Prayer is a glorious gift we have been given by God. It is the heartbeat of the Christian life. It is communing with the most pleasant company anyone could ever have. In prayer we grow closer to God by receiving more of God. Our hearts, and therefore our lives, are further conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. Our resolve to stand strong amid hard days, trials, or suffering is increased. But prayer can be frustrating. Why? Have you ever been praying about something for a long time and been confused as to why God doesn’t give us what we’re asking Him for? I have.
Confusion with how and why God answers some prayers over others isn’t a rare experience, I think it’s normal Christian experience. This becomes further distressing to the soul when we know we’re praying for something good, something that God tells us to pray for in His Word. Why then doesn’t God give those things to us? If we ask, won’t we receive? If we seek, won’t we find? If we knock, won’t He open the doors? Not always.
In Tim Keller’s book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God he makes a statement I’ve never read before in any book on prayer and it concerns this very thing. On page 102 he says, “Gifts from God that are not acknowledged as such are deadly to the soul, because they thicken the illusion of self-sufficiency that leads to overconfidence and sets us up for failure.” You see why God doesn’t give us all we ask for? Keller later gives the reason: because our hearts are “discordantly arranged and fatally unwise.” In His wisdom God doesn’t give us what we ask for because he knows some of the things we ask for aren’t good for us. He knows if He was to give those things to us that our hearts would interpret those things as the fruit of our own effort and our pride will be increased. These things will ruin us and bring nothing but self-congratulatory ego-ism into our souls.
He is wise. He knows some of the things we ask for are the things we don’t need to ask for and some of the things we don’t ask for are the very things we need to be asking for the most. John Calvin gives us hope in prayer by recognizing this very thing, “God so tempers the outcome of events according to His incomprehensible plan that the prayers of the saints, which are a mixture of faith and error, are not nullified.”
Knowing that your heart is mixed with faith and error shouldn’t stop you from praying. It should motivate you in prayer, because you already know that YOU WILL ask for the wrong things in prayer. Cry, ask, appeal, seek, and knock for many things, many times – God will answer you. When the answer isn’t what you want it to be, wield the weapon of prayer and ask God to give you rest in His wise will.