The Mystery of Prayer

Those of us who have prayed over the years know that prayer is a mystery. Having read many books on the subject, done many Bible studies and spent literally hours praying, I should have a pretty good understanding of the subject. But the truth is, I don’t. I’ll share what I have learned and what I think I know about prayer.

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What I have found is that prayer seems to be answered in three ways: Yes, No, or Wait. Let’s take the first, when prayer is answered with a “Yes.” I have seen God work in miraculous ways. I have seen Him heal the sick, raise those who were practically dead from their sickbed, provide jobs, spouses, cars, you name it. It is always a glorious thing when God answers in the affirmative and it feels great to have participated in prayer when I see those kind of answers. 

Next, there are those times when God doesn’t answer in the affirmative. The person does not get healed, those who are terminally ill die, a person doesn’t get the job, car or whatever was prayed for. In other words, there is a resounding “No” to the prayer. That doesn’t feel good and I often wonder why. I know God is on his throne and He doesn’t owe me any explanation but still I wonder. Some people may tell me I didn’t have enough faith, but I know that isn’t true. I had the same amount of faith when I prayed for other things that were answered in the affirmative. Others may tell me that there must be some sin in my life, or else God would have answered my prayer. I know that is not true either. Yes, God will not hear my prayers “if I regard iniquity in my heart,” but in general there is always some element of sin in my life. Every thought I think is not one hundred percent pure and loving and every word I say is not either. That’s the way it is, and no matter how hard I try that is the way it will always be until I go to be with the Lord. The truth is, in prayer, I can ask God for things, but I am in no position to “tell” God what to do. He is still in charge of the universe and sees the big picture. I am not in charge and I do not see the big picture and I must submit myself to this truth. I know I can trust Him and that He is still on His throne when the answer is “No.”

Third, there are those times when God seems to be silent and no answer is forthcoming. A lot of times, I have the sense that I have been put on hold and the answer will come about when the time is right. But when will the time be right? When will I get the job, the promotion or whatever I have been asking for? Of course the answer is up to God, but usually the answer has something to do with me and my character. Many times, God is waiting on me for my character to develop so that He can put me in a position of greater authority and responsibility. If He allows me into that position too soon, I may fail because of a lack of character development. These are the hardest prayers to wait for, but they are the most necessary. I need to wait patiently during those times and participate with God when He is working on my character. Over the years, I have learned that I do not want to be put in a position of responsibility that is greater than my ability to handle it. When the answer turns to a “Yes,” I am thankful that He made me wait until the time was right.

Prayer is a mystery and there is no way that I understand all there is to know about it. I will continue to trust God and to pray for things knowing that I will get an answer, even if it is not the answer I am hoping for.

What about you? What have you found out about prayer? How has your understanding of the subject changed over the years? Let me know so that we can collectively learn together.