One simple truth that my family and I studied several years ago has stuck with me and been an encouragement to me in many areas: God sees differently than we do." How true this is: He knows the end from the beginning and has a far more accurate view of each situation than we do!
This concept directly applies to the subject of prayer. From my viewpoint, I may think that a certain answer to prayer would be best--but from God's perspective, that same thing may be the absolute worst answer at the moment. And, on the other hand, what I may view as the worst answer may be precisely what I need most!
This reminds me of Jesus' question in Matthew 7:9: "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Only a very cruel parent would respond that way to a child's request. But what if the child sees something on the table which he thinks is bread; being hungry, he asks for it. The father is taller and has a much better view of the table; he realizes that what the child thinks is bread is actually a stone. At this point the father has two choices:
Obviously a wise and loving parent would choose the latter course of action, though by doing so he may have an angry child on his hands. As he matures, the child must learn to trust the father's wisdom, believing that each "no" answer is as much a demonstration of love as each "yes." If we ask God for a "good gift," we can rest assured that is what He will give us ("...no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" 1 !)--though it may not match up with our initial idea of what is "good." Matthew 7:11 sums this up beautifully: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
- He could go ahead and give the child the stone (after all, that's what he in ignorance asked for!).
- Or he could withhold the stone, knowing that if the child tried to eat it he would hurt himself.
With this in mind, I am learning how to ask "not my will, but Thine be done." I bring my petitions before the Lord, then say, "Lord, You alone know if this answer I am praying for is bread or a stone. My eyes are dim and I cannot discern which it is. Please, Lord, I want You to give me bread...even if at first I think You are giving me a stone. May Your will alone be done in this situation." As we continue to draw closer to the Lord, we will be able to see things more and more as He sees them.
Another truth that has made a big difference in my prayer life is realizing just how much God desires to give good things to His children. He doesn't dread our prayer or have to be coerced into a reluctant answer -- He commands us to "ask, seek, and knock" that our requests may be answered. Proverbs 15:8 puts it very clearly: "...the prayer of the upright is His delight." "We must not conceive of prayer as an overcoming of God's reluctance, but as a laying hold of His highest willingness." 2
One of God's chief characteristics is generosity. Each of us is surrounded by gifts from His hand: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights..." 3 He "giveth us richly all things to enjoy" 4 and "satisfieth the desire of every living thing." 5 Of course, the primary example of God's merciful generosity is that truly "unspeakable gift" of His only Son, who died that we might live eternally. The logical conclusion of Romans 8:32 brings a smile to my face: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Indeed!
What a priceless privilege to bring requests before our loving, generous Father, knowing that He will work everything out for our best! I want to close with the passage that I shared in my last editorial...it has been such an encouragement to me this sumer:
"Now to Him Who, by...the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think--infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams--to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen--so be it." 6
Praising our Savior,
1 Psalm 84:11b
3 James 1:17
4 1 Timothy 6:17b
5 Psalm 145:16b
6 Ephesians 3:20-21, Amplified
This editorial was published in the September-October 2004 issue of Hidden Wisdom Magazine, copyright 2004, Abigail Paul.