Problems with Prayer? “Expect Challenges”
II Cor. 12:7-10, I Cor. 1:26-31, James 1: 2-3
On Christmas day 2012 Charles Schulz Peanuts Classic comic strip published in the Houston Chronicle depicted Linus upset about something and talking earnestly with Charlie Brown. Linus explained how he had gotten the bike and train set he’d asked for. He got the ball glove he’d put on his list. He had more toys than he could desire. He turned and looked and Charlie Brown and said: “If I get everything I want, how will I ever develop any character.”
Most of us are not at the place where Linus was on Christmas day. We know we’re developing character. We’d like to develop a little less character. However, Paul noted that not everything he asked for was always granted him, even though we would agree that Paul was right in the center of God’s will for his life. Indeed, he lamented that an unnamed “thorn in the flesh” never left him, and was a constant hindrance to him (II Cor. 12: 7-10). Fortunately, the thorn in the flesh did not prevent him from accomplishing what God wanted him to do.
What does the presence of an unrelenting “thorn in the flesh” mean for us in our prayer life? First of all, it does not mean that we are outside the will of God. James 1:2-3 tells us that trials we experience are part of a process that matures us. Don’t believe those who tell you that your seeming weaknesses are a sign of lack of faith. God chooses the weak things of threw world to confound the wise. I Cor. 1:26-31 tells us that God chose the foolish and weak things of the world to produce His results. Why? So that God can be glorified and we’ll know that He gets the glory, and not us. Consequently, when God asks us to go outside of ourselves, and beyond our comfort zone, He does it to grow our faith and teach us to trust in Him. When we see results, then we won’t be able to give anyone credit other than the God who provided. (I Cor. 1:29-31).
God answered prayers of many patriarchs in the Old Testament, and when He did, often they established a monument to remember the event. Abraham established one that he called “God Provides” in Gen. 22:14 when God provided a sacrifice instead of his only son. Joshua established a monument for the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4:1-24). The purpose of the monument was so everyone would remember that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so everyone will remember to fear the Lord. (Joshua 4:24). We too can establish our own version of a monument to remember own answers - to increase our faith and remind us of God’s provision. Remember the old “pet rocks” created by some clever person back in the 70’s to make money. Get one and put it in your pocket. Identify it with the answers to prayer you recall. Mark them in time and use them to increase your endurance of the tough times, and become more mature in the faith.