Has there ever been a time you have prayed for something big and God hasn’t answered the way you had hoped? Whether it’s for a financial miracle, healing, that a loved one will live, a different job situation, or the blessing of a child, I’m certain we’ve all faced an “I just don’t understand” situation. I don’t understand this pain. I don’t get why you’d let me struggle like this. “Why, Lord?” When you pray and His answer is not what you want to hear, it can be so very hard. Do you wrestle with the fine line of praying in true faith but being okay with His will if it’s different from your own?
I’m studying Acts right now, and I have been deeply affected by the way the first believers prayed and how they truly believed in and depended on the power of the Holy Spirit to get them through whatever trial they were facing. And they faced many. I have been attempting to reconcile in my head the balance of praying in belief that God has the power to DO – heal that sickness, cure that cancer, provide that job, pay that bill, change that heart – while still praying for God’s will and accepting His answer should it be different than what I prayed for. How do we pray with true, God-honoring faith while still realizing and accepting that the answer may be “no” or “not yet” or “wait”?
In Acts 12, Peter is imprisoned. He is locked up between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards surround the prison. Their is a group of believers at John-Mark’s mother’s home praying for his release. God answers. Out of nowhere, an angel appears in the jail cell, the chains fall off, the gate of the city opens on its own, and the angel leads Peter out. It’s so overwhelming, Peter thinks he’s dreaming. We are all pretty familiar with this story – Peter in jail, Believers pray, Peter miraculously released. But do you know what else is in Acts 12? We don’t get many details, but we read, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword…” Do you think the Believers didn’t pray for James? I am certain they did. So why did God save Peter but allow James to die?
Why are some children healed and some aren’t? Why does this person live and that person die? Why does miraculous provision come in this situation but not in that one?
I’m not certain of the answer, and doubt I’ll get it before I meet Him face to face. But this is where I think the real faith comes in. Do we believe that God is good, no matter how He chooses to answer our prayers? Maybe God answers a certain way because He’s protecting you from something you’ll never know about. Maybe that relationship you are praying for would have been toxic. Maybe that new job would have hindered your spiritual walk. Maybe He wants to teach you something right where you are. Maybe there is a refining that needs to happen in your own heart, and He is using this situation to mold and shape you. I know it’s hard, but we have to remember and believe that God sees the whole picture, while all we see is one little snippet.
We don’t know all the answers. And we won’t know. So when we don’t understand our specific circumstances, we have to go back to what we do know. We know God’s character. We know that He is good, gracious, and works all things to our good and for His glory. We know that He is sovereign and knows what’s at the top of that staircase when all we can see is that first rickety stair. We know that no matter how scary that step seems, God walks beside us as we carefully put the next foot forward.
We know that the Lord is faithful and keeps His promises. (Even if it’s not on our carefully-planned-out timetable.)
When that loved one dies or you lose your job. When a child wonders away in unbelief or you are battling infertility. When the cancer stays, the arguments continue, the bills pile up, the anxiety grows, or the silence is deafening. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We may not get the results we want or the answer we hope for this side of Heaven. But one thing is for sure, His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are so much higher than ours.
Maybe true faith means we come to peace with the fact that we may never get the answers , but we know that the One who has them all is trustworthy. And that whether here on Earth or only in Heaven, we WILL see loved ones healed, spirits made whole, prayers answered, and hope restored.
Pray in hopeful expectation. But if the prayer isn’t answered the way you hoped, trust that the God who hung the planets and sustains them is big enough to handle whatever situation you are in. He is greater than your circumstances and loves you enough to walk with (and even carry) you every step of the way.