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Monday, September 27, 2010

Answered Results

Are you the sort of person who prayers, literally expecting God to do something about your prayer requests? I am. Now sometimes that's turned out to be food for some laughter.

I remember, for example, having a pair of high-heeled platform shoes when I was in high school. They were all the rage for teen boys back then. Anyway, mine got a tear in them right before a big dance. They were pretty new, but I was sure my parents wouldn't take me to the store to return them. They had told me what a foolish thing they were to buy in the first place!

So I prayed over these shoes before I went to school that morning and sat them on the bookshelf (where God could fix them). When I returned from school that afternoon, I was shocked to find that the shoes were not fixed. God had actually not done what I'd asked Him to! The very notion that this could happen was well beyond anything I had ever considered!

Looking back, I see that having literal expectations of God can lead us into some disappointing situations. This is especially true when we aren't praying according to our Father's heart. When we ask in His name, we must also ask in His heart. God will never give us the desires of our hearts ... unless they've been transformed and conform to His heart. (Wish I'd known that a few decades ago!)

I don't know about you, but I tend to do some journaling. The most transformational period in my life was probably also a period of intense pain. As I faced that pain, I journaled. Recently I ran across one of my journals. I had written down the prayers requests I had of God. The date was 30 July 2003. Let's see what I was praying for, and I'll give you an update on each prayer request.

1. I asked God to get my eating under control. I was obese, and knew my own gluttony was the problem. (I gained even more weight and finally, in a 12 step recovery program, decided to have surgery to fight the obesity. Today I'm not morbidly obese. My eating is no longer compulsively out of control.)

2. I asked God to make my company into a viable business with operating profits. (It went bankrupt the following year.)

3. I asked God to sufficiently capitalize another company that I served on the board of, and enable it to implement a credible business plan. (It's Christian owner became one of the most un-Christian men I know, and the business folded earlier this year.)

4. I asked God to make my marriage rich and sweet like a flower, and for my wife to truly become my best friend. (We just celebrated our 26th year of marriage and it's better than it has ever been.)

5. I asked God for my children to function in their roles, growing as God wills it. (We've adopted 8 more children, and most of our 11 kids are functioning within a reasonable tolerance of what's expected of them.)

6. I asked God for a foundation I'd started to find community support and funding to take on worthwhile endeavors to glorify Christ. (Just last week I mailed the papers to the Secretary of State to dissolve the foundation entirely.)

7. I asked God to encourage our friends and loved ones through us. (Today, we have a few more loved ones and a whole lot more friends. Most would say they experience God's love through us.)

8. I asked God for my church and its leaders to have supernatural strength and vigor to pursue and prevail in God's calling. (Most of us have left that church on bad terms now - but are planted in several new churches that are prevailing.)

9. I asked God for our government and its leaders to have patience, spiritual purity and divine wisdom in the matters of their calling. (Today our government is in a shambles and it's leaders are making decisions that nobody supports.)

10. I asked God to grow my love for Him, as He would reveal to me the areas where I must focus and lead me through the changes He wants to make in me. (Today I'm more confident in my love relationship with God than ever before. In fact, I can't believe where He's brought me. I'm an entirely different man!)

Now if you're reading my comments in italics after each prayer request, you might wonder what my conclusion is about the results of those prayers. Quite candidly, I looked over this list and immediately nodded my head, thanking God for His faithfulness in answering all of my prayers.

But as I read the specific requests and see what's happened in the last seven years, it occurs to me that the answers rarely looked like I thought they would. In fact, not a single one of the ten prayer requests has been answered in a way that I expected. In fact, if you'd told me when I prayed these things how God would answer my requests, I would have been dissatisfied. Isn't it ironic that I'm not?

God has been faithful. He has been gracious beyond measure. He has been my provider in all things. And there is a peace that envelops me as I read these seven-year old prayer requests. I see that God not only gave me His answers, but He re-aligned my questions too. He is that good.

I wonder how many of us are aware of the fact that our prayers are only human. But the ears that hear them are divine. How many of us realize that God works to change our wants and needs and then supplies them abundantly. You know, I'm grateful that I wrote these prayers down and stumbled upon them seven years later. It helps me see that my contentedness is perhaps the greatest measure of my faith. He makes me content. He satisfies my every need and my every desire.

It happens that I don't always get what I want the way I want it or when I want it. And yet I am content. Why is that? Because through all the prayer, I finally learn that Jesus is enough.

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