Be Careful What You … Revisited.

PrayerAn update to an earlier post.

By chance I came across the saying ‘Be careful what you wish for’. It is not a new saying and has been around for a long time. I had heard it before but on this occasion it made me pause and think about it a little bit differently. As a Christian it made me wonder if we perhaps need to:

  • Be careful what you pray for.

In the original post, at this point I had said “I think we do, because I think that God always answers prayers.” I am no longer so sure that is correct. That does not imply that I think he ignores any prayer. I think he listens to every one but chooses not to answer some, which is not the same as ignoring them.

Most of the time, I think he answers in ways we do not expect, or see but is that His fault that we don’t get his answers? Almost certainly not. Probably many times when we don’t see or perceive his answer to a prayer, it is because we do not want to or we are scared it might mean us doing something outside of our comfort zone. It is not that we do not want Him to answer, or that we think he has not but it is because we might not like the answer he gives to us.

When we pray for something that God does not do for us or give to us, he may do something else instead. He gives us the opportunity and the ability to do it for ourselves. Maybe we already have the ability, in this case if we are just too lazy, as sometimes happens, to use it, why should He reply? Or if we pray for something selfish or frivolous, again why should He reply?

He may show us how to achieve something we have prayed for, but that does not mean he will do it for us. It is like a teacher in school showing a child, let’s say, maths. The teacher will show the child how to find the answer to the sum or equation, so he can do another one on his own. He will not just give the answer, which teaches the child nothing. God will almost certainly give us the answer to our prayer but does it in a way that teaches us something and serves His great purpose not ours.

We might look at it like a parent teaching a child to ride a bicycle. At first he just watches, while the child wobbles a bit but can’t fall off because the bike has stabiliser wheels; I had them as a child. Later the stabilisers are removed, and the parent holds the back of the saddle running beside the cycling child, With time the parent’s grip is loosened and eventually let go. Sooner or later will come the inevitable fall off the bike, causing bumps bruises and grazes. Painful and sore but not serious.

Sometimes God will let go of us. It’s not that he doesn’t care, or that he is ignoring us. Like the parent trusting their child and letting go sometimes what seems to be unanswered prayer might be God letting go, trusting us knowing there will be a fall but that is a lesson we, like the child, must learn too.

Sometimes we just do not see His answer because we are looking for it in the wrong place, or because we are not really looking at all or it might be that we do not really care that much about what we prayed about: there are a few lines in the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty that makes this point well:

God (Morgan Freeman) has just given Bruce (Jim Carrey) a rosary of prayer beads:

Bruce:-         What do you want me to do?
 God:-           I want you to pray, son. Go ahead. Use them.
 Bruce:-        Lord, feed the hungry. And … bring peace to all of mankind. How’s that?
 God:-          Great. If you want to be Miss America. Now, come on. What do you really care about?
 Bruce:-        Grace.
 God:-           You want her back?
 Bruce:-        No. I want her to be happy. No matter what that means. I want her to find someone to treat her with all the love that she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who’ll see her always as I do now through your eyes.

 God:-             Now that’s a prayer.

Bruce finally understood that the answer to his prayer was within his own ability to achieve, but it meant taking a completely unselfish action himself.

Of course some people do not pray at all.

Maybe because they think their prayers will never be answered.
Maybe because they know the answer will require them to do something themselves.
Maybe they do not pray because they think that there is no God.

Or

Maybe they do not pray because …

they are afraid that there is.

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