Many people who are not familiar with having a personal relationship with God do not understand the fundamentals of prayer. Praying has more to do with listening to God and knowing him than pleading with him to fix what is broken. He already knows everything about the situation and is more concerned about us sincerely loving and trusting him. Without a desire to listen to what God is saying, our prayers are nothing more than an emotional wish list.
Rarely do we consider that God established prayer as a sincere avenue of communication that enables us to draw closer to him. This amazing opportunity has everything to do with discerning God's voice and understanding that we are interceding according to his desires. Within the process of petitioning God, we must confess that his perfect plans are much more important than our desires. Since most of the time we are only thinking about what we want, we seldom realize that he has carefully designed everyone's destiny in accordance with the big picture of accomplishing his will — not ours.
When Jesus died and rose from the dead, our heavenly Father did not just hand over all authority and control to our vain imaginations. Everything that God desires to do in this life has already been sanctioned and ordained through his Spirit so that he might receive all the glory for the inspiration and the result.
There have been times in my life when I have earnestly prayed for a certain situation and felt confident in my heart that I would receive it. I recall a couple of employment positions I applied for. Throughout the application and interview stages, I was "humbly" convinced that I was the obvious person for the job. When it did not happen, I was stung with disappointment — which, by the way, if not dealt with, can lead to serious resentment issues. I was aggravated with the Lord and blamed the evils of politics like it was his fault for not stepping in and making a way for me.
What I had not considered was that maybe he did not want me to apply for the position in the first place. Since he can see into the future, he knew this job would be bad for me, but I was just not listening.
This is an illustration of how unanswered prayers can actually be God's mercy protecting us from failure. God loves us and wants the best for us, and it's difficult to imagine just how complex his plans really are. At best, we can only see through a crack in the fence and are very limited in our understanding. This is also the perfect reason why it's necessary to live by faith. If we could see the unknown, we would not need to trust God.
Wondering if we are being led by our emotions or following God's still small voice can apply to everything from relationships to financial decisions to even our eating habits. A crucial pillar of the Christian life is the ability to comprehend his voice, which also leads to the opportunity for him to influence our decisions.
However, to be honest, it seems that many times we are not all that excited about this process. The times when it's obvious I have missed his instructions causes me to seriously wonder about my lack of perception or willingness to yield my will. Was I that headstrong and so filled with pride that I could not hear him warning me? Well, sadly I must admit, yes.
I know that like sheep we humans are vulnerable to being led astray, and when we are distracted with our emotional ideas, God allows us to make these painful mistakes, hopefully so that we can learn valuable lessons about obedience.
God is sovereign, and this means he can do whatever he desires. He has the ultimate authority over all things, but has also installed a critical component within the human conscience called "free will" that allows us to make our own decisions.
Can we prevent God's will from happening? That is a great question, but for now we can agree that he opens and closes doors, and at other times he stands back and allows us to make a mess of things. Nonetheless, we can rejoice in knowing that Jesus loves us more than anything and is waiting for us to listen and follow his voice.
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