Over the last few weeks, as you have seen from my recent posts, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the nature of God and how faith works to bring to reality those things we desire. In all that time, I have been very much focused on the joy of seeing a prayer answered, even if it takes a while. This evening, during a conversation with a friend who was disappointed because something he hoped for hadn't materialised, I started to reflect on those times in my own life when I felt I didn't get the answer to my prayer. I thought about times that I expressed a strong desire to God that didn't manifest, whether for me or for others. There was a time in my life I believed God didn't answer my prayers because I didn't pray enough or didn't have enough faith but that would be too easy. If that became the basis for unanswered prayers, there would be way more prayers left unanswered.
As we talked further, I thought about the story of Hagar (Genesis 16, 21:8 - 21) and the way God dealt with her both times she left Abraham's house. The first time Hagar left her master's house, it was out of frustration after being mistreated by Sarah for being pregnant with Abraham' son. When Hagar got to the desert, she encountered an angel who told her to return to her master's house and submit; there was a blessing allocated to her descendants but it wasn't yet time for her to get that blessing. Hagar was obedient and did as the angel told her. The second time Hagar left her master's house, it was because her master had told her to leave their home; Sarah had her own son and didn't want Hagar around. Hagar did as she was told and left. After spending some time wandering in the desert without food/water, Hagar cried because she could not bear to watch her son die. The angel reappeared to Hagar and reminded her to of the blessing God had promised. Shortly afterwards, her eyes opened and she found a well of water for her and Ishmael.
The point of this very short story is that even though it looked as though God hadn't answered Hagar's prayer the way she would have wanted or when she wanted, her obedience and faith in God allowed her to enjoy the blessings she was promised. There are times God allocates certain blessings for an appointed time and unless we are discerning and obedient to the voice of God, we get frustrated and assume God hasn't answered our prayer, which is so not the case! God always answers prayers in His time! Having said that, there are other considerations to make regarding how God answers prayers. When we submit to the will of God, we should get to a point where we pray His will for our lives. The frustration comes when we don't know what that will is and so we cry out to God for things that aren't even part of God's plan for our lives. We sometimes do that even when God gives us those promises and shows us His will; this is simply rebellion and disobedience.
Sarah did this when God promised her a son. After reaching a 'logical' conclusion that she could not bear children at her age, she decided to take matters into her own hands. I know we can all relate to that. We get impatient and so decide to help God. In doing so, she created a situation that caused more frustration for her; even after God answered her prayer for a son and fulfiled His promise to her and Abraham. God being the merciful God He is, made sure both parties were sorted and both sons received a blessing but how different would that story have been IF Sarah had been still and allowed God to do His work?
Going back to where we started, I'd like to encourage you to take a few moments to think about those prayers you feel God did not answer but ended up being resolved. What journey did God take you through? Did you trust Him all throughout? Did you try to exercise your own will and make things happen for yourself? If so, were there any consequences? And how did God straighten out the mistake(s) you made? Did you pray the right prayers? My prayer for you is that as you reflect, you will see that God answers ALL prayers - even the ones we don't pray. I pray that He will show you His ways and He will strengthen your faith to trust Him even when things don't seem to be going the way you expect. His plans for us are plans of good, not of evil, to bring us to an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). There are no surprises (to God) where we're headed. If you're unsure what your prayers should be, simply pray the will of God for your life and He will lead the way (Romans 8:26)!