I saw a post on Facebook the other day asking if I believed that God answered prayers. If so, I was to share the post (I do but I didn’t). No one should have to ask if God answers prayers because God always answers prayers. The reason there is any doubt at all is because sometimes the answer is no, or not yet, or not in the way you expect it. We can usually deal with the “no” and most of the time, the “not yet” but if the answer doesn’t come in the way we expect, we tend to believe that God didn’t hear our prayer. Let me give you an example that may clear this up a bit.
When my brother-in-law, John, was around six, he was always getting into trouble for leaving the refrigerator door open. This was back in the 1950s when refrigerator doors didn’t shut themselves and air conditioning in a home was a rarity. John loved to play outside, and the west Texas heat didn’t deter him even a little. However, he did need constant watering which led to frequent trips inside the house to get water out of the jar in the refrigerator which meant opening the door frequently and his parents didn’t like that. So, taking a three-foot piece of aquarium tubing, he stuck one end into the bottom of the water jar, taped the tubing to the inside wall of the refrigerator, then ran it around the edge of the refrigerator and taped the other end to the outside wall of the refrigerator and closed the door. Now he could suck on the outside piece of tubing and get water from inside the refrigerator without having to open the door. It was clever, and it worked. For several days, he played, drank, and didn’t get into trouble. One Saturday though, his father (a practical joker of the first order) watched as John ran in, gulped water through the tubing, and ran back out. As soon as John was outside, his father opened the refrigerator and took the tubing out of the water jar and put it into the orange juice carton and closed the door. It wasn’t long before a thirsty little John came running back in for a quick drink. He took a big gulp and spewed orange juice all over the kitchen, sputtering and gagging. His father found this incredibly funny (and it was, sort of), but John was fit to be tied. It wasn’t that he didn’t like orange juice, or that it wasn’t good for him, but he expected water and got something else. It was not getting what he expected that caused him to think he had been poisoned.
Most of us are like John and the orange juice when it comes to prayer. We pray for what will give us the same kind of relief that John got from his drink of water. But God doesn’t work like that. The orange juice was a gift from God and a good thing, but it wasn’t what was expected. We so often pray for relief but expect water when God sends us orange juice. God is not playing practical jokes on us, but rather is the Good Father who knows what we need more than we do. Most of us truly believe that God answers all our prayers (which is true), but most (if not all) of us are not ready to receive the good things God sends because they don’t fit our expectations.
How many of you can honestly say that God has not always provided what you needed? Oh, maybe not in the form you expected, but as you look back, you see that you did indeed get what you needed. Sometimes the things that look like the worst possible things that could happen to us are in reality the best possible things that could happen. Hindsight shows us God at work that we couldn’t see at the time. When we are earnest in our prayers, God is earnest in reply. Our prayers are like that piece of tubing. They connect us directly to God. If we trust, we take the big gulp –- it may not be the water we expect, but it will always be what we need.