Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
It’s not uncommon for me to hear people describe how “My/our prayers have been answered.” What they mean is that the thing they had been praying for has come to pass, and so they say, “God answered my prayer!” Now, it’s always a good thing to give glory to God. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has prayed for something, God has brought it to pass, and I completely forgot to give thanks and praise to Him who hears and answers prayer! So I don’t want to sound the least bit critical of those who say, “God answered my prayers.” It is entirely right to do so.
At the same time, however, we must remember this: God answers all prayers. There is never a time when God doesn’t hear or doesn’t respond to our prayers. Let’s spend a moment with this idea, and I pray you will find cosmic comfort in what you read.
As I’ve said here before, all our prayers are answered instantly by God with one of three responses: “Yes” . . . “No” . . . or “Wait.” Now, we all rejoice when God’s response is “Yes,” but what about the other two? You may remember the apostle Paul and his prayer about a thorn. Paul prayed—not once, but three times—that God would remove this thorn, and three times God said “No.”
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
Was Paul’s prayer answered? Of course it was! But our Lord’s answer was not what Paul was hoping for. God said “No,” because God had something much better in store for Paul, which was a sufficient amount of grace to help him mature and grow with the thorn, not without it.
Now, as for God’s reply of “Wait,” my personal experience has been that there are times when that response from God is even more difficult to deal with than “No.” I will freely confess that I struggle with impatience, and that’s probably why I struggle with “Wait.” God, in His perfect providence, is at work in our lives, conforming us to the image of His beloved Son through the truth of these words: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Because our God is so loving and gracious to us, making us wait is His way of growing our joy in hopefulness, building our patience in pain, and expanding our faithfulness in prayer.
So regardless of where this message finds you today, let these words bring you cosmic comfort, knowing that your God is at work in your life, regardless of the answer He gives you for any particular prayer. Looking back over your life, I am sure you remember some prayers you fervently wanted God to answer with a “Yes” that you are now fervently grateful that His answer was “No.” And as for those prayers that were answered with “Wait” before God finally answered “Yes”—and it may have been a long wait—can you not see how God had to make you ready to receive the answer you were looking for?
The key to living out the truth of today’s verse is to fully trust the infinite wisdom of God in answering our prayers, even when we, in our finite understanding, cannot trace His answer. Truly, God knows what is best, and He will always deliver it to us for His glory and our ultimate good.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!