There’s a popular saying that when God doesn’t answer your prayer, it actually means one of three things:
- Yes, but it’s still on its way
I’ve had this saying in my mind for years now and every time I pray and I don’t receive an answer, I reflect on it again. Except for one prayer. I’ve prayed for the gift of tongues ever since I was a kid. To me, it was the only way I could tell I had been baptized by the Holy Spirit. While there are many variants to this theory and even some extremes don’t believe in the Holy Spirit baptism, that’s not my focus for today. Today, we talk about how I’ve prayed one prayer all my life.
Okay, truthfully I stopped, it was an on and off thing. I’m not the kind of person to persist. I don’t like to disturb or inconvenience anyone or anything. I feel the same way about God. In my head, he has approx. 7 billion people to attend to. Most of them have what I perceive as ‘ more important needs’ so I prefer not to disturb him with my pettiness. Now, I’ve also been taught that God won’t give you something He knows you don’t need.
After praying for a while, I gave up. My conclusion was I didn’t need it so God didn’t want to give it to me. You may wonder why I wanted this so badly. Why? Because I struggle with prayer. First of all, I have a wandering mind that has trouble keeping still. Once I shut my mouth, my head takes center stage. In my opinion, if I could just speak in tongues, I would be able to pray longer. Well, it didn’t happen.
Fast forward a few years later, I was in college. A different one from the one I attend now. I met a group of girls that rekindled my desire again. I prayed and fasted and attended every program possible. Rather than me getting what I wanted, people around me were getting what I wanted. There were days I cried myself to sleep, there were days I didn’t want to attend church or any church related gathering. I was so fixated on what I wanted to get from God that I failed to acknowledge Him.
You see, I was like that girlfriend that loves you for your money. I was selfish and I didn’t realize that. My intentions were good but my motivation was wrong. At the time I didn’t realize it. I strayed further away from God because I thought he didn’t want me. Whenever I thought of God, all that came to mind was “God doesn’t answer my prayer”. It was so painful. I mean it was just one prayer request.
My little human mind missed everything else God was doing. As I narrated the story to my friend, she smiled at me and said: “Do you want to know what God was doing?” I said sure! Here’s what she demonstrated. She picked up a shirt and pointed it towards me. She told me to try to take it. As I stretched my hand to collect it, she moved a step backward and i had to move step forward. After a few steps, I stopped moving and paused to look at her. Then she said Look behind you. I looked and I was no longer where I used to be and it hit me.
God saw my heart for Him and knew that it was good. But he also knew that if He gave me what I wanted, I would have left or at least misused it. My heart was not in the right place. I still needed a lot of work so he used it to make me grow. If I had stuck around long enough, I would have grown to the point where I’d reason differently. Instead, I gave up.
Many of us are like me, we leave before we get the reward we’ve asked for. We grumble and we fail to see the big picture. So, no, you may not get that thing you’ve had sleepless nights over, praying again and again. However, God is taking you on a journey, one that’ll leave you changed forever. If you trust Him enough to take the little steps, you’ll see the bigger picture at the end of the road.