My friend has this to say to that (the title), quite emphatically. It was a topic brought out over lunch – the usual monthly meeting with the ladies.
He has constructed His replies to fall into two defined categories. One is ‘Yes’ – and the other is ‘No’. Answered prayers fall into the first one and the second one is just what it is – a ‘No’ -- Period.”
I nodded my head and continued munching on peanuts (another of my favorites – roasted, unsalted, unfried). The thing is my friends aren’t at all convinced seeing me as non-committal and quiet as that. Always my silence is interpreted as ‘brain activity’? Ugh!! How absurd! I often find myself just simply ‘watching’ the conversation – enjoying it, not thinking …and actually liking it so much. Lols Goofy ladies all! (But they’re a wonderful bunch, these ladies and I love them.) Sienna eyed me suspiciously to which putting on an innocent look I try to dodge with a...
“Hey, these peanuts are good, so where’d you get them?”
Unfortunately, it was such a pathetic attempt to ward off imminent questions. That didn’t work cause true enough, the ladies fired off their questions one after the other as you’ll see later. They’re not just goofy but also curious, inquisitive, and a pain to my enjoyment of food. Oh! For elusive peace when all I want is to enjoy my food.
“I’ll get us more peanuts” smiled Sienna knowing that it was going to happen anyway and headed for the kitchen.
“And while you’re at it, bring out the popcorn, too”, chimed-in the ladies giggling.
“Frankly, ladies…” I began and which made them behave in their seats. Now THAT is funny! Lol
“I don’t have the cut-and-dried answers to your questions. You have to figure that out yourself – like experience and reflection and away from that bowl of peanuts?? --MY bowl of peanuts, by the way.”
“Awwww..” objected Marcia with her Angelina Jolie pout lips.
“Oh okay, let’s take your questions instead” I relented knowing I could never get out of this one anyway.
“Shoot!” chimed in Liza batting her glorious eyelashes - not fake, real ones. How I often wished I had those to my own thin sparse ones. Anyway, here goes.
What are our own expectations in prayer?
With the wisdom brought down through the ages, we have been taught to understand that we are being passed through life’s furnace of trials by every unpleasant experience or difficult situation. But despite that ancient wisdom passed on to us by our mothers and the generations before her, still we fail to grasp this truth fully and completely. Ever wondered why we continue to rant, rave, cry, fume, despair, rage, or wither in desperation whenever life throws its hard bricks at us?
And true to our very nature, we view Life akin to a hot cup of instant coffee – instant gratification so to speak i.e. instant fixes, happiness, success, remedies, victories, etc. This mindset is simply carried over to when we pray. It’s a habit that sticks like glue. So we expect God to answer our petitions pronto in the manner we want it, when we want it, how we want it. For instance, foremost up in our mind would be the thought that this time God is wrong to make us wait. He cannot possibly say NO because we are in a situation wherein any kind of blessing would be appreciated … And that means ANY. Thus we would adamantly insist that God shouldn’t say NO to our prayers. Some say that is Faith too, but let’s shelve that for another table of discussion.
Further, we believe that delays to our prayers would mean dire consequences for us or the person we’re praying for. The situation, to our mind, demands immediate relief attention or aid. So there could possibly be no reason to withhold this from us on the premise that we are ‘not ready’ – ‘cause being in an urgent dilemma is just the structure for receiving immediate help.
But the truth is that opting for the fast and easy way out is a sure-fire way of failing – EASY IS NOT ALWAYS BEST AND GOOD, as you will find out in time.
How do we stand with God in prayer?
We are precious in God’s eyes -- that is so true; every little thing which concerns us concerns Him too. But the real thing, as your Sunday teacher would tell you, is that foremost in His mind is bringing us all back home together with him someday. That we be with our one perfect God and Father in our heavenly home. Note the word ‘perfect’. And note too that we are undoubtedly -- ‘imperfect’. We stand before Him as imperfect and flawed creatures although in spirit we are in the image of God.
Foolish flawed creatures that we are (stupid at times), we always forget one significant thing when we pray --- God is love and mercy. This defines His answers to our prayers. His great love for us makes Him take into consideration our human weakness and vulnerability – such frail and imperfect beings - Tender and easy to break and such big slobs in handling or taking a downright ‘No’ or any other form of rejection. Ah! --The folly of the human ego and pride. Knowing this therefore He handles us with utmost care and loving attention and when He has to -- soft-pedals His ‘NO’ to our prayers. I can see your unbelief to that. But it’s true because it’s not the way humans do with a flat absolute outright “NO”. Behind God’s seeming “NO” is a gift of love wisdom and divine understanding. His NO isn’t meant to hurt or harm you but rather simply said, it means God as saying ‘Not yet, child’ to your unanswered prayer. “You’re not yet ready for my blessing. Let’s do some work together first.”
When are we ready for God’s blessings?
First we have to go through a process which is far from pleasant, if you ask me. Ask anyone about that and they will tell you that getting God’s approval often brings out the other camp which continually works for our sure downfall. So God’s ‘NO’ is for the greater part a nudge in the direction of our growth which ultimately will lead us to victory. He says ‘no’ when He sees that we need to develop strength of character, wisdom, or increase in spiritual power. He pushes us to change from being weak to strong, from being scared to brave, from being hopeless to a can-do attitude – a process that we should go through, no excuses. What better environment for growth than the environment of difficulty. Yeah, a gem (growth) underneath an ugly wrap (difficulty).
But I remember how Mom would stress one other truth – When these things happen to us we are called NOT to be complacent with that idea that there is indeed a process going on. Why? Because the job is NOT ENTIRELY His, nope --it requires our ACTIVE participation too. We are supposed to RESPOND for our part in active obedience, comprehension, patience, humility, trust, and faith. God wants us in attendance and participation to the work He is trying to do in our lives. He wants us to get INVOLVED in our own learning. Because it’s more meaningful that way, you know; God+us -- together through the fire. Our OBEDIENCE AND TRUST sets the ground ready for blessings to flow in.
Irrespective of how long or how short the period of learning will take us, this I do know --- it effectively opens up the avenues for receiving the benefits therein almost immediately. The blessings pour out upon us from a God who is mighty pleased by our transformation. Without a doubt, it is the aligning of our will to His will which works out that miracle. And not only do we get answers to our earnest petitions but so much more happens for our joy – we become blessed far beyond measure. And that happens not in the time frame we have set for prayers to be answered but in His time – which can be instant, in a few minutes to an hour or maybe tomorrow but who cares about time? The miracle is just waiting to happen – and fantastically we are co-creators of that miracle. God+us through the fire, remember?
When we think God says NO… truth is, it actually means “NOT YET, my child, because we have to work out some things first. The rest will be easy, TRUST ME."