“Therefore I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” Mark 11:24 (NIV)
I have spent a great deal of time over the last 24 hours really thinking about prayer. I pray quiet often and I feel like I’m doing it “right” but then some of my prayers are very obviously answered while others are not. My son is in the police academy, he had a big test last night and I had been praying for him all week long to do well on this test because ultimately it could mean the difference between him moving on or having to start all over again. I have been praying all week long “Lord please help him pass this test, please give him what he needs to pass this test.” Well, about 10:30 last night my son texted me that he got a 77 on the test, he missed passing by 3 points. My first thoughts were about how disappointed he must be. I kept thinking “What did I do wrong, why didn’t God answer my prayer? It wasn’t a selfish prayer, it wasn’t a prayer for something bad to happen to someone, why is God letting my son hurt?”
Then I started thinking about a conversation my husband and I had in the car earlier in the evening. Last night was the 3rd month anniversary of my sweet daddy passing away. My husband and I were on our way to dinner and we were talking about the night my dad passed. I told him about my prayer the morning of January 3rd. I just felt that morning as I was driving back to the nursing home that it was going to be the day my daddy was going to go Home, as I sat in my car in the parking lot of the nursing home I prayed and I said “Lord, its going to be today isn’t it? I have a feeling today is the day you are going to take my daddy. I’m not going to pray and ask you not to take him and then be angry when you do, that would be selfish, all I am asking is that when you take him that you please do it quickly and peacefully” that was it, that was my simple prayer for my daddy. That night his hospice nurse told my sister and I that his breathing had changed to final stages breathing and that he only had a couple hours at best. 15 minutes after she told us that he had a couple hours, my daddy was gone. A little while after my daddy passed away the hospice nurse told me that in her 22 years of being a hospice nurse that his passing was the most peaceful she had ever seen, when she said that I KNEW God had answered my prayer, He took my daddy quickly and peacefully.
So last night when my son informed me that he had not passed his test I couldn’t believe it. I felt so let down and I just couldn’t figure it out. So I thought alright, obviously I’m missing something because I clearly remember a bible verse that said something about asking for whatever you wanted in prayer and God would give it to you. Sounded like a pretty good deal to me and I felt like I had kept up with my end of the bargain, I had asked for what I wanted. There have obviously been other times when I didn’t get what I prayed for so I’m not sure why it bothered me so much this time but it did. So I decided that I was going to find that verse in the Bible, in my new Life Application Bible and see exactly what’s up with this deal. I found it and I found a LOT more about prayer in the process. I still don’t know exactly why some prayers are answered and others are not, I just know that it isn’t because I did it wrong or didn’t use the right words. Actually I found out that there is a lot more to prayer than I ever really thought about.
First off I found that verse I was looking for in Mark 11:24 and I read it and I remembered it pretty close but then I read the section at the bottom for the life application part and a light bulb came on. I realized that when Jesus set the example for us to pray using The Lord’s Prayer it was “THY will be done” and I realized that my prayers never really asked for God’s will to be done, I wanted MY will to be done and that was my first mistake. Prayer isn’t about me or my son or my daddy, it’s about God’s will for us. The line in my life application section that really struck me says “When we pray, we should express our desires, but want His will above ours. Check yourself to see if your prayers focus on your interests or God’s” This made me really think and made me really want to dig deeper into this whole prayer thing.
One thing I noticed is that Jesus prayed a lot! There are tons of verses that talk about Jesus praying and he was always alone and never made a show of it. Even in Jesus’ darkest time when he called out to God “Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Even Jesus, at this time before his impending death called out to God but still asked for God’s will to be done and not his own. This made me really think about what it takes to say “if it is your will” that requires a great deal of trust in God. God answers prayers in His time and in His way. It may not be the answer we expected but it is what’s best for us.
Even Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (some sort of ailment) away from me but he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” When I first read this I thought, if Paul can pray and plead over and over to God to be healed and it not be done then what chance do I have praying for my son to pass a test? But then as I read the application part of this it became clear that even though Paul's healing was not part of God's plan for Paul, God gave Paul so many other blessings. God’s plan didn’t include healing Paul for whatever reasons, but God gave Paul so much more. According to the life application part of my Bible it states that Paul received things even greater than a healing he received “greater grace from God, a stronger character, humility, and an ability to empathize with others”
I still have a lot more to learn about prayer but I at least have a start and I know that just because it seems God didn’t answer my prayer directly He will in His time and in His way.
One final note, I am very blessed to have another son as well. He is younger than the one in the police academy and he has a very God-filled heart. Garrett is almost 20 and has pretty good insight when it comes to “God things” LOL. As I was researching and looking for verses in the Bible to help explain to me this whole prayer deal, Garrett comes out of his room and looks at the stuff I have spread all over the table. He asks me what I’m doing, I tell him that I am researching prayer, he asked why and I told him I was trying to find out why God answers some prayers and not others and he says to me “Mom, that’s kinda easy it’s because they are our needs and our wants. God’s gonna give us what we need, but not everything we want is what we need.”
I agreed with him and told him that was true but wasn’t quite what I was talking about and I told him about my two prayers, the one for my daddy and the one for his older brother. Garrett then said to me something that I honestly believe God put in his heart right then and there because it made perfect sense to me and more than that, it was exactly like something my momma would have said – When faced with difficult issues my mom always said “God will never give you more than you can handle” and tonight my youngest son looked at me and said “Mom, you should know, that’s the difference between bending and breaking. It’s like that song you like so much that says 'He might let you bend but He won’t let you break.' Bobby’s test is bending you and Bobby a little, Grandad passing away in any other way but peacefully would have broken you.” - out of the mouths of babes (ok he’s almost 20 but he’s my baby)