Tom has applied for a new job. He is excited and ready for a change in vocation, and everywhere he turns, it seems as if God is giving him the green light to proceed. The interview goes well, and Tom is hopeful. The entire experience, he feels, has brought him closer to God. He's praying and reading his Bible more than he has in a while. In his reading, he comes across James 1.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. - James 1:5-8
Tom decides to go all in. After all, he feels like this new job is God's will, and he doesn't want to miss out on God's will because of his unbelief. So, he claims God's promise and believes with all his heart that he will get the new job. Unfortunately, two weeks later, Tom receives a phone call notifying him that the job went to someone else, and Tom is left feeling discouraged and disappointed. What happened? He believed. He asked in faith, nothing wavering, and He truly believed it was God's will. But that door closed, leaving Tom on the outside looking in and feeling like God had let him down.
I've been in Tom's shoes. How about you? I've prayed in faith, daring to believe that God would come through exactly how I imagined, and I, too, was left feeling disappointed and let down. Was God not listening? Was He playing some cruel, cosmic joke? No, nothing like that. I'd love to tell you that I have all the answers concerning why God chooses to respond to prayers the way He does, but the truth is that no one can truly understand the mind of God, which brings us to point #1.
1.) We are commanded to pray in faith, to ask our petitions in faith, nothing wavering. But keep in mind that God will never answer a prayer in the affirmative if it's outside of His will, and while we may think and feel that what we want is within His will, as I just said, we cannot truly understand the mind of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (I Corinthians 2:11) In such situations, God may not be giving us what we want because we're asking for the wrong thing (James 4:3), and He is protecting us from what we think we want but shouldn't have. (Think of it like a four-year-old asking his parents for a BB gun. The child wants it and thinks it would be a good thing, but his parents know better. No four-year-old should have a BB gun!)
2.) This is where it gets sticky. If we don't know if the thing we're asking for is within God's will, how can we pray in faith, believing with all our heart that He will answer our petition? If He says "No," won't we be left with disappointment? How do we end the cycle? Believe it or not, it goes back to our expectations. We're not commanded to pray for something believing that God will give us that something. That's a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. Rather, we're supposed to pray for something believing that God will do what is best and right for us. That may be to give us what we want, or it may be to say "No." That's up to God, but we can rest in faith and know that we did our part. We asked in faith, expecting God to be good. And remember, good doesn't always mean what we think it means. We say chocolate chip cookies are good, but the hard truth is that they're not good for us. God understands the difference even when we don't. He isn't swayed by emotion or lust or greed or anything else like that. His driving force is His love for us, and if we keep that in mind, we'll never be disappointed with His answers because we have faith, nothing wavering, that He has our best interest at heart.
***Special note: For the past week and a half, I've been praying about a situation, and I've been trying to put into practice what I've discussed here. I poured out my heart to the Lord. I set the impossible situation before Him and asked Him to move in a mighty way. I had in mind one thing, but the Lord gave me something else. A wonderful something else! Something that I would never have dreamed of in a million years and that blessed me in more ways than what I had in mind would have. Did it solve all my problems? No. Did it meet the current need? Oh, yeah, and then some. But more than that, it reminded me that God cares. He knew what I had in mind, but He also knew that I needed something different. I couldn't see that, but He could, and He came through in a miraculous way!
Try it for yourself and see. Ask God for what you need and even what you want, and ask in faith. Not faith that you'll get the answer you want, but faith that you'll get the answer you need. Then stand back and watch how God moves in your life.