answer still hasn’t come? It might not be God’s timing. Things need to get in order before your answered is worked out. I had said yes to a job someone asked me to do. It’s been almost a year and I am still waiting to do my part. I have been frustrated. I realize God’s timing and circumstances are not where they need to be for me to do it. When God’s timing is in line with the circumstances (including waiting on the other person) it will happen if God wants it to. It may be that the answer depends on someone else responding to God too (remember God’s order of priorities). It may be that the delay is to see how seriously you are willing to pray. How long are you willing to pray to see your answer? Are you praying once and expecting a miracle or are you serious enough about it you will pray every day for years? How strong is your commitment to what it is you desire? I love the song by Garth Brooks about some of God’s best prayers are unanswered.
In the final analysis, it may be that God desires to give you more than the simple answer to your prayer, making the answer—once it is received—all the more sweet. Ephesians 3:20-21 Common English Bible (CEB), “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.” It could be God will answer and it will be more than we ever thought possible. It could be He desires giving us more than we are asking. God loves to bless His children; He has blessed me and He has blessed so many around me.
I have no idea why God has not answered her prayers. I don’t know why God has not answered your prayers. If you are waiting there may be a good reason. It could be also God wants to know how faithful you are in your waiting.
I just know God will answer in His way, when it is His time and when all things line up for the will He has for your life. I told her someday she would come back and she’d have a testimony for me. She’d be able to tell me where and how God worked in her life. I truly believe that. I believe that for you too!
Dear God: Thank you for teaching me about prayer. I don’t want a Magic Genie; I want a God who cares, loves and forgives me. I want a God who has my best interest at heart. I can’t see the whole picture only you can. I can’t see tomorrow or my future, but you can. I want a relationship with you. Help me as I help others on this journey called life. Remind me prayer is more about having a two way conversation than it is about asking for things. Help me not to be selfish in my prayers, but to think of others first. Be with me as I seek your will for my life. In all these things I pray. Amen.