Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. (2 Corinthians 12:8)
Most of us are immediately familiar with the words, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV). So it’s likely that you are not familiar with the title of today’s message of encouragement. Did you know that there is such a thing as ineffectual fervent prayer that availeth little? The apostle Paul prayed such a prayer. Let’s take a look.
In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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 12:7-9)
I’m sure we all agree that when Paul prayed it was fervent prayer. Yet in this case, his prayers did not avail the results he was praying for. Why? Because God had sent this “thorn” to Paul for a powerful purpose: to advance Paul’s humility and keep him from getting a big head because of all the good he was doing for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
But God’s “No” to Paul’s prayer had an even deeper purpose. Not only was God growing Paul’s humility, He was also growing Paul’s understanding of the sufficiency of His grace. God ordained Paul’s thorn for His glory and for Paul’s good; through this experience, Paul would grow ever more dependent upon God’s grace, which is something all of us need to do.
Have you been praying fervently for God to do something in your life that He has not yet done for you? Perhaps, like Paul, God is wanting to grow your reliance on His grace because His power is made perfect in your weakness. We saw in today’s passage that no amount of prayer would remove Paul’s thorn, regardless of how fervently and frequently he prayed.
Here is something to remember when we pray: Regardless of our petitions, let us end with the words of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Yet not my will but thy will be done.” When we pray with that desire in our heart, we can be fully assured that our fervent prayer will availeth much, regardless of what God’s answer is.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!