Prayer is a tricky thing. The concept that we have access to the God that created all things is more than we can possibly wrap our minds around. We get to call on the one that is all-powerful to intercede in our lives on our behalf. It truly is one of the mysteries of the faith. Perhaps, the part that we most struggle with is to know for what we should pray. We have the ability to ask God for whatever it is that we want, but we rarely know what it is that we truly need. Every one of us goes to prayer hoping to hear God say “Yes” to whatever it is that we are asking. Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” That’s pretty straight forward, right? With those words, it is reasonable for us to arrive at a place of expecting God to give to us whatever we desire. What about those times that he doesn’t give to us that for which we asked? What about those times when “no” is the answer? Those are the tough times. Even when we fully believe that what we are asking for is right and good, our request will sometimes be denied.
There is a reason for this. It is because we operate with a small view of our lives. We do not have the capacity to see beyond our here and now. We have a blurry idea of what God is doing, at best. However, we still think that we have the proper plan for our lives. How often is it that we pray for the status quo? We ask God to keep everything exactly as it is now? We pray that whatever it is in our lives that we don’t like will simply go away, and we can go back to our previous state of normalcy. We find a false sense of safety and security in our current situation. The thing is that God does his best work in the times of change. It is most often when things are falling apart that he is putting something even greater together. If we knew what God knows, then we would always pray to go through exactly what we are going through. God never intended for us to stay where we are but intended us to grow. Growth almost always comes through adversity. It is when faith gets difficult that faith becomes real.
I mentioned in the blog post titled Broken Dreams that I was divorced. This all started in February of 2020. I prayed earnestly and fervently for God to save my marriage. I never stopped praying that prayer until there was nothing left to be saved. Admittedly, I was confused. Marriage is a good and holy thing. I don’t believe that God ever desires for divorce to happen. However, sometimes life happens, and broken people fail. It seemed that my prayers were falling on deaf ears. Why wasn’t he stepping in and redeeming the situation? It was beyond me. However, I eventually had to accept the fact that his answer to my request was simply, “No.” I was devastated. I had to cling on to scripture in order to make it through. I have talked many times about my affinity for Romans 8:28, “And we know that God works all things to the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” I had to hope that he was going to do something “good” with what was happening because I had no other choice.
It turns out that God was up to something, as he always is. He was working things together that I couldn’t have even imagined. Mostly, he was working on me. There was a lot of junk in my life that needed to go away. My heart, mind, and soul needed a spring cleaning. I had become too cluttered with too many things. God will use the tough times in our lives to get rid of stuff that we don’t need. For me, it was a whole lot of guilt and shame. These are normal emotions that anyone who goes through a divorce, regardless of who’s at fault, feels. They had become weeds that overran my garden. Once they were removed, I had the freedom to grow again. God then took that opportunity to prune the plants in that garden: such as love, adequacy, joy, peace, faith, etc. so that they were able to produce more fruit than they ever had before. He has no intention of emptying you without then filling you up with what you truly need. On top of that, he was getting ready to introduce new things into my life that would further show his love for me. None of this would have been possible if he would have said yes to my many, many petitions to rescue my marriage.
Unfortunately, God’s work in our lives is best seen in hindsight. We are incapable of knowing all that he is up to as it is happening to us. We cannot take off our blinders of the current moment, no matter how hard we try. I write all of this as an encouragement for you as you go through hard times. You may pray with the passion of Jesus in Gethsemane and not receive the answer that you want. If that’s the case, I’m here to tell you that it will be ok. Romans 8:31 tells us that, “God is for us.” That is true in every situation, the good and the bad. It is in the hardships that we most have to trust that. We must cling to our faith in those times because it is likely the only thing that we will have left. God is going to use these times to work in the garden of your soul. As the old adage goes, “Pressure can burst pipes or make diamonds.” If you draw near to God when the pressure of adversity hits, then he will make your faith shine like a radiant diamond. Don’t stop praying, even if you’re not sure what you should ask. He may say yes, or he may say no. Understand, some of the best blessings in life are when he says, “No.” He may not always give us what we want, but he will always give us what we truly need.