By: Jon Meerdink
When I was in high school, we read a story in Lit class about an elderly couple that encountered a magic device from a faraway land that promised to grant them three wishes. They didn’t know, however, that their wishes would be granted in grisly ways. For example, right off the bat, they wished for money and received it, but only as a death settlement from their son’s employer after he was horribly mangled in a work accident. Hooray for classic literature, right?
This story came to mind this week after an experience I had with prayer. Being a young college graduate, I have a sizeable amount of student loans and in the interest of paying them off quickly, I recently began to pray that God would show me a way I could make more money. It turns out God had a plan in mind, because within a week of praying that prayer, literally all of my coworkers quit, leaving me to carry the full weight of our department by myself. But with them gone, my employer apparently had no choice but to offer me virtually unlimited overtime, giving me a generous amount of extra money, albeit in a far different form than I anticipated.
If you look through the Bible, God had a lot of creative responses to requests. Abraham wanted a son and God gave him dozens of years of waiting and marital trouble before Isaac came along. Jacob wanted to have his father’s blessing and God sent him on the run for decades until he amassed a fortune in unwanted livestock. Peter even asked Jesus how he was supposed to come up with money to pay his taxes and all Jesus said was to go fishing.
I think this is the wonderful danger of honest prayer. When we open ourselves to the will of God, we invite him to do whatever he wishes with our lives. It turns out that if you ask God for something, he may end up giving you exactly what you want, but he’ll give it to you his way, not yours. While I may have preferred a giant check from the sky, God said “Nope, it’s gonna be work for you.” Did I get what I ask for? Absolutely, but it was by God’s design, not mine.
I am convinced that God loves to bless us through answering our prayers, and there are times that he undoubtedly will fulfill our requests exactly how we want them. But more often than not, he’ll put a certain special flair on his answer, as though he’s reminding us who is giving the gift. Even in giving, God is teaching us that he, above all else, is sovereign. We may make the request, but he’s the one whose will is done.