One of my spiritual friends shared with me his desire to glorify God by controlling his eating habits. We had been praying that God would help him to do this. My friend shared later that week he had not been able to eat very much because he had some gastro-intestinal problems. We looked at each other and said at the same time, “Was that an answer to prayer?”
This question struck a chord with me because one of the problems we have with prayer is our expectation. More often than not, our prayers are given with the expectation that God will answer our prayer in a comfortable way. When we ask God for help with our eating habits, we expect that He would somehow make our appetite disappear – in a comfortable way. When we ask God for provision, we expect He would do it in a way where we would not have to work too hard (like a check in the mail or win the lottery).
As I read Scripture, I see that “comfort” is not one of the priorities of how God answers prayer. Verses like “Count it all joy when you encounter trials of many kinds” (James 1:2) and “God disciplines us for our good” (Hebrews 12:10) and “Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3) point to the fact that God is more concerned about our character than our comfort.
As people committed to Whole Life Worship and being transformed into holiness by God’s power, we should not be surprised when God answers prayers in an “uncomfortable” way. Neither should we be resentful. Rather we should be thankful, for God is doing something better in us through an uncomfortable response than He could if He gave us what we want in the way we wanted it.
In each of the above verses, God uses trials, hardships and discipline in our lives to produce a mature faith, fruit of righteousness, and a victor’s crown. And our suffering is only temporary. I don’t know about you, but I would rather suffer a little bit and win, than be a comfortable loser.
I want to point this out to you so that we can be aware of how God answers prayer. Many times we think that God has not answered our prayer because He did not answer it the way we wanted Him to. I believe that God answers all of our prayers; we just need to become more aware of how He answers them.
Here is an axiom that has helped me to see new ways on how God answers prayer:
“If the request is wrong, God will say NO. If the request is right but the timing is wrong, God will say SLOW. If the request is right but my character is wrong, God will say GROW. But if the request, timing and my character is right, God will say GO.”
The fact that God answers our prayers should excite us. He is so actively involved in our lives. Even when His answers to prayer seem a bit uncomfortable and, perhaps, unorthodox, we should stand in wonder of His love for us and His supreme wisdom. We can give thanks to Him in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18) because He works all things together for the good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28) as He answers our prayers in His way.