Is it possible to miss God’s answers to prayer?
I often fail to recognize the relationship between God’s providence and answers to prayer. As a result, I miss opportunities to give God glory for His work. I also miss opportunities to encourage others by sharing answers to prayer. And I miss opportunities for spiritual growth that comes from reflecting on God’s goodness.
The first step in recognizing God’s providence is to learn who God is and how He works.
God reveals Himself in His Word. He is also revealed in His Son, Jesus. “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Through faith we access the relationship He offers in grace.
But what happens when we’re growing in our relationship with God, come to Him in faith, ask with confidence, and still don’t see answered prayer? This can be especially true in our writing life.
Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. Or perhaps we’ve predetermined what the answer should be, and we’re not considering other options. But what if God said “yes” and we didn’t recognize it?
How can we sharpen our skills to recognize God’s providence in answered prayer in our writing life?
- Ask the Father for the discernment to recognize His hand at work in your writing. Ask boldly, but rightly. It’s important to ask, and to ask specifically, but James also reminds us to ask with the right motives (James 4:3). So when we ask for success in publishing, are we asking because we want to be recognized as successful or because we want God’s will for our writing above all else?
- Be willing to wait. In Disappointment With God, Philip Yancy describes this waiting as “learning to trust that, out beyond the perimeter of fog, God still reigns and has not abandoned us, no matter how it appears.” Someone once said, “God’s timing is not my timing, but God is never late.” A delay in a publishing contract may mean there’s a better time for your book to receive a wider audience.
- Act until corrected. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers notes, “When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you are God’s will. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong, He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint.”
- Expect the unexpected! Let go of a predetermined mindset as to how God will respond to your needs. You may have asked God for a book contract, but instead He sends you a magazine article contract. Your book might sell to 1,000 readers, but the article might be in a magazine with a circulation of 50,000!
- Slow down long enough to notice what God is doing. Take time to notice your world—and the people God has placed in your world. Do you have an opportunity to attend a conference? To be mentored by another writer? Or maybe you’re the one He’s calling to mentor someone else.
- Receive His answer with gratitude. Look for and receive the answer when it comes. Be grateful for whenever, wherever, and however God chooses to act in your life.
As we sharpen our awareness of God’s providential work, we reap endless benefits. An attitude of gratitude will permeate our approach to life. We’ll have a vertical focus —eager to give God glory for His work in our lives and in our writing. The result will also strengthen our prayer life as we recognize answers to specific prayer. Our witness will be expanded as we shed light in a dark world.
George Mueller, the noted 19th-century preacher and evangelist, said he knew of 50,000 specific answers to prayer, often seeing answered prayer in providential circumstances. May we also be able to say that we recognize tens of thousands of God’s answers to our prayers.
When has God answered your writing prayers in an unexpected way?