Country music singer Garth Brooks wrote a popular song, “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he praised God for not giving him some of the things he had passionately prayed for in the past.
The New Testament missionary and apostle, Paul, knew about unanswered prayer. Paul struggled with a painful difficulty in his life. Three times he prayed asking God to more his affliction. God chose not to remove Paul’s problem. Instead, God answered Paul’s prayer differently—He gave Paul the grace and poise he need to handle this problem.
You can read about this experience in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Everyone Experiences Life’s Pain and Problems
Paul referred to his painful difficulty as a “thorn in the flesh” (v.7). Can you relate to that word picture? All of us have dealt with some kind of “thorn,” that is, some kind of adversity that discouraged us and brought pain into our lives.
Think about cancer, the emotional pain of a broken relationship, the death of someone you love. Your “thorn” could be a period of intense loneliness or a person who slandered you. Typical “thorns” might be a wayward child or a financial difficulty.
Every person has problems and difficulties. Don’t believe that because you have problems that God has singled you out. Even amid your pain, God still loves you like crazy.
Pray When You Encounter Life’s Pain
Paul prayed specifically that God would “remove” his thorn, his difficulty. I’ve prayed that way sometimes when I have had a troubling problem in my life. And I suspect you have, too.
You should pray about your problems because God cares about you and your problems. This means everything that concerns you also concerns God–every problem that you have is God’s problem. If you have invited Jesus to be your Savior, then you have entered into a covenant relationship with God. He desires to work in your life if you will let Him. The moment you invited Christ into your life you became a child of God, and He cares about His children.
God Answers Prayer
Evangelist Luis Palau has explained that God answers our prayers in the following ways:
“No, because I love you too much.”—In this case, God knows that what you are asking for in prayer really is not in your best interest, so He says, No.
“Yes, but you will have to wait.”— Immediate answers to prayer: You want them. I want them. But God simply does not always work that way. And to get His best, we must be patient.
“Yes, but not what you expected.”—This is the answer God gave Paul when Paul asked God to remove his difficulty. God, instead, gave Paul “sufficient grace” (see v.9). This idea of sufficient grace means God gave Paul the daily strength to continue on in spite of his problem.
“Yes, and here’s more.”—God is so loving and awesome. Occasionally He gives what you have requested AND EVEN MORE!
“Yes, I thought you would never ask.”—Prayer is not complicated although we sometimes think it is. Prayer simply is talking with God, openly and honestly, like you would talk to your best friend. The simplest prayer can bring the answer you need when you need it.
Life’s Problems Teach You About God
Verse 9 states, “Therefore I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
Sometimes we experience what Paul experienced. Our problems don’t get better, and our circumstances don’t change, and we are left to lean wholly on God and trust Him. Actually, that’s not a bad place to be because in that position of leaning on God we learn more about His love and the sufficiency of His grace. And that’s hopeful!