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"The Problem with Answered Prayers"

True or False:

When God answers your prayer, it will be exactly like how you expected.

False, you say? I agree.

True, you may argue? Well, let's take a look.

If you asked me this question five years ago, a fourteen-year-old girl fresh out of an encounter with Christ, I would've told you that that statement was true. I would've quoted 1 John 5:15 and John 15:7 and tell you that that was what those verses meant—that God would come through on your timing, on your cue, in the way you always thought He would.

Then, I walked with Him for five more years.

And, it was in that walk that I quickly learned that not only is God good, but He's a great listener too. In fact, He's so good at listening that when you pray to Him:

He gives you exactly what you asked for.

That's right! Any time God says, "Yes!" He means it in every way possible...

...which, now—at this point—you're probably wondering:

If you say that God does not answer our prayers in the way we expected Him to, how does He give us exactly what we've asked for?

Bingo! That's a good question.

Because when I say that God gives you exactly what you asked for, I mean that you don't really know what you're asking for.

Let me explain:

We, as humans, have this horrible habit of thinking we are smarter than God. We think we know what we want, and in some cases, we think we know what we need. But, it's only after God gives us the "Yes!" to a prayer we thought we wanted so badly is when we start to wonder:

Is THIS what I prayed for!?

I'm talking about the business that you prayed God would give you, and He did. Hip, hip, hooray! But, now you're so overwhelmed with your work that you can't find time for anything else.

Or, what about the apartment you practically begged God for you to have? Congratulations on your move! Now, it's time to pay the rent.

How about your dream school finally sending you that acceptance letter you stayed up every night praying for? And, the fact that you got in? YIPPEE! Now, get ready to spend your weekends studying.

That promotion you told God you wanted and now you're starting to move into your new office? That's incredible!

Now, it's time to handle more responsibilities.

Do you see what I mean?

When we pray for something, we have to understand that we're praying for it all. We're praying for the relationship, but we're also praying for the unfriendly word exchanges in a few surprise arguments. We're praying that God would give us the job, but we're also praying for God to give us the difficult people to work with.

I'll say it again:

When we pray, we don't really know what we're praying for. If God does say yes, we have no idea what's coming in the package.

And this, my friends, is the problem with answered prayers.

We don't really know what we're getting ourselves into.

On the other hand, God does! May I remind you: we're not smarter than Him. He knows that when we were praying for the promotion, we were really praying for a raise, not the extra responsibilities. Or when we prayed that He would give us our own apartment, He knows we really just wanted our own space, not exactly having to pay rent every month. But, when He says "Yes!" He's saying "Yes!" to it all—to the raise and the responsibilities, the apartment and the bills!

And, it's in those moments where you truly begin to realize exactly what you prayed for. When it starts to get hard, when the rent is due, when the workload is overwhelming, when the job becomes more demanding, you feel guilty about not even wanting it anymore. Because, after all, you're the one who prayed for it. Praying for the relationship was your idea. And, now that you've realized all that was required of you, you're thinking, "Was this really something I begged God for?"

This is why we oughta be thankful for when God says, "No!"

Because while His "No!" would suggest He's not going to answer our prayer in the way we expected Him to, His "No!" could also mean He's saving us from something we didn't even realize we were praying for.

Kind of like when God led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery.

They prayed for deliverance, and God said, "Yes!" But, He didn't do it in the way they thought He would. They could've taken the shorter way out, but God instead split the Red Sea so they could walk through it.

And, while the Israelites could've (and did!) complain (see Exodus 14:11-12) about God's strange and incomprehensible choice to bring them to a Red Sea, little did they know that God saved them from a temptation to sabotage their deliverance, turning themselves right back around into slavery.

Read it for yourself!

Exodus 13:17-18 says, "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.' So God led the people around the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle."

A perfect example to explain why God's way is better.

He knew that if He delivered the Israelites in the way they wanted Him to, which we could imagine would be the "shorter" way, they might ask themselves in the face of war, "When we prayed that God would deliver us out of slavery, were we also praying for this!?" and back out too early before even seeing what God could do.

God had something better in mind. While He wanted to deliver them out of slavery, (of course He did!), He didn't want to do it their way, because He knew that if He did, they would be tempted to quit before seeing the miracle.

And, just as another testimony of God's goodness, so it is with us.

Like, come on. You really think God is ignoring your prayer for you to get married? Of course He wants that for you! He's not saying "No!" to the idea of you getting married. He's just saying, "No!" to the idiot you're dating now!

He's not saying, "No!" to you getting a promotion. He's saying "No!" to you becoming a workaholic that, little do you know, your new responsibilities would turn you into!

He knows that if He gave you the person you thought you wanted to marry, you'd be heartbroken and in tears six months down the road.

He knows that if you got accepted into your dream school, you'd be in debt before the semester is even over!

No wonder why He makes us wait before He lets us call the business ours. No wonder why He makes us wait a while to get married.

He knows that if we had it our way, our answered prayer would become our biggest problem. He knows that if He said, "Yes!" we'd be just as mad if He said "No!"

This is why we look a little stupid shaking our fists at God when He doesn't answer our prayer in the way we thought He would. God's "No!" is just as good as His "Yes!" and we oughta be thankful for both.

We oughta be thankful for what He gives us, and just as thankful for what He doesn't. We oughta be glad for when He says, "Yes!" and just as glad when He says, "No!"

He knows what we can handle. We may think our way is shorter, but God knows our way will tempt us to quit before we ever see the Red Sea split.

So, be thankful for what you have, what you don't have, and what you'll never have. Because in all of these things, God is looking out for you. He's faithful in knowing all that you could handle, and He's faithful in all of the things that you can't.

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