Okay, I know after reading the title many who know me, if they read this, would say, "Oh, no, Connie's really gone haywire, become an apostate!" And they'll either think they always knew it would happen eventually or, my friends, that they can't believe I'd ever do that. Well, read on.
I know that there are a lot of Bible verses about answered prayer that when I was a new Christian, I would have thought applied totally differently than how I view them now.
Matthew 18:19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 21:21-22 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."
John 14:13-14 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."
John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you."
John 16:23 "In that day you will not question Me about anything Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you."
James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
1 John 3:22 "...and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight."
Wow. I know I might have lacked the faith or the audacity to ask some of the things that I might have wanted, but if the truth were known, I'm sure I daydreamed about what God might give me if I asked Him: to pay off our house, to move us to a better house, to fill our bank account with good things, to give us lots of friends and approval of the people around us, that we'd have a nice car...the list could go on and on, and it was for the most part material and selfish desires, the trappings that we all pursue too readily; I bet most people relate to that whole thinking, either in the present or in their past.
Sometimes Tim will tell me things like, "You know what I would wish for if I was given one wish?" Now, tell me you didn't answer the same thing when you were a kid as he does: "That I'd get a thousand more wishes!" or some similar thing. I remember doing the same thing. It's a common theme. The genie in the bottle. What a dream world that seems like it would be!
God works so much differently than a genie in a bottle. When we first come into His kingdom, we don't really understand His will, His desires, what it means to abide in Him and to have Him abide in us. He doesn't come to nod and wiggle his nose and make our wishes come true. It isn't that He will never answer our material types of prayers; in fact, yes, I have prayed them and yes, sometimes He has answered yes in an amazing "Abba, Father" type of provision for His child. But it's not the typical and primary way He seems to deal with our wants, at least not that I've generally seen. No, He changes our focus, gives us new desires, aligns us gradually with His will, and as we come to know these things, we can be assured that He will hear our prayers that are in line with His will.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. I remember hearing once that God doesn't generally fill the existing desires of our hearts; He aligns our desires with Him--gives us the desires. I think this does explain how it happens. Our faith, our desires, gradually become more conformed to Him as He shows us the benefits of yielding to Him, because He loves us and in return we learn to love Him.
I'm sure God sees our prayers change and develop as we go through life in Christ. The prayers used to be all about us, our prosperity, our externals; as we go on, we desire to have Him change us more, to help others more, to use us for His purposes, to take away our tendency toward sin and selfishness. These things hardly even seem desirable to the person who doesn't know God.
In light of that, these verses take on a whole different meaning than when they're applied to self-centered desires. Read them again in the application of serving in God's will, accomplishing His purposes. What riches! The riches are much different than those we clung so hard to at one point in our lives; they are the riches of knowing God and having the privilege to be chosen to serve in His kingdom; to see Him glorified. They are the riches of wisdom, peace, joy; our every hunger and thirst is filled by our God in Heaven! What more riches could a person really want? So I say, coming to Christ is a way to get rich quick. Well, quick enough, anyway!