What should I do to have my prayers answered the way that I pray them?

Question:

What should I do to have my prayers answered the way that I pray them?


Answer:

I think the hardest thing to remember about prayer is that sometimes the answer is "no".  We have the ability to ask for far too much and a father cannot always grant everything that a child could want.  As fathers ourselves we determine if it is possible to grant our child something; and if it is in their interest to do so, then we would be happy to do that.  Sometimes there are more things going on at one time than just what is going on with our child and that will modify what we can grant our child.

Similarly, God has a bigger plan in mind.  His goal is to save as many people as possible.  Some people therefore are going to have lives that do not match what they would have liked.  As an example, we have Jesus.  In Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"  If you think about that, in order for us to have the benefits of what Jesus brings us, Jesus had to die.  That was not a pleasant thing from the perspective of Jesus.  He wept in the Garden and pleaded with God to take the burden of dying away from him.  However, Jesus said "not my will" (see Luke 22).  Jesus dying was not for his benefit, but it was so that many more of us could come to Christ. 

What if God worked the way that many people think He does; in that He just grants His faithful followers whatever they desired?  Everyone who asked for money would get a lot of money.  Once people realize that such was what was happening, people would flock to the services – but not because they were drawn by the word, but because they could get a lot of money.   At that point, what happens to the spread of the gospel?  It completely dries up!  Everyone will come to the church in order to pray to God in order to get money.  The gospel isn't about getting rich, it is about forgiveness and the Son of God.  However, everyone will be blinded by the money.  That is exactly what happened to Jesus in John 6.  Early in the chapter, Jesus feeds the crowd – which initially resulted in a lot of people following Jesus.  But by the end of the chapter, the majority left once they realized that Jesus was not going to continually feed them and he was going to require that they come to him on his terms and not their own.

Therefore, it is not good for God to make His servants wealthier than their neighbors.  He may bless us a bit above those around us, but never enough to make us lose focus on who He is.  The same thing goes for an extra-long life or freedom from oppression.  If His servants start getting treated too much better than those around us, then the appeal of the gospel dries up because the appeal would shift to the material things and away from the spiritual.  Jesus said in John 6:63 that the material is of no importance, it is only the spiritual side that really matters.

I think all of us would like to be one of the wealthier members of the church, and we would like to be the ones who get to live longer than most.  We would like to have a life of general ease, where no one we love dies before we do, and no one even gets sick.  However, that is not going to happen.  The mission is to spread the gospel until the time when we are called home to God.  That means some of us are going to get 20 years on this earth and some will get 100 years. Some will live in relatively good health and some are going to be broken most of their days on earth.  It would even be great in our eyes if the best preachers lived the longest lives.  However, God is going to mix it all up. Everything is going to look like random events to us, but it is all coming together to conform God's plan.  And God's plan is good -- to those that love the Lord (Romans 8:28).

Darrell Hamilton