For the last few months, my wife and I have spent considerable time praying, asking others to pray, and waiting to see how God would answer or redirect our prayers.
There was more waiting in this process than we anticipated. Our eyes were glazed over with a sense of helplessness at various points. Our hearts went from anticipating to breaking then to mending. This process continued several times.
We prayed very specific prayers. We waited. We prayed. We waited. We asked others to pray. More people waited to see how God would work.
And He did! God answered our prayers in unexpected and magnificent ways. This led me to reflect on a question:
What happens when God answers our prayer? Or, what is our response to answered prayer?
As I reflect back on my life, there are some key moments where God answered a prayer. I think about friendships in college. I am reminded of opportunities where I have studied and served. Each morning I wake up beside an answer to prayer. What then? What do we do after God answers our prayer? The answer, I am learning, is:
“God answers prayers to increase His creation’s delight in Him in order to tell of Him.”
Each answer to prayer is a source of profound joy for the recipients. Yet, this internal delight ought to increase our faith in God. We can trust Him! He is good! He is faithful! Simply, He sees, knows, and cares! (Read Matthew 6 if you need a reminder of this)
Our delight in God is meant to not only deepen our trust but permeate our conversations. We look for ways to bring up God’s gracious intervention through answered prayer because it brings God glory and stimulates the faith of others around us.
Yet, our persona and corporate prayer recount the ways we need God to show up and forget how He has shown up in the past. We often know what we are praying for but forget what we have prayed for.
I want to suggest that we rethink the way we practice personal and communal prayer. Rather than focusing solely on the future (prayer requests), we ought to focus on God’s past acts of faithfulness (answered prayer).
I think there are three results when we focus on God’s past acts of faithfulness:
- God is glorified.
- The community is encouraged.
- Our faith is strengthened.
We can approach the future with a greater confidence because we remember that God is involved in our lives. He is listening to our prayers. He is actively at work behind-the-scenes to fulfill His purpose and increase His creature’s delight.
So, what happens when God answers prayer? I want to encourage and challenge you to review journals and reflect upon the past to remind yourself of how God has answered your prayers. Keep these near the surface of your conversation as an opportunity to share with others. When you share, it leads to the glory of God, the encouragement of others, and a renewed anticipation for God’s merciful intervention in the future.
“One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness. They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness…All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power. To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts…The Lord is near to all who call upon Him….He will also hear their cry and will save them…My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name.” — Selected Verses from Psalm 145