By Barbara Rainey
First posted on EverThineHome.com
As a new Christian, and a few years later as a new wife, I eagerly prayed for everything. God graciously allowed me to see answers in those early years of faith because He knew I needed to see some evidence. Little children need much encouragement.
Without fully realizing it, I developed a formula. In all the Scriptures about prayer, I thought, there had to be a key, a secret to unlock the power of God. I was living my life with a reasonable, logical assumption about the Christian life. Here was my plan:
Do my best.
Follow the rules—especially the Bible’s rules.
Wait for God to bless my work and my efforts.
And I just knew that, even if I didn’t do things perfectly, God would still give me what I desired that was good. Early in my Christian life I memorized Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I reasoned: God knows my heart and I want HIs best, therefore He will give me the desires of my heart, aka answered prayers.
I believed a common lie, that prayer is how we convince God to work on our behalf.
Over the next two decades prayer became more confusing than anything else in my Christian life. I read many books on prayer. I went to Bible studies and we rarely missed church. I spent a season or two fasting. I formed two prayer groups for moms. And I prayed with persistence like the woman in Scripture who pestered the unrighteous judge (Luke 18:1-8).
But in all of this spiritual effort it seemed He was deaf or had closed His ears to my begging pleas because:
Still our granddaughter died.
Still our prodigal left home and pursued a destructive lifestyle.
Still our daughter was date-raped.
Still our son is physically handicapped.
Still my heart was faulty for 40 years.
Still cancer came uninvited.
In all this and more I have experienced deep pain that felt impossible to bear, more times than I ever imagined I would.
Over time I learned that God’s silence to some of my prayers was His reply. I don’t have to understand. His inspired words provided comfort, answers, and hope. Romans 1:17 tells us, “The righteous shall live by faith.” And Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God.”
When I wrote on this topic a few years ago, one reader sent me a quote by Oswald Chambers from his classic devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. “If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God,” Chambers wrote. Have you felt that way? I sure have and Chambers is right. If our goal is checking off answers, adding up prayer victories, we are not seeking God for Himself, but for what He can do for us.
Oswald Chambers continues: “We are not here to prove that God answers prayer, but to be living trophies of God’s grace.” God is not a vending machine but a Father who wants a personal relationship with us. And for that to happen we must become more like Jesus, surrendered to His will which makes us “trophies of His grace.”
Today in the face of a long list of unanswered prayers I find comfort in knowing my Jesus understands because while on earth He felt what I have felt.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, the perfect Son—who had never entertained even one sinful thought, who had perfect communion with God the Father, who obeyed God’s will completely—was troubled because He knew He would soon be arrested, tried, and crucified. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). He did this not once, but three times.
And God said nothing. NOTHING!
The answer was a silent no because God the Father had a higher good in mind.
And so He does with my life. Isaiah 55:9 tells me, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
If I had found a key to prayer I would have depended on the formula, not on my Father. My desire today is to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead all day every day as Jesus did. Jesus said He did nothing on His own initiative. To be more like Jesus is my goal. It’s taking decades.
God wants a relationship with me. It’s a headshaking truth I still can’t get over. But I know it’s true.
A real relationship demands that both individuals know each other. He knows me but I must learn to know Him. And so all my life God has been showing me Himself, not at all in the ways I might have expected or wanted, but by refusing to adhere only to what I imagined Him to be, I have discovered a God who is incomprehensible but oh, so personal.
And the greatest delight is how I love Him and treasure Him. I don’t need answers for the issues in my life; I don’t need to know why. I have Him. Even in the hard things yet to come He will be with me. He will be my stability.
I hang on to these beautiful words I love from Habakkuk 3:17-18:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
[Though] the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
[Though] the flock be cut off from the fold
And there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Habbakuk resolved to trust God and rejoice in knowing Him even if every crop should fail leading to economic catastrophe and famine. And he asks us today to do the same.
Prayer still remains a mystery to me and I imagine it always will. Even though it’s an enigma I still talk to God a lot, more than in my younger years. I’m learning to watch for hints of His orchestrating hand and I’m giving thanks in everything because I believe He knows and is intimately involved in every detail of my life, even when I can’t see it.
One day all things will be made new. All will be made right. There will be no more tears or sorrow or loss.
Until that day, God asks that I surrender all to Him and trust Him as I live in this broken world that He is working all things for good, even when I can’t see or understand how or why.
This world is not our home!
If this post helped you, you would also enjoy our new online video study titled, Cultivating Hope In Times of Hardship and Disappointment. This series, with five video messages and a free downloadable workbook, is a compilation of many of the lessons I’ve learned in my 50 years of following Jesus as His disciple.
In this study I explore:
The story from John 11 of Mary and Martha and their disappointment with Jesus after the death of their brother Lazarus.
8 ways to nurture faith and hope in the dark times of life.
Keeping hope alive.
If you are curious to learn more I’d love for you to watch the video series and learn more about cultivating hope when you’re going through hardships and are disappointed in God. It’s available now!
My Heart, Ever His: Prayers for Women (NEW from Barbara Rainey)
As we search for meaning in our world of shallow online relationships and glamorized selfies, many are returning to traditional and liturgical churches. The repeated words, benedictions, and historic hymns connect us to saints who have gone before, giving us a sense of belonging, richness, and transcendence. Written prayers, once cast off as archaic, are now welcomed as guides to tune our hearts to the heart of God.
In My Heart, Ever His Barbara Rainey shares 40 prayers for women. Readers can read and meditate on one prayer throughout the week or read a prayer a day for 40 days as a way to express the longing of our hearts to our Father who loves us even as he sees who we truly are. Like the psalms of David, these prayers are honest, sometimes raw. Barbara uses these transparent expressions of common female experiences to encourage us to surrender to Christ and help us see God as he is, not as we assume him to be. My Heart, Ever His provides a stepping-stone to help you become more transparent with God and discover his welcoming embrace.
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