As I consider the things happening around me with a telephoto lens, so often my prayers are smaller than they might be if I were to widen the lens to see more. I think our prayers can be that way as well. I pray for what I wish and desire so many times and hope the Lord will agree that I have sought wisely and answer as I have asked, but in doing so have not always sought His direction for my prayers.
I don’t think He condemns me, as Paul writes “we see through a glass darkly” (some versions say “dimly”) and He knows my frame well. Certainly it is true as Isaiah says that His thoughts are not mine and His ways are higher than mine. He sees everything and I do not. Even so, I am reminded to seek His direction about how to pray many times in situations that I cannot begin to unravel.
Sometimes I have discovered later that it was good He did not answer a prayer I had prayed because He had a “better” for me than I had asked.
I love what Mark Batterson says in his book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day:
“Many of our prayers are misguided. We pray for comfort instead of character. We pray for an easy way out instead of the strength to make it through. We pray for no pain, when the result would be no gain. We pray that God will keep us out of pits and away from lions. But if God answered our prayer, it would rob us of the greatest opportunities. Many of our prayers would short-circuit God’s plans and purposes for our lives if He answered them. Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances.”
I confess that doesn’t appeal to me on many levels and I certainly do not pray to find myself in hard places. What I see whenever I pick up my Bible is the truth of how difficult circumstances shaped the character of those we most revere in Hebrews 11.
It was the tough situations fraught with danger and uncertainty that made the timid into the tenacious, the fearful into the courageous, and the uncertain into the sure.
Difficult seasons and times come to us all, but where do you or I place trust and how do I or you face fear?
As believers we should not be surprised that trials will come and with them, suffering. The writers of the New Testament make clear we will face such things. Their writings speak of suffering beyond illness and poverty common in their time and more about standing firm in faith and belief when those things will result in persecution.
When I read those things, I am sobered. I want to think and believe I would stand, but I cannot forget that Peter was sure that he would do so and when crunch time came in the courtyard he failed even as Jesus had told him that he would.
We talk often about that failing of Peter’s, but talk less often about how Jesus used it to a greater good. Peter came to know his own heart and weakness better and Jesus offered him grace and then used his boldness to build His church. The boldness was different than at the start for Peter. Now it was not based on His self-confidence, but rather his God-confidence and love.
I see that so clearly in 1 Peter when he writes to believers who were dispersed in the midst of difficult times. His character shines brightly as he exhorts believers to stand, as he seeks to encourage their hearts in the midst of suffering, and as he gives wise counsel on how to walk during such times. His words show he cares, tends, and feeds the sheep and lambs even as the Lord asked of him after He met him on the shore after He arose.
So how do I respond when difficulties come? When prayers go unanswered or answered differently than I pray?
Do I yield to Satan’s tactics of discouragement and fear or do I face what has come because of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be?
My prayer is found in 1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”