When the kids were growing up, we prayed with them all the time, at bedtime, before meals, when something great happened, when something bad happened, when they needed help, when we heard ambulance sirens. I feel pretty good about that. Looking back, I think we did a pretty good job of teaching them to pray.
However, I’m not sure we did the best job of teaching them what and how to pray, as their prayers sometimes resembled well crafted ‘Dear Santa’ letters than submissive petitions to a holy God who deserves more from us than we deserve from Him. Now, there’s nothing wrong with asking things of God. When we do, we demonstrate faith in His ability to provide. It’s just that we didn’t encourage a lot of “God, Your will be done” in their prayers.
Maybe we underestimated their ability to see the bigger picture. Maybe we were afraid they would love God less if they understood they weren’t His first priority, or maybe we didn’t really understand how to pray ourselves. I’m not sure. Whatever the case, I want to set one thing straight.
My dearest children,
God loves you, but He does not serve you.
Yes, God created you with careful attention (Psalm 139). Yes, He sustains you (Acts 17:28). Yes, He provides good things for your enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). However, it’s important that you understand God does everything—EVERYTHING—from providing for your eternal salvation (John 3:16) to wooing you to repentance (Rom. 2:4) to adopting you as His child and making you coheirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), first and foremost, to prove Who He is and garner the praise and worship due His glory, or divine perfection (Eph. 1:11-12).
This is only right. He’s God, after all!
Yes, God works all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28). However, your greatest good, as an heir to God’s eternal Kingdom as a result of your faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, is brought about only when your Heavenly Father is glorified, or lifted up, and His Kingdom advances (Heb. 12:28-29).
This will cost you from time to time, just as it cost Jesus, and when it does, the Enemy will whisper, “God doesn’t hear you. God doesn’t love you. God has betrayed you.” Don’t let him get in your head. God has not betrayed you. First of all, He doesn’t owe you anything. Second, He isn’t capable of going back on His promises (Heb. 6:18, Num. 23:19). If ever you expected more than you got, then you expected more than God actually promised you.
God’s saying no in answer to your prayers is not cause for discouragement or distrust, but indication that you’ve not yet discerned and/or prayed according to His will in a matter, as He always answers such prayers with a “yes” (1 John 5:14-15). It means you have work to do, not He.
Sure, we wish things worked differently sometimes, but the very fact that infinite, almighty God allows weak, limited us to participate in His master plan at all is reason enough to praise Him, thank Him for His grace and bow our will to His in prayer and practice. When His plan includes our happiness and comfort? Well, that’s reason to cut loose in a holy happy dance, King David style! Rejoice when this happens, certainly, but don’t despair when it doesn’t.
God can always be trusted to do what serves His glory and, therefore, benefits you in the long-run, even if it’s painful in the moment.
So seek God’s heart, my dear ones. Serve Him over self with love and gratitude. Submit your will to His like Jesus did, in humility and faith. Over time, you’ll understand your Heavenly Father better, grasp the depth of His love for you and appreciate the riches of His mercy and grace. The peace and joy that result will far surpass any satisfaction you might have gained from a single granted wish, no matter how essential His expected “yes” may have seemed.