'Does God always answer prayer, Doctor?' asked the medical student. 'Yes, definitely yes. But that doesn't mean I always receive what I asked for.' We talked for a long time. This is a digest of the conversation. In the family prayer Jesus taught us to pray, he used the words 'Your will be done' (Matthew 6:10). If our request isn't God's will, the answer will be 'No.' Personally I've asked for very many things and received this answer. Jesus once said to Peter, 'You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand' (John 13:7). This is exactly true. I have now the advantage of hindsight and can, years later, see the strategy of the 'no' which was the better way. The results proved it. Prayer is like a traffic signal. Sometimes it says GO, sometimes STOP and sometimes the amber light, WAIT. The Bible puts some spotlights on this situation.
- If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18).
- If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable (Proverbs 28, verse 9).
- But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will note hear (Isaiah 59:2).
- And if ... any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God-who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty-and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God's help or not (James 1:5 Phillips).
- You don't get what you want because you don't ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn't give it to you for you ask in quite the wrong spirit-you only want to satisfy your own desires (James 4:3 Phillips).
'Mmm,' said the medical student, 'I shall pray more in the time ahead of me, and I shall think more before I speak.'
Excerpted from Get Moving: Motivation for Living