Answered Prayers in Unexpected Ways

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the water, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

A lot, if not most of us have sung or heard these lyrics before. I know I have sung my heart out to those words many times in the past few years. I can think of dozens of other songs that offer similar pleas: “pull me a little closer, take me a little deeper, I wanna know your heart”, “jesus is better, make my heart believe”. In the singing of those songs, we are offering up prayer and worship through music. We are asking of God to do these things in our lives.

Similarly, when we pray, “God, I want to know you more”, “God, let me love you deeper”, “God help me see that you are all that I need”, we are asking God to move in our hearts and lives.

Often, we pray for something and expect it to show up just the way we imagined it and in a relatively quick manner. We ask God for a friend day after day and wait expectantly to see a tangible provision: a friend.

We then ask God for things that are less “tangible” like, asking him to set us on fire for his Kingdom. Then we dream up this scenario of ourselves deeply studying scripture every day without fail, understanding it, loving every minute of it, and becoming this super Proverbs 31 woman who always has a smile on her face and changes the world. It’s all roses and excitement. That’s the way we imagine our prayer being answered. (…or is that just me?)

But often, the way our prayers get answered look very different from the way we imagined, and a lot of times we are praying prayers that we don’t really mean.

When I asked God to take my trust where there were no borders, he walked me through a season where my circumstances were completely out of my control and I had no option but to truly trust God. When I asked him to show me that he is all I need, he led me through a season of relational disappointments that led me straight back to the Father and showed me that only he is sufficient. When I asked God to let me know him more, he walked me through a season of loneliness where I had no one to turn to but the Lord and his Word.

Even when I didn’t realize it, God was answering my prayers. Even when I was so focused on the fire and flame, God was walking me through and drawing me nearer.

But isn’t it easy to pray the prayers and sing the songs and then when trial comes we look at God and go, “C’mon. Why?” Do we really want to know Christ above all else? Do we really want the things we are praying for and singing about? Because if so, we would be willing to endure whatever it takes to be closer to Jesus and look more like him.

It’s easy to look back to a season I have now left, and see the way the Lord had heard and answered my plea. But as I’m in the midst of a storm, it can be harder to find joy in the trial and rest in God’s sovereignty… but I’m learning. I’m learning to see the hand of God in the midst and not just after. I’m learning that the seasons of trial in my life have without a doubt been the most growing and defining moments in my faith. I’m learning to ask God to draw me nearer “no matter what it takes”.

I’m learning that the treasure isn’t reaching the other side of a trial, or looking shinier and more refined, although those are good things. But the treasure is Christ and he was walking right next to me the whole time. My treasure is with me day in and day out, through the drought and storm, through the hills and valleys, the good and bad… he is here. There is nothing greater worth giving my life to.

Although it’s terrifying to pray these things, when I know that Jesus is my treasure and not a happy and comfortable life, I’m willing. May we say this with confidence:

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8

Jesus, thank you for hearing our prayers and answering. Let us truly mean them. Do what it takes to let us see that you are all-sufficient. Do what it takes to let us know you and love you more intimately. Take us deeper than our feet could ever wander, that our faith will be made stronger in the presence of our Savior. We love you. Amen.

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