The Way God Answers Prayer

One of the hardest things in our struggle to conceive again has been facing the fact that God's answer to our prayer at this time seems to be "not now." We cry out to him regularly, asking him to do what only he can do, which is open my womb again. We can't make him answer our prayers in the way that we want any more than we can create life. It's a humbling place to be.

But it's a good place to be.

I have wrestled with why God answers prayers the way he does. For some, it's a favorable answer. For others, it's not. And not just in my own life. I've seen dear friends plead with God for things, only to receive year after year of unmet hopes and dreams. I've had a lot of questions and been forced to really work through what the Bible says about God's character and his good plan for the lives of his people, including my own. That's why I was so thankful to read the following quote in D.A. Carson's book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. If you want a pick-me-up for your prayer life, this book is totally the one for you. It has been life changing for me. It's opened my eyes to the purpose of prayer and my own sinful prayerlessness. It has helped me tremendously these last few weeks.

Carson has this to say about God's sovereignty in answering prayer (he's writing in reference to Paul's prayer to have the thorn removed):

"Suppose, for argument's sake, that every time we asked God for anything and ended our prayers with some appropriate formula, such as 'in Jesus' name,' we immediately received what we asked for. How would we view prayer? How would we view God? Wouldn't prayer become a bit of clever magic? Wouldn't God himself become nothing more than an extraordinarily powerful genie, to be called up, not by rubbing Aladdin's lamp, but by praying?...What an easy and domesticated religion."

He goes on to say this:

"There is a profound sense in which the sovereign, holy, loving, wise Father whom we address in Jesus' name is more interested in us than in our prayers. I do not mean to depreciate praying, only to say that God's response to our prayers cannot be abstracted from his treatment of us."

"I do not know the end from the beginning. Only God does. But he is interested in me as his child, in the same way that he was interested in the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. Part of this business of prayer is getting to know God better; part of it is learning his mind and will; part of it is tied up with teaching me to wait, or teaching me that my requests are often skewed or my motives selfish. Just as God's unexpected answer to Paul's prayers was the best possible answer (precisely because it was God's), so also his answers to our prayers will always be for his glory and his people's good"

When it comes down to it, I don't really want a God who answers every prayer my way. He wouldn't be sovereign and all-wise if he did. I'm fallen and not sovereign. I don't see all of the details he sees. I don't see my soul like he does. So when he says "no" to my prayer, he is really saying "I'm giving you what is best for you right now. I want you to see me better and find your greatest joy in me. My answer to you is for your good and your joy"

So whatever you are praying for today, know that God hears your prayers and has not turned a deaf ear to you, regardless of the answer you receive. We do not have a small and domesticated religion. We worship a big God, who lavishly gives us good gifts and holds back just as graciously. In all of these things he is giving us a gift, namely the gift of himself.