I got an answer to prayer yesterday. It came out of the blue. It was unexpected . It was generous. It was encouraging. It made me cry.
Thinking about it now makes me wonder (1) if I really expect answers to prayer and (2) do I realise answers when they come, do I return thanks for them?
This particular answer came after a time of extended prayer a couple of months ago. The type of prayer which you carry about with you for a while, which weighs on you. It is not that I felt that I had come to a particular break through in prayer, just that I had to leave the matter with God. I had almost forgotten about it when unexpectedly an answer came.
So do I expect answers? When I pray am I expecting God to answer me? Otherwise why pray? So often, I confess, my prayers may seem like a vain hope. Hoping something will happen, hoping something will change, hoping the thing I want to happen will happen. But surely prayer is not just some vain, vague hope, but based on the solid fact that the God of the universe has chosen to set His love upon us and to work for our good and for His glory. This is what I am to base my prayers on, not my feelings, not my hopes, but on the steadfastness and faithfulness and love of God alone.
And then there are other times when you are praying for yourself and/or others in their everyday lives, that God would provide, that God would enable and He does. Faithfully, He does. But do I acknowledge those answers, do I even see them as answers? So often I take these things for granted. God enabled me, God strengthened me to get through a particularly trying day, I prayed for that, I did get through the day, but I don’t acknowledge that and return my thanks. Shame on me! Surely I am missing out on the full blessing when I don’t acknowledge before God that He did answer, that He did supply my need and that I am grateful? Coming with thankfulness is like completing the circle of prayer – coming before God, acknowledging my need, praying for His intervention, receiving the answer and (closing the circle) – thanksgiving.