Have you ever had a prayer you’ve been praying for years, answered?
You kept praying it because you knew it was right, deep down you knew that God could do this thing if He chose to. You just weren’t sure if He was going to choose to. You didn’t stop praying because you felt that it was a good thing you were asking, you felt that it was a God honoring request. But at the same time maybe you’d resigned yourself to not having it answered for a long time … maybe you thought it wouldn’t be answered at all. Or maybe you thought that “wait” was the answer so that God could remove that desire from your heart.
Then, suddenly, out of the blue, when you least expect it, it happens, the thing you’ve fought for, you’ve tried to achieve in your own strength, you’ve tried with God’s strength, you’ve tried to pretend it doesn’t matter… You’ve tried everything – and in that moment you realize that you’d tried and you’d given up.
When this unexpectedly answered prayer appears – you still aren’t sure about it. Well, maybe you are, but if you’re me… you’re suspicious. Maybe suspicious should read distrustful.
My mother (yes Mum, you get a mention) summarized it best when she said, “You’re Rhoda, praying that Peter will be released from prison – who doesn’t open the door to let him in.”
Peter is miraculously released from prison, he goes to the place where the prayer meeting for his release is being held. He knocks on the door, Rhoda hears and recognizes his voice and so runs off to tell the others instead of opening the door. The prayer has been answered but she wasn’t expecting it. Incidentally, neither were the others at the prayer meeting, they don’t believe her.
I think, for me, this might be one of those times when I’ve been praying because I expected God to change me more than I expected Him to change the problem.
I’ve been aware the last few mornings of praying for a specific thing. I’ve been asking God to examine my heart and change it … I’m aware I get cranky when I shouldn’t, I get selfish when I shouldn’t, I get angry more than I should, I get defensive, I get envious, I get irritated, I am often frustrated by things, people and self. I guess I was expecting Him to point out some of those things to me. I was not expecting what happened. I was not expecting Him to highlight an area of failing through receiving, what appears to be, good news. I was not expecting to be challenged on the fact that I seem to have been surprised that God answered a prayer we (and many of our friends) have been praying for years now. I was not expecting for Him to challenge my pessimism or my “realist” mindset (that’s what I call it). I was expecting less … instead I received more.
And that my friends is the gospel in a nutshell. We have not been treated as we deserved, we have not been judged according to our deeds. We have been shown grace, mercy and favour. We have been blessed abundantly. We have been “surprised by joy”, as CS Lewis put it. I’ve always known in my head that He is able to give us abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think. I just don’t think I’ve believed it, in my heart.
And yes, stoics out there, I realise as I write this the situation could be reversed instantly and we’ll be back where we started. But for now – it seems our blended situation has the potential to change for the better. We may actually be able to have significant quality time together – all of us.
It seems that God’s timing is good, His way is best, and when you ask Him to work on your heart, He does it in surprising ways.