"Un" answered Prayers: Trusting God when what I pray for isn't what I get
This past Sunday’s sermon was so good. The church Rachel and I attend has been walking through the book of Matthew for the past six months and this week we studied Matthew 7:7-11.
Ask, and It Will Be Given
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
For a long time in my life, I read this verse through Ryne-centric lenses. “Ask and it will be given” must mean that when I go to God in prayer that He will give me whatever I desire. Or something similar to that. Like viewing God as the genie from Aladdin, “You’ve got three wishes” - except better since Matthew 7 doesn’t limit the amount of asking He will allow.
Obviously, that’s inaccurate. God is not a genie, He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Creator of the Universe. He is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet all-loving. He knows the number of hairs on my head. There must be something deeper at work when I am told to ask, seek, and knock since I know (and I bet you do too) that I don’t always get everything I want or pray for.
I haven’t been struggling with what these verses mean for a while, but what I’ve struggled with is how to best explain this to other people. During times of difficulty, people are encouraged to Ask, Seek, and Knock - but what about when the things we ask, seek, and knock for don’t happen? What happens to someone’s faith when they pray for a new job, a renewed relationship, or miraculous healing and God doesn’t provide the job or the healing?
They might cry out to God asking why their prayer wasn’t answered. Maybe they question their own faith - do they have enough of it? do they even have a faith? Maybe if they prayed more or believed more God would hear them. They might blame God. Some people walk away from God altogether.
It’s great to be encouraged to pray to God when trials come, but Rachel and I spent seven years praying for a child. Month after month we found out that Rachel wasn’t pregnant. When I read Matthew 7 through the lens of God meeting all of my desires the way I wanted Him to, it would feel like I believed in a God that didn't care.
We were being told at doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment that things were looking great, that Rachel should be pregnant soon, only to learn a few weeks later that another round of IUIs or IVF failed. Another "un" answered prayer.
We were not only asking God to give us a child, we were banging on the door of His house, crying out to Him to bring a child into our family. Our faith was being tested in deep ways during that season of our lives. It was in that season that we needed to trust that God was working for His glory in our story. We needed to view Matthew 7:7-11 in the context that it was written - not that we should get the things we ask for, but that God would provide for us even when we don't get what we ask for. In that season, this short clip from Sunday's sermon would have provided me with great comfort.
We’re all on our own unique journey through life. During our struggles to grow our family, it felt like we were experiencing all kinds of unanswered prayers, but the struggle of infertility was equipping us for the road ahead.
Even before the very first negative pregnancy test, God was preparing Rachel and me for the journey that we still are walking. When people hear our story they often ask us how we respond in the way we have. Most people are surprised that to hear that Anders's death wasn’t the most spiritual challenging time in our lives. Our walk with infertility caused us to confront God in ways we hadn’t before. We only could make it through if we completely trusted that God’s plan for our life was good, no matter the circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong, losing Anders is the single greatest challenge that I’ve faced, BUT at no time did we have a loss of faith in God. We know that God is good. We’ve experienced God at work in our trials. We knew that God would not leave us or forsake us. We’ve seen God work through our story with an impact that we only have because of Anders’s death.
That’s where the sermon on Sunday was so enlightening for me, and I think it could be a great encouragement to you as well. While Jesus tells us to ask for things that we need, to seek things that we don’t know we need, and to knock at the door when we are desperate, he is telling us to pray with faith in the Good Father. He’s calling us to be persistent in prayer.
And in those prayers, Jesus is calling us to pray for spiritual values above all things. He wants us to pray for the day-to-day things as well. He wants us to pray for physical things and to pray for healing. But, as our pastor said on Sunday, “...we don’t need health… or riches…to do His will. What we desperately need is His wisdom, His strength, and His power to live into this life He’s called us to.”
So I’m going to try to pray not only for physical needs but for spiritual values as well. I’m going to try to pray that in all things God will be glorified, that through trials people will fall more in love with Him, and that God would equip me to do the work He has for me today.
God does answer prayers, but, maybe if our prayer isn’t answered the way we would like, what we prayed for isn’t what we need for the journey God has us on. I understand how difficult that can be to live out. When I place myself back in the hospital room on January 10th, 2019, it would be difficult to see what we now know is true; Anders’s death is going to bring more glory to God than miraculous healing would have.
We don’t need a “perfect” story to point others to Jesus, we need the story that God has placed in front of us. Our story is powerful for His glory, whatever story it is that we are telling.
I know that I mentioned our church a few times in this post. I love our local church. Sitting under the teaching of our pastors, directors, and leadership has been the most spiritually nourishing and growth-filled time of my walk with Jesus. I can’t write down enough of the deep spiritual truths and learning moments during a Sunday sermon. Conversations in the hallway are encouraging and hope-filled. If you are in the area and looking for a Bible-preaching church, come check us out on Sunday mornings (8:30, 10:00, 11:30). If you aren’t in the area, follow online. Sermons are streamed on YouTube and you can check out sermons from the past two years on the Century Baptist channel.
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