Jesus promised that our Heavenly Father would respond and do whatever we ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:13, 15:16, and 16:23). As a type-A, I usually don’t hesitate to tell Him (and any of you who will listen, poor you) my ideas of how things should be: “God, please do this—and now would be a good time.”
The older I get, though, the more I recognize that I don’t necessarily want my type-A prayers answered the way I pray them. I am glad for the times God doesn’t do what I think should happen and when. What mercy! What I really want is His answers—His mind, His foresight, His provision and molding—not the shortsighted whims I ask Him for.
Jesus didn’t promise to do what we think best. He said He would move when we asked “in His name.” In His name means in accordance with His plan and design. It means in His timing. It means what would bring the most honor to Him, and us into His presence. These kind of prayers imply that we take the time to ask Him what He wants to happen, that we move our will to submit to His authority over our lives and the people in them.
I tend to pray for what makes sense. What brings comfort or immediate relief. What seems like a great opportunity. And I always want it right away. If we have a shy child, we pray they’ll have more confidence. If we have an outgoing child, we ask for more focus. If we have a focused child, we pray they won’t be so hard on themselves. If we got what we prayed for immediately, where would reliance upon God be—and the search for meaning deeper than surface circumstances? We would pray away every chance to grow—and, likely, never be satisfied with what we got.
He’s opening my eyes to His indescribable ability to give us what we want and need the most, the core seed of why we are asking for what we are asking for, rather than the quick, seemingly painless answers that I default to asking for.
For example, when I was looking for a college so many years ago, I asked God to provide so that I could go to a Christian college. I wanted to grow in my faith and have likeminded friends. A Christian college is how I judged that could best happen, so that’s what I asked for. God heard my prayer, He saw my longing, and He answered more completely than I even knew to ask—at a state school. At Murray State on a full ride, He caused my faith to grow, gave me amazing friends and the best roommate, and provided a husband who would challenge me in my faith and be my best friend lifelong. I didn’t even think to ask for that—and none of these exact people would have been available at another campus. My Heavenly Father saw the seed of my prayer—my need for Christian companionship—and He hand-placed me where that would happen, better and more long-term than I had asked.
Again and again in my adult life, when it appears at first glance that God is saying no, so often He has proved that He heard what I was asking for deep inside. He knew why I was asking for that thing/experience I was asking for. He may not have answered by giving the thing/experience, but He gave what satisfied my heart, what led to closeness to Him.
Is it possible that our Heavenly Father can think of solutions that are better than ours? More life changing? More long lasting? Is it probable that He knows us better than we know ourselves? That He has insight into our deepest needs both this moment and years into the future? His ways are superior to ours.
Could it be that the things we beg God for could actually lead us into harm? We get so upset that He refuses to give us the very thing that might lead us astray from Him. We get so upset that He keeps us in a difficult spot that might be spiritually better for us than any other circumstance. The things we ask for, unfiltered through the Holy Spirit, may get us into more trouble than we feel like we are in right now.
As I pray for my children, I am asking God to lead about colleges and friends, opportunities and ACT scores. I will never stop talking to God about my babies. Even as I ask, though, I feel His Spirit cause me to pause when I am tempted to prescribe which opportunities, schools, friends, scores. I don’t want to tell God how their lives should happen—or how mine should. God’s answers are so much better than anything I know to ask for! Yet He tells us to ask, without ceasing. He also invites us to be specific and delights to affirm His love by answering requests about tiny details.
So how do we as bossy, busy Type As do that in a way that honors God’s authority and allows Him room to do His work? I am learning to say, “God, bring to our attention and open the opportunities that would develop this child as You desire.” “God, if it is Your will, bring total healing now or in the near future, but if You don’t, cause better things to happen spiritually in this individual’s life than if they were perfectly physically well.” And the hardest prayer of all: “God, not my will, but Yours be done.” I am learning to pray for the core need, not my scripted resolution.
Feel like you don’t know how to pray or what to ask? I think when it comes to prayer, here is the key: pray. Then pray again. Reverently. Willing to hear back from Him. You can’t really go wrong with frequency! God loves to hear our thoughts—even if they don’t always start out in the right place. Then don’t forget to thank Him.
So what have you been praying for lately? Is there a seed in your prayer that God is working out, but you haven’t considered that He is indeed answering? See His beautiful hand at work.
Pumpkin Cake Balls
First, make a cake with this great recipe. (You can also put this batter in bread or muffin tins, but to make cake balls, use a 9 X 13 pan.)
2 ½ c. flour
2 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
1 16-oz. Can pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 ½ c. vegetable oil
3 tsp. Vanilla
1 lemon pudding (3 oz. Instant)
1 butterscotch pudding (3 oz. Instant) (or 2 french vanilla if you can’t find lemon and butterscotch)
Mix all the ingredients together in large mixing bowl with beaters until very smooth. Put into sprayed pans or muffin tins. Bake almost an hour at 350.
When the cake is cool, crumble it in a large bowl. Stir in about 2/3 of a container of whipped cream cheese icing, until the cake mixtures sticks together. Using a cookie scoop, make cake balls. Place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze them for an hour.
Meanwhile, soak lollipop sticks cut in half in green food-coloring water, then let them dry. When you are ready to dip the cake balls, melt 1/2 orange dipping candies (found in the cake decorating aisle) and 1/2 almond bark in the microwave. Zap for 30 seconds, then stir, until the mixture is melted. Press a lollipop stick into each cake ball, then dip it into the orange colored coating, then let them harden on a parchment lined cookie sheet.