Someone recently told me that God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, or not now. I objected, saying that even if that’s true, it sounds as if we’re going to know what His answer is. In my experience, most answers to prayer are unknown and unseen. I’m okay with that.
For example, one of my favorite prayers for my kids is, “May their lives give glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s say God says yes to this prayer. There are lots of ways that could play out. One would be the obvious way; my kids do something big and grand for the sake of Jesus, and I know about it and so do you. Frankly, this rarely happens, mainly because very few people are asked to do the big, showy stuff.
A more likely scenario is that in the course of a conversation, one of my kids says something quietly faith-affirming to a friend, and I never hear about it. Do I need to? No. It’s enough that it happened.
Or perhaps one of my teens is helpful to a stranger, and that little act of kindness plays out in ways that not even my child knows about. I think this happens all the time.
Make a mental list of the things someone else said or did that changed your life for the better, and ask yourself if the other people involved would even recall that interaction. Probably not.
Giving glory to God is often a matter of living out our faith so fully that others see light even when we don’t know it’s shining through us.
And then there’s yet another way God might say yes to my prayer. What if one of my kids suffers terribly, and others come to know God better through the way they (and I) handle that suffering? This happens. I know it does.
Most of God’s work happens quietly, changing hearts and minds and lives in ways we can’t see. There’s a mercy in that, in a “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3) kind of way.
For if I knew how all my prayers were answered, my knowledge could easily get twisted into a weird kind of pride in how good my relationship is with the Lord. It’s better to simply ask for good things, and let God do what He wants with my petitions. He is wiser and more insightful than I am, anyway. And that is enough.