Answered Prayer vs. Expectations

Answered Prayer

It’s really difficult to pray without having expectations. Lots of expectations. I should know—we recently came through months of prayer for healing for my husband’s cancer.

Those expectations create a disconnect when God’s answer does not match our prayer.

Even when the answered prayer partially grants our request, we’re often still not satisfied. It’s human nature to focus, not on what we have, but on what we want.

From the first days of hubby’s diagnosis, I threw myself into prayer. Looking for answers. Pleading for healing. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst.

However, in those early days, my perspective underwent a significant change. My request morphed into seeking God’s heart instead of His hand. As His child, I knew nothing happens to us by chance. He is always at work for the ultimate good of His children and for His eternal glory.

But there’s a significant difference between knowing something intellectually and living it out. It’s much easier to quote biblical truth when it’s someone else’s problem.

So I prayed, not just for healing, but for God to use this experience in our life and marriage to help transform us into all the Lord intended for us to be. A light in a dark world. More like Christ. Less self-centered. More of an encouragement to others. Less self-pity.

No, it was not easy. Let me rephrase that. It is not easy. For this is an ongoing process, not a done deal.

We received our answer this week. And the answer was what we prayed for: cancer-free. As I shared the good news, hundreds of people rejoiced with us. God is so good!

Still, even if we did not receive the gift of healing from this cancer, God would still be good. He would still be at work, accomplishing His purposes for our good and His glory. And I’m glad we both reached that point before the answer came. Because spiritual growth is not about receiving from God’s hand. It’s about maintaining intimacy with our heavenly Father when His hand is hidden. When we seek His face and His heart instead.

Contentment is not easy. Even the apostle Paul had to learn it, as we read:

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV).

And the prophet Habakkuk showed us what contentment looks like when he wrote:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

We can release our expectations and be content in whatever the Lord allows because, as a wise person once said:

“We don’t know the future, but we belong to the One who is already there!

What troubling circumstance are you facing today?
What are you praying for—even pleading for?
If God reserves His hand, but reveals His heart, will that be enough?

Lady in Waiting

Wait. It’s a four-letter word in more ways than one.

I hate waiting.

  • Waiting in lines at the post office.
  • Waiting for a green light at intersections.
  • Waiting for answers to prayer.

That last one is the worst. Waiting for answers to prayer. Especially when I know the prayer request is something that lines up with what the Bible teaches.WaitIf it’s God’s will for someone to know Him, then why doesn’t He answer my prayer for that person’s salvation? Or if I’m praying for Christians to step forward to serve in ministry so others will have an opportunity to learn God’s Word, why doesn’t He immediately grant that request?

Perhaps it goes back to what Oswald Chambers once said:

“If God sees that my spiritual life will be furthered by giving the things for which I ask, then He will give them, but that is not the end of prayer. The end of prayer is that I come to know God Himself.”

The wait for answers is not just about the answers. Instead, it may be more about aligning my heart with God’s heart. My desires with His desires.

The longer I pray about something, if I’m asking with the right spirit, I begin to understand things in a different way.

The salvation of that loved one? I see God working behind the scenes to soften hearts in a way that may touch more than one life. He is also working on me so I won’t see that person’s salvation as another notch on my Christian gun belt.

The need for ministry workers? I see God using the wait to teach me to depend on Him alone. He is also using the time to teach those waiting that the opportunity to study His Word is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

Being a lady in waiting isn’t easy for me. I wonder if it ever will be. But as I wait, my perspective changes. I begin to see beyond my own desires to what God is accomplishing in me and in those around me for His glory.

How well do you wait?

Is This as Good as It Gets?

A friend recently posted on Facebook:

“Not the happiest of days in my life.
God must have bigger plans for me.”

I’ve had days like that.

  • When I didn’t get the job.
  • When a relationship broke.
  • When the medication wasn’t effective.

 At the end of days like these, I’ve comforted myself with the assurance that God has something better for me.

But what if He doesn’t?

  • What if there isn’t a better job waiting for me?
  • What if the relationship will never be repaired?
  • What if the illness is terminal?

 What if today is as good as this life will ever get?

I’m not talking about eternity. Christians have the assurance that eternal life will be way better than what we have now. But what about now?

I’ve often comforted myself with assurances such as God has something better for me, or God will restore that relationship or God will heal me. Still, God may choose not to do these things. Some Christians never receive the jobs they want, the restored relationships they seek, or the healing they’re praying for.

God has something better
Maybe the problem lies in how we define better.

I admit it. I usually define better in terms of more money, physical healing, happy relationships, and anything else that makes life easier, pain-free, and pleasant.

But God defines better as being more like Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18).

“And we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.
For those God foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Being more like Christ includes being humble, having a servant’s heart, and focusing on the eternal over the temporal. Problem is, those characteristics are almost always the result of problems…lots of problems.

When my definition of better doesn’t line up with God’s definition, I will be forever disappointed. Life will continually fall short of what I imagine it should be.

But when I define better as God defines it, then I see the value in trials, the good in disappointment, and the blessing in not getting what I thought I wanted. I’m not always there – some days it’s easier than others for me to line up my perspective with God’s perspective.

Of course, I never stop reminding myself that everything that happens in this life is preparing me for eternity, when life really will be as good as it gets.