This morning God released me. I've been really feeling down that I don't have the ability to pray for miracles. What I mean is, many people of faith, when they pray for miracles, have no room for doubt when they pray. They "receive what has already been given," and they can pray boldly with full conviction to see God provide what they are petitioning for. They are full of assurance and faith and belief that has always left me doubting my own faith.
I can't pray that way. I have doubts. I do. Because I've too many times seen God not provide what I've prayed for. I've seen death come to some I've prayed for, and life to others. Provision to some and suffering for others. Some are healed, some not and I have no ability to discern why. Why are some prayers answered, and others not? Therefore I can not "name and claim" miracles as many believers can and do.
Today I learned that I still have faith, and though I can't pray that way, it doesn't necessarily mean I doubt God. I only doubt that he will answer every request I make, because sometimes God says no. I've finally found places in the New Testament where prayers are denied (I was formally under the belief that God only said no under the "old covenant" in the OT because of my misunderstanding of John 4:23 that talks about Jesus healing every disease and sickness).
But I discovered that even Jesus' prayer is once denied. He prayed that God would remove the cup of death so that he would not have to suffer the cross. It was probably his biggest and most passionate prayer and it was denied. And it's not the only time in the New Testament.This is speculation, but I believe there was a prayer by the Apostle John and the rest of the apostles and disciples combined, in the book of Acts that God did not answer.
Soon after Jesus returned to heaven John's older brother James was captured by the Jews/Romans and was on trial for death. This is the same James of the "inner three" of James, John, and Peter that Jesus took to isolated events such as the transfiguration and the prayer in Gethsemane.
I imagine that when James was taken to trial before the Jews/Romans that all the believers and the disciples, and especially his brother John, were fervently praying for his release. It's not a stretch to believe that they prayed for God to provide a miracle. But there was no miracle for James. He was the first martyred apostle. Other believers like Stephen had been martyred, but James was the first of the twelve apostles killed for his faith.
Peter was taken to trial and sentenced to death almost immediately after James' death, yet he was spared by miracle. In Acts 12 it says, "but the church was earnestly praying to God for him (Peter)," which is the example that leads me to believe that James had the same type of prayer surrounding his situation only a few days/weeks earlier.
Peter didn't just have an answer to prayer, he had a huge miracle. God sent an angel to unlock his chains, even though he was chained between two guards, then led through guarded gates which the angel personally opened. It was a very apparent, very dramatic, very real answer to prayer.
James was executed Roman style. Peter was freed miracle style. All within a small time frame, all the same people praying. Did God love Peter more than James? James was also in the inner three with John and Peter. Peter had screwed up more. So I don't think it was merit or favor or more faith that answered Peter's prayer.
It would seem that some prayers God answers, others he does not. Now that I have become a more mature believer I know that actually some of our prayers match God's will, some of ours do not. God always answers prayer that matches up with his bigger plan. So why bother praying at all if God will only do what he wants?
Prayer is an interesting push/pull. We see in the old Testament that Abraham's prayer persuades God to not destroy Sodom if there were righteous people in the city. We see God reversing a decision in 2 Kings 20 with Hezekiah's miraculous healing when he prayed to live longer. God's personality can not be changed, but through prayer He allows his decisions to be influenced by us. He actually cares about our opinions and will often change courses based on our requests.
God will listen and change the world's course based on our requests made when we "pray in the name of Jesus," and when that prayer also matches up with his bigger plan.
As a mom, I sometimes change bedtimes on holidays. I sometimes spring for late popsicles on a summer's night. Sometimes the kids get candy at the store. I really enjoy granting the kids special treats and favors when they ask, and when I'm able. And by able I mean when I see that it fits with my overall plan for them. Overall I make sure they get enough sleep, eat enough vegetables, learn good values and morals, etc. But when they ask for a before bedtime popsicle, they don't remember if they skipped nap that day, or if they've had a lot of junk food in the last few days. And if they do remember, they don't care. But I remember and I know what the bigger plan is and I make my decision based off what I know to be true, not off the fervency of their request.
I always say yes to requests for hugs. I always say no to running with scissors. But there are many things I leave open to be swayed by their opinions. Sometimes I bet my answering of their requests probably seems a little random to them, but to me it makes perfect sense. I love to grant their requests when I can. If I'm like that, then how much more our Heavenly Father? The Bible says he loves to give his children good things when they ask.
So I know that prayer matters. God listens to our prayers and cares about our opinions. He answers according to the bigger plan that only he understands.
I will no longer feel bad praying for miracles, even when I "feel" like I have doubts. Because I know that it's not God's ability I'm doubting, its me doubting my ability to completely understand his perfect will. I'll pray likes Jesus who prayed, "please remove this cup...but your will be done."
I will pray for us to know God's will. I will especially pray for us to be able to trust him and accept his will as the right answer, even if the answer is no. Perhaps that's the bigger miracle anyhow.