Many times we face difficulties and seek God’s face for deliverance. At times, our prayers are for God to perform a work in a person so that their actions will bring about a change to the circumstances in our lives. Such an example is found in the life of Abraham’s servant as he seeks a wife for Isaac. He prays that she will make a particular offer to his request?
And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. (Genesis 24:12-14, 18-19)
Does this sound like something you have prayed for in the past? If so, you may have ended up disappointed like I have? Oh, there were times when my prayer was answered specifically, but more so than not, the request made never came to pass? What is so troubling about this is that it worked for Abraham’s servant and even in the past for me? But why not every time?
It is from situations like these that the faith of God’s people begins to weaken? When our prayers go unanswered, we push through the doubt and hold on to faith only to see our hopes dashed again as we pray for God to work in the will of others. When our prayers again yield no results, our faith becomes even weaker. If prayers like this continue, it only will be a matter of time before our hearts become greatly wounded from God’s apparent lack of intervention. We soon will become indifferent, eventually frustrated and even angry with God. Why did he fail us? Why didn’t he answer our prayers and work in the hearts of others and make them do what we requested? He did in the past: why not now?
Imagine a family broken by drunkenness. The remnant of the family prays for the wayward family member. Their prayer is that the drunken father would visit his children on their birthday. The day comes and goes and no visit. A holiday approaches and the family members again pray for the father to visit, but instead he wallows in his drunkenness. Disappointment looms in the hearts of those praying. How many times do prayers such as these need to go unanswered before unbelief, anger and bitterness begin to fill their hearts? Again the question is asked, “He answered prayers like this in the past, why not now?
The truth is, he never really did answer such type prayers in the past. Let’s take another look at the servant’s prayer and see it from a different perspective. When he asked for the bride he should choose to provide him drink and also offer to water his camels, could his prayer request have been the result of God leading him to choose his words according to what God already knew would happen and from that interaction indicate who would be the future wife of Isaac? God knew the character of Rebekah and that her servant heart would offer to meet the needs of those with whom she interacted. God also knew that he wanted Isaac to marry Rebekah? So in order to indicate to Abraham’s servant the woman to choose, God, by his spirit, led him to pray according to his foreknowledge. In short, when he prayed as God wanted him to pray, his prayers were answered.
It continues to work like that today. Consider these two familiar passages of scripture on prayer. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7). And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (1 John 5:14). What each of these verses have in common is that the person asking or praying is in harmony with God. When we are abiding, God is working his will through us and when we ask according to his will, we are guaranteed to receive what we ask.
So instead of praying for what we want, we should yield ourselves to God and ask him to guide us to pray as he wants. We may find ourselves praying in ways and for things beyond what we would have imagined. Consider again the broken family and their desire for a united family. God may lead them to pray for people with truth to come into the wayward’s life so that their heart may become softened. They may begin praying for grace and strength to deal with their hurt instead of the hurt being removed. God may lead them to pray for others who are experiencing similar hurt and for their consolation. Each of the latter prayers can be answered without God superseding man’s free will.
We must recognize that prayer is not a tool for us to use to gain our will or desire, but a manner by which we are to gain from God what we need to live our lives for him. Before you pray, ask God to guide you to pray according to his will. You will experience more answered prayers and gain exactly what you need to endure the trials that you will face.