Something Better than Answered Prayer

Posted on August 5, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

I doubt if there is anyone who has not struggled with the issue of unanswered prayer. We know all the promises about God hearing and answering our petitions, how He honors the prayer of faith in Jesus name and so forth. But often, in spite of our prayers, a sick child is not healed, financial setbacks are not reversed, a strained marriage relationship is not restored and clear guidance through an uncertain future is not provided.

Where is God in all this? Why doesn’t He hear and respond? Are we not praying in accord with God’s will? Is it because we don’t have a strong enough faith to believe? Paul gives an interesting insight into prayer in Philippians 4:6-7. Verse six admonishes us, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

This refers to a prayer of relinquishment. Don’t worry or fret; just turn it over to God! Whatever your needs, your requests, your concerns, bring them to God in supplication and prayer, but also with thanksgiving. That means even as you make the requests you are thanking Him for whatever He chooses to do with them. That is praying with faith and confidence.

But the interesting thing about this passage is the lack of any assurance of an answer to our prayers. What is the result of praying instead of worrying, or relinquishing our needs to God? “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). It defies understanding how one can have peace in the midst of tragedy, adversity and critical personal needs, but God takes away our anxiety, gives us inexplicable peace and guards our heart from doubt, bitterness and fear when we turn it all over to Him.

There is something better than getting answers to our prayers. It is–through prayer–entering into a relationship with God that gives us peace of mind, opens the door to experience His abundant, all-sufficient grace and receiving strength to endure. Paul discovered this in response to a thorn in the flesh, identified as a messenger of Satan.

Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove this affliction and heal him, which God chose not to do. Instead, God explained, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul concluded is was preferable to be weak and needy in order to experience the power and grace of God than to receive healing and an answer to His prayer.

I once received a letter from Elizabeth Hale, a former missionary to China and Malaysia who is now deceased, written to colleagues on the field. She said, “Some of you are going through great hardship and trials, and therefore have the privilege of knowing our precious Lord in a deeper and more meaningful way.” What a testimony out of a lifetime of loneliness and hardship.

Knowing God in all His fullness, experiencing His grace and being strengthened with His power is much better than our desired outcome being realized. The answer to a petition may not be evident, but we can have the blessing of peace of mind regardless.

One Comment on “Something Better than Answered Prayer”

  1. Jo Beth

    Thanks for these insights & reminders, Jerry. As we wait…for what only God knows is best…it’s crucial to remember these truths! We continue to appreciate your ministry to our hearts–every day.

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