How to receive what we pray for
Have you experienced that prayer isn’t always answered in the way you think it will be?
We can pray to God on our knees: “Oh, give me more love, more of Your goodness; help me to be patient, etc.,” because we sense our lack of these virtues. How do we actually expect to receive what we pray for from God? A nice package of goodness lowered right into our hearts so we can feel good? Or a fullness of patience, so we can feel nice and patient with our children and fellow men?
On the contrary, in His goodness and wisdom God sends us situations and circumstances in which we meet difficult people, crabby and troublesome children, night watches, unstable financial situations, and cares. In all these things we become well acquainted with our wretchedness and poverty. We do not feel good at all, or patient, or loving! Enemies attack us from every direction.
Yet this is precisely the time when God wants to give us what we have prayed for – the virtues of Christ – if we hold fast to His words in ours. The very germ of a new life is contained in these words.
It is God’s task to let these words germinate; we must simply and wholeheartedly be obedient to the Word, hating the evil that we see in us.
Let us not lose courage if we constantly sense our poverty and wretchedness; on the contrary, we can rejoice, believing that God will give us what He has promised. For example, when we feel only irritation or frustration in the situations where we want to be patient and longsuffering. We understand that God isn’t going to just give us the virtues without us having to fight for them! We have to battle against the irritation and frustration that comes up from our flesh, and by His grace and power, overcome them in obedience to the Word. Then the fruit of the Spirit – the divine nature that we are promised – grows in us.
It’s only by overcoming our human nature that we receive the virtues as our new, transformed nature. Love grows when I overcome malice, resentment, bitterness, etc. Mercy grows when I overcome demands, judgement, suspicious thoughts, etc. Contentment grows when I overcome envy and jealousy and dissatisfaction. This is how we receive what we pray for!
This becomes a new life that is real, not so that we can “feel” that we have become so good and loving, etc., but that the life of Christ will increase in a very weak vessel.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be you have been grieved by various trials…” 1 Peter 1:6. This is how God has determined that it shall be! We have to go through battles (trials) so that we can lay hold of the things we have prayed for. God allows us to come into situations and circumstances that awaken the lusts in our flesh. Lusts like self-seeking, pride, malice, irritation, etc. But if we, as we read in 1 Peter 4:1, suffer in the flesh and overcome the sin that we find there, we will be finished with it. It definitely causes a suffering for the flesh to give up those things that are so firmly rooted there, but that suffering is what leads to the answer to our prayers for goodness.
“Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:19.
We enter into all kinds of sufferings according to God’s will, and if we are faithful, we will receive from Him exactly what we pray for, precisely in these sufferings.
Therefore let us not lose courage but rather love God’s will, and then we will experience what is written: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) because we put all our trust in God.
This article is adapted from an article originally written by Nina French and published in BCC’s periodical Skjulte Skatter (Hidden Treasures) in June/July, 2019.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.