Written by Evi Idoghor
I talked with someone the other day who was having trouble praying because she felt God wasn't answering her prayers. Her story was very relatable to me. There were times in my life when I prayed for things with all my heart, and it seemed as if my prayers went unheard. I analyzed my life, possibly thinking I was doing something wrong or that I lacked faith to receive what I was asking for.
I know myself and the person I was in a conversation with, are not the only ones who have experienced this type of disappointment from God. There are many hurting people in the world today. People who have been let down by their expectations of God, who appears to have fallen short of those expectations. We sing songs proclaiming that God will never let us down, but to be honest, there are times when we feel let down by him, especially when he fails to meet our expectations.
Now, there could be a myriad of reasons why a particular prayer is not being answered the way you wish for it to, but I believe part of the issue is that as Christians living in today's world, we have been taught that if we name and claim something, it is ours.
That time When God disappointed Me
This was around the middle of 2015. I was in a church service where the pastor was declaring a multiplicity of things that were going to happen to individuals who were in attendance that given day. With every word spoken, I screamed an enthusiastic Amen!! He talked about how by that very time the following year, that our lives were not going to be the same. I was exhilarated.
You have to understand that by this time I was just getting to know God on a more intimate level. I had left a sexually immoral relationship, I was finally free from watching porn, I was reading my Bible and praying every day. In fact, my friends singled me out as the pastor of the group.
I thought kissing sin goodbye was synonymous with walking into the very things I desired for myself - marriage to a tall, fair, and handsome guy who would worship the ground I deemed worthy to set my foot on. A white-collar job in a prestigious organization earning six figures in American dollars, exotic vacations around the world, and then to crown it all up; a United States passport. Before you roll your eyes and laugh at me - what God cannot do does not exist, right? I soon learned the hard way.
2016 proved to be one of the most difficult years of my life. Everything went downhill. I was broke, I didn't have a good job, and I was generally unhappy. Despite the fact that my basic needs were met - such as house rent and food - I had no extra money for fun like I used to. Then I felt like God had let me down. I was living right, doing everything I thought I should be doing; so why wasn't he answering my prayers?
People who were living their “best” lives, where enjoying the things that I so desired. This was not what the preacher had said was going to happen. If I knew 2016 was going to be half of what it was, I wouldn’t have been jumping up and down and screaming that fateful day.
As Christians, we have been taught to ask God for anything, without regard for whether our requests are in accordance with his will for our lives. We go ahead and set timelines for various things to happen, not realizing that such authority comes with a pay grade that is clearly higher than ours.
I was scrolling through Facebook one day when I came across a post in which someone had publicly declared that they would be married by a certain month and date the following year. The person was specific and wanted others to join their faith with them for the decree to be fulfilled. This is not to dismiss what this person said, but such posts are not uncommon in the Christian world.
On social media I’ve seen posts, the popular ones, you know the ones with thousands of likes and comments, which says things like—“God is going to do such and such in your life before this week is over, claim it.” And I am left wondering; do I not have enough faith for things to take effect in my life, seeing that I have named and claimed many things that never occurred.
Because of this conditioning, some Christians have stopped seeking God for the things he wants to accomplish through them. Rather, they seek him for the things they want for themselves. I don't understand the Christian's primary desire to be able to travel around the world for pleasure purposes only. What good is that to God's kingdom? What message are you sending to the poor? or an atheist? That they should convert to Christianity so that Christ can bestow such blessings on them?
One time, I was in a church service where the guest worship minister sang about how God wanted to bless his people with more homes, cars, and vacations. In mind, I thought, uncle, which God? The majority of the congregation was enthralled by this song or, dare I say, declaration. However, this was not the reason for which Christ died. While the bible does not forbid you from working and enjoying what God has given you, declaring that God wants you to live a "soft" life is not the gospel.
For many, when that “soft” life doesn’t seem forthcoming, or even the seemingly good things, they turn around and raise their fists at God. Some of them walk away from the faith completely or seize to pray. James 4:3-4 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Teaching people to seek and desire God’s will doesn’t sell. People often want to hear how they will become millionaires and bosses next year, how they will get married, and how they will become the pride of the earth. Because somehow, praying for God’s will to be done, has been associated with receiving the barest minimum from him and also suffering - no one wants to suffer.
Ask some Christian single ladies, and they will tell you that they have a list of what they want in a man. Tall, dark, handsome, influential, wealthy… and they somehow fear that if they surrender that list to Christ, then he will present them with a man who pulls his pants all the way to his chest and is socially awkward. As such, they follow after all sorts of men who bring them nothing but sorrows and disappointment.
Do you want to know how you can receive things from God?
It is simple: ask according to His will. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” —1 John 5:14 (NKJV)
God’s will is revealed in God’s word. And if for some reason you pray about something, and he doesn’t answer in the way you were expecting him to, that prayer wasn’t wasted or perhaps even prayed wrongly. God as a good father knows when and how to give us the things we request. He also knows when to say no to us, when things don’t line up with his will, or when it is not the time for that particular request to be honored.
As Christians, we should learn to trust God with all our hearts. So much so that even when it seems like nothing is happening, we can still rest on the fact that he loves us. God who sent his only begotten son to die for you and me, will not withhold any good thing from you and me. So when we pray, we should pray for the things we desire. And as you continue to grow and evolve as a Christian in God’s truth, the things that you desire will begin to line up with his word. That is, God will begin to give you affections for the things he desires.
So, it is important to let God know what is on your heart - he already knows, anyway, and you can’t hide from him. However, you should also learn to pray how Christ prayed. In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for the possibility of not having to deal with the cross - he let God know what was on his heart. Yet, he ended his prayer with whatever God willed for him at that moment to be done.
God’s will sometimes present itself with discomfort; it happened with Joseph in the Bible, as well as many others who decided to follow after God. Remember that it is in those down moments and those moments of despondency, that your character is being developed. God would rather that you go through the fire and come out refined, than for you to live in luxury and end up losing your soul. Please hear me - I am not saying that if God has blessed you with riches that you should not enjoy it.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
This scripture pops up in my mind frequently, especially when I want to begin lusting after the things others have that I don’t. I am learning to be content with what he has blessed me with, and not become entitled to what others have.
All those times I was pleading with God to accomplish certain things in my life, what I kept hearing in my spirit was Jeremiah 29:11 - I know the plans that I have for you. It was not until I was stuck at the Atlanta international airport back in 2017, that I realized his plan was not for me to return to the US at that time. Prior to that incident I had many dreams about seeing myself in Nigeria. Lord knows how I detested those dreams. They came with a level of dread for me because I did not want to leave the US and move back home.
However, no matter the amount of praying, crying, naming and claiming it - writing all that I desired on a piece of paper and dancing around it in the privacy of my room (one popular preacher at the time encouraged people to do so in an act of faith) - the husband, the job, the vacations, and the blue passport; none came to be when I wanted it. That was when I began to see things differently.
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