Thoughts on prayer requests…

We are told in scripture “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”

Some of my biggest prayer requests continue to go unanswered.  The lack of answers tests my faith on so many levels.  At this moment, I can think of at least five significant unanswered prayers.  Some of them are prayers that I’ve been seeking response to for years.

Sometimes I wonder: ‘How can I tell people to put their hope & trust in Christ when such major areas of my own life remain ignored?’ Now, I know and believe that prayer is primarily about communion with God.  However, it is not just about that.  God tells us to lift up our requests to him.  Yet still, silence ensues more often than I would like.  I want a Christ that touches not just the next life, but THIS life too!  My faith is often rattled by what seems to be an impersonal God.

I recently read “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis.  This book is unique in that it wasn’t originally intended to be published.  It contains the journals of Lewis as he grieves the death of his wife. In it, one will encounter one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century in his rawest moments, as he struggles to find meaning in the faith he so often proclaimed.  As he begins to regain meaning he reflects on some of the darkest moments of his grief:

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs.  Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear…

…On the other hand, ‘knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?  And there’s also ‘To him that hath shall be given.’  After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give.  Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.” –pg. 46

So maybe this is my case.  Maybe I am blinded or deafened by my own cries.  A few paragraphs earlier, Lewis writes, “You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.”

Maybe God can’t give us, what in our hearts, we don’t have the capacity to receive.  I imagine that what we truly need is God alone.  Maybe God cannot answer our prayers when we want a response more than we want Him.  When we want something more than we want God, that something looses its proper context in our lives and becomes an idol.  Idols enslave us…or maybe it’s better to say that we enslave ourselves to idols.

God is a God of salvation, of freedom from slavery.  Therefore, in order for us to receive an answer or a gift from Him, and not become enslaved to it, our lives must first be centered on God.  Only in Him can everyone and everything find its proper relationship and context.

Only in You, can we properly receive from You.

Incline our hearts to want one thing: You and You alone.

Yet, let us not be fooled into thinking this is a formula for getting prayer request answered!  That entirely misses the point.  Sometimes, the answer our hearts must be in the position to receive is a resounding ‘no.’ Even Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” As most know, Jesus’ request was answered, but with a ‘no.’ He still went to the cross.  We see from Jesus’ prayer, that he had the heart, the capacity, to receive the answer: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Thankfully, God had humankind’s best interest in mind when He answered Christ.  We must trust that this is always the case, even in the midst of utter silence.

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

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