Sarah Li, Flickr
Sarah Li, Flickr

God, it seems, is not in the business of giving answers.

He is in the business of giving himself.

Greg Paul, Simply Open

I’ve written a few articles about prayer and I have to confess that I have never thought about prayer like this.

To be honest, at first I didn’t like it. Of course, God is in the answer-giving business. That is what He does. We pray to God, we ask for things, we make our petitions known to Him, and then He responds. That is what Philippians 4.6 says, right?

When I first read this line from Greg Paul’s new book, I was reminded of the Sunday School saying about answers to prayers.

God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is “Yes”. Sometimes the answer is “No”. And sometimes the answer is “Wait for it.”

What I was taught flies right in the face of Greg Paul’s statement. On the contrary, I thought, God is obviously in the answer-giving business. What else would He do with our prayers?

I put Simply Open down for a few minutes and let that line turn over and over in my mind. How could this minister think that God doesn’t give answers to prayer? That seems ludicrous. I went back to my book and kept reading. As I had assumed, Greg Paul didn’t think that God withheld answers to prayers. He gave biblical and personal accounts of when God did give Israel answers, sometimes it was yes, other times it was no, and again sometimes it was wait.

But I was still left with this peculiar phrase that Greg had written.

He is in the business of giving himself.

It was then the phrase stopped turning over in my head, and started to move in my heart.

My heart took me back to times in the hospital, when I would go and see a sick member of my church. I would see him laying in the hospital bed, weak and sick. There would be some idle chit chat. Then we would talk about what was wrong or what was going on in his body. And when all that was done, I would make my way out the door, but not without praying first.

It wasn’t a one time thing. I visited many people in that hospital, on multiple occasions. Each time it ended with prayer, and never did I ask for an answer.

I didn’t ask for God to reveal what disease it was to us. I didn’t ask God to show me or the patient what we could do to make themselves better. I did ask God to reveal those things to the doctor, but that wasn’t what I wanted for the member of my church. I prayed for peace. I prayed for comfort. I prayed for the presence of God to overwhelm them and assure them that they were not abandoned.

My heart reminded me of the time that my grandma was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t pray for answers to why the cancer was there, or how it got there, or how I could remove it. I knew full well that these kinds of prayers and those kinds of answers wouldn’t help me. Most importantly, they wouldn’t have helped my grandma.

Instead I prayed for patience for her as she waited for doctors and test results. I prayed for comfort for family and friends, as we knew this could be the end for grandma. I prayed for God to be here.

Not an answer.

I was completely taken aback. I was praying for God to give himself in my situations, at the hospital with my church member, with my grandma and her cancer diagnosis. I was asking the Prince of Peace to give of himself, so that the chaos of the situation wouldn’t overwhelm them. I was asking the Comforter to do as His name suggested, and be a security blanket that these weary souls could find rest in. I was asking for God to give of himself in those circumstances, I just didn’t know it.

I mentioned this quote to a friend of mine, and he was reminded of what Jesus said.

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Luke 11.11-13 NIV

My friend pointed out that while a good or wicked father would know how to give good stuff or a correct answer, God does something very different. He gives himself.

This is not just an idea that Greg Paul had, or a reality that I had experienced, this idea of God answering our prayers by giving Himself was something that Jesus knew and preached.

Jesus was totally aware that sometimes it is not an answer that we need, sometimes it isn’t stuff that we are lacking, but sometimes the best way to answer our prayers is by giving Himself to us.

I have to admit that my heart and mind were reeling after all this sunk in. I mean, what a reality changer. What a prayer changer, that God would give himself. Then I was hit with a tidal wave of guilt and shame.

How many times have I been angry at God because He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted? How often have I gone to God for a Yes, No, or Wait answer and then been disappointed when I got none of the above? How many times have I mentally bad mouthed God, calling Him a cosmic wimp, saying that He was unable or unwilling to answer my prayer?

More often than I care to admit.

I think that God always answers our prayers. Sometimes, the answer is “Yes”. Other times, His answer is “No”. Other times still, God answers with “Wait for it”.

But I would be a fool if I continued to operate and pray under that understanding. God may not answer your prayers the way that you think, because we may be missing out on some critical information. God always answers prayers. More often than not, I believe that God’s answer is this.

“Here I am.”

“Here is a piece of Me. Here is my peace. Here is my comforting Spirit. Here is my overwhelming love that you do not understand. Here I am holding you tight, holding you close. Here I am keeping you, through the chaos and calamity that causes you to call out to Me.”

“Here I am.”

I think that as Christians we need to take a step back and rethink how we understand God’s answers to prayer. He may not answer the way that you want, but that doesn’t mean that He has not answered. You, like me, may have not been aware that there was more than three ways for God to respond.  And honestly, I think God giving us Himself is the best answer we could receive.

God, it seems, is not in the business of giving answers.

He is in the business of giving himself.

I have had time to think about this, to dwell on it in my heart and my mind. Now it is time to tell me what you think about Greg Paul’s quotation.

What do you think?

Why do you agree with him?

What makes you think he is wrong?

Tell me your story about God giving Himself to you as an answer to prayer.

Let me know in the comment section.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Answer To Prayer You Didn’t Know God Gave You

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