Have you ever ever prayed for something that would advance God’s kingdom, but your plan didn’t work out? This can be disconcerting, to say the least.
“This could be God saying ‘Not yet’ instead of ‘No,’” a friend says. But a delay is mysterious when we see a clear need for God’s intervention. “Why would God wait?” I’ve thought. “Doesn’t he know the timeframe I’m working with? I only get about three score and ten years to make a difference!”
These concerns come out dramatically in this true story from pastor and author Mark Batterson. This story is from his book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, and I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
The $2 Million Dollar Miracle
One day, I was praying for God’s provision when I felt a prompting to pray for a $2 million miracle. The first thing I had to do was decipher whether this prompting was just my own desire [for my non-profit] to be debt free or whether it was the Holy Spirit who dropped that promise into my heart. It’s tough to discern between natural desires and holy desires, but I was about 90 percent sure it was the Holy Spirit who put that promise in my heart. I had no idea how God would do it, but I knew I needed to circle that promise in prayer.
I got what I thought was a $2 million idea for an online company called GodiPod. com. Lora and I invested the capital to get the business off the ground, but that $2 million idea turned out to be a $15,000 personal loss. In retrospect, I think I was trying to manufacture the miracle for God.
If we repent, God always recycles our mistakes.
This is what we often try to do, isn’t it? When God doesn’t answer our prayer right away, we try to answer it for Him. Like the day Moses took matters into his own hands and killed an Egyptian taskmaster, we get ahead of God. But when we try to do God’s job for Him, it always backfires. Trying to get ahead of God cost Moses forty years. Of course, even then, God redeemed the forty years Moses spent as a fugitive tending sheep by prepping him to tend His sheep, the people of Israel. If we repent, God always recycles our mistakes.
The one upside to our failed business is that I did learn some valuable lessons about unanswered prayers that are worth far more than the $15,000 hit we took on GodiPod.com.
If God answered [our] selfish prayers, they would actually short-circuit the purposes of God in our lives.
First of all, I came to the humble conclusion that our prayers are often misguided simply because we’re not omniscient. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve drawn some prayer circles around the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and God didn’t answer those prayers the way I wanted Him to! If we were absolutely honest, we would have to admit that most of our prayers have as their main objective personal comfort rather than God’s glory. If God answered those selfish prayers, they would actually short-circuit the purposes of God in our lives. We would fail to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us or cultivate the character God is trying to shape in us.
A second lesson learned is that no doesn’t always mean no; sometimes no means not yet. We’re too quick to give up on God when He doesn’t answer our prayers when we want or how we want. Maybe your deadline doesn’t fit God’s timeline. Maybe no simply means not yet. Maybe it’s a divine delay.
I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God.
Finally, I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God’s timing. But here’s an important reminder: If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you. There comes a point after you have prayed through that you need to let go and let God. How? By resisting the temptation to manufacture your own answer to your own prayer.
It would have been easy to cash out on the $2 million promise after GodiPod.com failed, but I keep circling that promise. I still believed God was going to answer that prayer somehow, someway, sometime. I would have never guessed that the payoff would happen in a meeting about church government, but I stopped trying to manufacture my own answer and simply trusted that God would give an answer when I was ready for it. Then one afternoon, right around three o’clock, God came out of nowhere and delivered on His promise with a holy surprise…
God has surprised me so many times that I’m no longer surprised by His surprises. That doesn’t mean I love them any less. I’m in awe of the strange and mysterious ways in which God works, but I have come to expect the unexpected because God is predictably unpredictable. God always has a holy surprise up His sovereign sleeve! The only thing I can predict with absolute certainty is this: the more you pray the more holy surprises will happen…
- Mark Batterson (@markbatterson)
Watch for the rest of this story on Zondervanblog.com tomorrow! To receive more encouraging and informative blog posts by email or RSS, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.
When the Answer to Prayer Is Bigger Than Our Brain via Mark Batterson
Closed Door Stories by the Zondervan Team
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