Prayer: Is That Really What You Want?

Short Story~

Madelyn was about to turn eleven years old and was of course, very excited about her approaching festivities. Karen, Maddy’s mom, was at a loss as to what to give Maddy for her birthday, so she did what any good mother would do, she asked. Maddy was even indecisive about what she wanted, and ultimately, the choice came down to two options, a new outfit for her American Girl doll or a cooking classes at the community center.

Karen was of course torn – Maddy loved spending hours with her American Girl doll, but she was getting older and dolls were starting to lose their appeal. On the other hand, Madelyn was always fooling around in the kitchen with spices and various ingredients, insisting that all kitchen passer-byers refer to her, ‘Sous chef’. She even mentioned wanting to be a chef at a fancy restaurant when she was older.

After weighing the conundrum carefully, Karen decided to give Madelyn the cooking class. She felt this was more than a gift, it was an experience and an investment in her future. She found herself just as excited for Madelyn’s birthday to arrive as Madelyn herself!

Well, the day finally arrived and Karen revealed the gift of the cooking class, along with a few shiny new cooking utensils. Upon opening her gift, Maddy’s face fell, to Karens bemusement. Maddy’s delight at the prospect of her gift quickly faded as she looked into her mother’s face as she choked back the tears and said, “Why would you give me a cooking class when what I really wanted was a new dress for my doll?”

Karen was shocked – she had given her daughter what she had asked for.

It was a good gift, it was an investment in her future, it was… not good enough.

Real Life ~

On some level, this is what we do to God, or at least I do. Sometimes, I even fool myself into thinking I want something, but when it comes down to it, I really want what I want. Let me give another example.

I may say something to the effect of, “Lord, please let me get this new job, but if this job not where you want me, then please don’t let me get the offer.” My response to how God answers that prayer shows the true intention of my heart. If I get the job, then, great! I am where God wants me. If I don’t get the job – what do I do? Am I just as pleased that I didn’t get the job, because I know that’s not where He wants me? Or, do I sulk and complain that God doesn’t listen and tell myself lies like, “I’m not good enough to get another job” or “I’ll be stuck in this current job forever“?

How hurtful this must be for our Lord. Here, He has answered my prayer, yet not only am I dissatisfied, but I also then begin allowing myself to believe lies.

Oftentimes, we throw in little do-gooder caveats in our prayers, like, “God, Your will be done in this situation,” “Lord, bring to pass whatever brings You the most glory,” “Lord, make my life a great testimony for You,” “Place me wherever I can make the biggest impact for You” …etc. I even say these things without really thinking about them, they’ve become so mundane to me.

Because our God listens keenly to our prayers, even our the most mundane, repetitive statements linger long in His ears.

A Step Further~

Without being blasphemous, place yourself in God’s position of answering prayers. If you hear a statement of one of your children asking you to do whatever is necessary to bring other of your wayward children to a relationship with you, what do you do?

In your all knowing state, when you hear a prayer from one of your children asking for a job that will give them more money, but then hear that they are willing to pass up the added funds in order to stay where they are, if that will give other of your children an opportunity to spend eternity with you, what do you choose?

Well, if we take a quick peek into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46), we know what God choose when His only Son, Jesus, asked that He not have to go through the suffering of the cross. Jesus ended His precious prayer to His Father by saying, but if the answer is, ‘no’, then, “Your will be done.”

This sounds strange, but aren’t you glad God told Jesus, his Son, ‘no’?

Why did He tell Him, ‘no’? So you and I, His other children, could spend eternity with Him. Wow.

Wrapping up ~

Ok, let’s start wrapping this up. Let’s examine and question if we’re really ready to pray, “Your will be done“.

For example (are you tired of my examples yet?), one of our most common prayers are for safety for loved ones, in travel or whatever the circumstance. We also make other requests for those same loved ones along the lines of, overcoming a drug addiction, a restored marriage, a desire for God, strength to overcome peer pressure…etc.

What if the prayers for safety contradict the other requests? Think.

What if our prodigal loved one will only return to God if God does not keep him safe? Think again.

What if your marriage will only be restored if your husband loses his job? Keep thinking.

What if your dear friend will only have a true desire for God if she loses her material possessions? Enough thinking.

Are you okay with God answering the prayer that has the greatest long term benefit for those you love?

Or, do we really mean, “God you can grow me, him, or her as long as you keep me safe and healthy.”

The point of this writing is not to dissuade you from praying these prayers for safety or for God’s will, but rather to prepare you for God answering your prayers. The second point is to realize that when God answers a prayer that might pose some pain, it’s all part of His plan to prosper you. Keep reading or you’ll miss the best part.

Don’t go away thinking that God is sitting in heaven, ready to strike you and your loved ones with all sorts of tragedy to accomplish His will. Think one last time.

Our gracious heavenly Father does not leave His children crumpled and defeated on the ground. Each and every time He picks them up. Think of Joseph, who had a horrible childhood, but became second in command to Pharaoh. Daniel got dumped into a lions den, but came out alive to be second in command to the King. John went to prison but got a glimpse of heaven. Esther could have died, but lived to save her people. The list goes on and continues with your name and with mine.

In closing, as you pray and see God answer prayers with either a, ‘yes,’ or ‘no’ – remember:

Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

His ways are better than you can imagine

And of course, Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

He is only working for our good. Always.

It can be scary to pray for God’s will, but that’s only because we can’t see how good His will is, this side of heaven.

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