Summaryby Lorraine Espenhain | Our prayers will be answered by God, not because we have succeeded in getting God to see things our way, but because He has succeeded in changing our hearts
After King David was settled in his palace, he summoned Nathan the prophet and said to him, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.”
Nathan replied to David, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.” What David had in mind was to build a magnificent temple for the Lord.
That night, however, the Word of the Lord came to Nathan the prophet, saying:
“Go and tell My servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build Me a house to dwell in… When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to proceed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever…” (1 Ch 17:1-14)
Whenever I read this story, I am reminded that not everything we desire to do for God is God’s plan and will for our lives.
God Wills It! Well Maybe Not…
When I was younger, I had been erroneously taught by some that if you get a desire in your heart to do something, then you should do it because God is the One who put that desire in your heart. Since He placed that desire in your heart, it was because He was calling you to do it.
Consequently, I started to do all sorts of things for Jesus – things which I was neither gifted for nor appointed by God to do – and then I wondered why I was getting burned out, my works were going nowhere, and my plans were always blowing up in my face.
David had a desire to build a temple for the Lord, but this desire was not placed in his heart by God. It was there because it was something that David wanted to do, not something that God was calling him to do.
We know this because God Himself confirmed this through Nathan the prophet.
A Barnes and Noble Calling
Many years ago, I walked into a Barnes and Noble bookstore and picked up a book called Judaism for Dummies. Wanting to learn more about the Jewish people and how they believed, etc., I purchased the book.
After I read it, I was fascinated with the Jewish people. As time went on, my book shelves became stuffed with all sorts of Jewish books. I started cooking Jewish foods and listening to Jewish music. Over time, what started out as a tiny seed of interest grew into the dream of one day leaving the United States in order to live in the land of Israel.
I became convinced that God had put this desire in my heart because He was calling me to serve as a missionary to Israel. I began to learn the Hebrew language.
My husband literally applied for over a hundred different jobs overseas. We even sold our first house and moved into an apartment so that when the time came for “God to open up the door,” we wouldn’t have to worry about selling the house and could leave right away.
Year after year passed, and no door was opening. I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with God. As far as I was concerned, God had put this desire in my heart; I listened, and was willing to give everything up to heed His call, including my U.S. citizenship.
I was getting tired of standing before a closed door all packed up and no place to go. When would God open up the door?
Awakened From the Dream
This went on for many years. As time went on, however, I learned the practice of mental prayer and meditation. I would read a few sentences from a spiritual book, and then spend an hour meditating on those sentences in the presence of the Lord. I would also speak to God about the things that I was reading.
One day, when my thoughts drifted to Israel, I realized that the desire to move there had been completely removed from my heart. A dream which I had been holding on to for 12 or 13 years had simply died. In its place was a new desire.
I wanted to be filled with God. I wanted to be filled with His Holy Spirit and used by Him to reach people for Christ right where I was. I wanted Him to teach me how to love Him and completely surrender to Him more and more until there was nothing of the old me left for anyone to see. I wanted Him to give me the grace to completely die so that I would learn how to walk – truly walk – in the power of His resurrection!
I had to learn the hard way, brothers and sisters, that when we do not seek Christ in our lives in the manner that He desires, it is very easy for us to go astray by taking paths and pursuing dreams that are not the will of Heaven for our lives. I had to learn, as King David did, that just because a desire comes into your heart does not mean that God is the One who put it there.
Sometimes we want to do things because it’s our dream, not God’s. It’s what we want to do – not something that God is calling us to do.
This is why reading spiritual books and meditating on the things which we read is very important. God uses this practice to supernaturally sweep away those desires in our heart that are not in keeping with His will while gently replacing them with those things that are His will to give.
While we meditate, He molds our heart and reshapes our desires without our even realizing it. It’s not something that is easy to explain on paper; it is something that we will never fully understand until we have experienced it ourselves. But when it happens, it is life changing! You will know when it has happened!
The Tooth Fairy
Did you ever believe in the Tooth Fairy when you were little? Your mother or father would put your tooth underneath your pillow. On the following morning, when you looked underneath your pillow, you found that the tooth was missing, but there was money there instead! The Tooth Fairy had done this while you slept! She was here!
While you were completely unaware of her presence, she stole into your room, placed her hand gently under your pillow, took your tooth, and left money there in its place. Then, she quietly left. All of this took place without your even being aware of it!
But this is exactly what happens to us when we seek God properly in our lives through prayer, spiritual reading, and meditation. While we meditate, God gently slips His invisible hand into our hearts, removes those desires that are not His will for our lives, and replaces them with those desires that are His will, and He does this without being seen or heard! When that happens, we say, “He was here! He was here, and I didn’t even know it!”
“Ask for it In My Name…”
Long ago, Jesus made the following promise to His disciples: “I tell you the truth, My Father will give you whatever you ask for in My Name.” (John 16:23)
Most people, when they read this verse, go hog wild in the spirit, race to the court of Heaven, kneel before God’s throne, and start asking God for everything under the sun. After all, Jesus did say that the Father would give us whatever we asked for in His Name, didn’t He? But when Jesus made this awesome promise, it was given with the understanding that we would be seeking Him properly in our daily lives.
It was given with the understanding that we would be seeking His Kingdom first and foremost in our lives. Only when we are doing these things will we request the right things when we go before the throne of our Father, and it is these things which we should be asking for in Jesus’ Name. It is these things which Christ has promised we would receive.
If you fill a thermos with coffee, will soda come out when you pour? No. Whatever the thermos has been filled with is what will come out when poured. In the same way, whatever we are filling our hearts and minds with is what is going to be poured out when we go to pray.
People who kneel before God and spend all of their time asking for money, houses, pleasures, fame, etc., are showing God that their treasure is in this world, not in Him and His Kingdom. They are showing Him that their desire is for the world, not for Him. People who pray such prayers should not expect them to be answered in the way they desire.
But when we make it a practice to read spiritual books and meditate on the things which we read in the presence of the Lord, we line our hearts and minds up with God. Our hearts and minds become filled up with the wonderful things that we are reading and meditating on. When we go to pray, this is what is going to be poured out before the Lord because this is what we are constantly filling ourselves up with.
When our hearts and minds are filled with the right things, then it goes without saying that we will end up seeking the right things – things which God will give to us in Jesus’ Name.
Prayers Will Change a Heart
This is the number one reason why so many people are standing on John 16:23, yet seeing no answers to their prayers. Because they are not seeking spiritual things as they ought, they do not understand the spirit in which Jesus made this promise.
If you have not already begun to make spiritual reading and meditation a practice in your life, I want to encourage you to make up your mind that from this day forward, you are going to do so. Your life will never be the same. Never!
You might start with The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, which is my favorite spiritual book next to the Holy Bible. Go to a quiet place where you can be all alone with Jesus. Open up the book, read two or three sentences, and just think about them for as long as you want.
If you like to write in a journal, write down any thoughts and reflections that come to your mind as you meditate. If you will do this every day for a year, you will be amazed at how much God has begun to change you. Not only this, but you will find yourself living in a higher realm than you had been living the previous year.
Not everything that we desire to do is God’s plan or will for our lives. Not everything that we pray for is His will to grant. But if we will seek Him properly, through spiritual reading, meditation, and prayer, we will find our prayers being answered by Him more and more, not because we have finally succeeded in getting God to see things our way, but because He has succeeded in changing our hearts and filling them with those things which are His will to give.