The Cure to Disappointment with God
“Sometimes I add in Jesus' name to my prayer like a gold sticker, hoping if I use this secret password, my prayers will be answered in the way I want,” admits Margaret Feinberg. In this article from our series Give God the Glory, Feinberg encourages us to pray with humble, submissive hearts.
“God never answers my prayers,” the middle-aged man confessed.
With a furrowed brow and tight lips betraying the depth of his disappointment, he explained that he had spent years asking God for something specific. Despite his sincerity and persistence, God refused to grant the request.
“What I don’t understand,” he admitted, “is that I’ve been doing exactly what Jesus commands. I’ve been praying in Jesus’ name and leaning on his promise: ‘If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’ Yet what I’m asking for remains undone. How do you explain that?”
The sting in his voice felt familiar. I’d felt the pangs of disappointment, too. I suspect most of us have offered prayers up to God and not received the answer we desired.
A Closer Look
The man’s pointed question compelled me to take a closer look at an oft-quoted passage from the Gospel of John. On the night of his arrest, Jesus takes time to comfort, encourage, and prepare his disciples for what’s coming.
In John 14:13-14, Jesus promises, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (italics added).
Reflecting on this passage, I considered the petitions I’ve made, and heard others make, which were offered “in Jesus’ name.”
Sometimes I add that phrase to a prayer like a shiny gold sticker, hoping that God will stamp my request with Accept rather than Veto. If I use this secret password, my prayers will be answered in the way I want.
God never works that way.
What was Jesus saying when he told us to pray in his name? The answer is tucked within the context of John 14:13-14:
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Do you see the subtle clause?
For His Glory
When we ask something in Jesus' name, we’re asking that the Father be glorified. When we say "in Jesus’ name,” what we’re really saying is “for your glory!”
After stumbling across this discovery, I began adding the phrase for Your glory to my petitions. I soon noticed significant shifts:
- My prayers weren’t as me-centric. I had aligned my heart with his.
- Instead of prayer depending on me, I was inviting the Spirit to pray on my behalf.
- The outcome lessened in importance. The results weren’t as important as bringing an increasing amount of glory to God.
No wonder Jesus tells us to pray in his name. God’s answer to the request to bring increasing amounts of glory to his name is always, “Yes!”
Often what we think is best isn’t what God thinks is best. That’s hard, particularly if we’re still unemployed, single, wrestling with addiction, lonely, childless, or battling a disease. I’m no stranger to those fights.
Eighteen months ago, while itching under my arm, I felt a lump. At first, I thought it was my imagination. It turned out to be my worst nightmare: tests soon revealed I had breast cancer. The gruesome details of my disease and treatment still bring me to tears.
The last eighteen months have been wrought with answered prayers, but many have been left unanswered, too. Along the way, I’ve discovered facets of joy no one had ever taught me.
Joy is a Weapon
More than mere whimsy, joy is a weapon we can use to fight life’s battles.
The thing is, no one signs up for finding joy in suffering. However, I know now that without shadows, joy can feel shallow.
I can still see the face of the man who asked me the question about God’s refusal to grant his request. Sometimes, on this side of heaven, we don’t understand why we ask for certain things and God doesn’t give them to us.
Such linchpin moments force us deeper in our faith.