I am a witness that God does answer our prayers, both the small ones and the big ones, the short ones and the long ones, the general ones and the intense ones. I am sure that many of you can say the same. God hears our prayers, and He answers them. Now, mind you, it is easy to both acknowledge and accept the “yes” answers, when God grants our requests. The “no” answers not so much. We just keep praying, thinking that maybe God didn’t hear us or maybe we didn’t articulate our requests properly or maybe we need to try to correct our motives for making the requests.
Personally, it has often taken me longer to accept when the answer was no or not yet. But you know what, I think I have learned the most from the “no” and the “not yet” answers.
No matter the answer, I have come to realize that there are side effects to some answered prayers, if not all. But the side effects are for our good. They build something in us - our character, our resolve. They shape our hearts and our faith. They focus our worship.
side effect: any effect of a drug, chemical, or other medicine that is in addition to its
intended effect, especially an effect that is harmful or unpleasant.
Generally, when one thinks of side effects, we think of the side effects that accompany medicines, medical treatments, medical procedures, or chemicals. Common side effects that come to mind are nausea, drowsiness, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation,
headache, dizziness, skin rash, fatigue, dry mouth, frequent urination, and so on. Side effects can also be on the severe side: causing hair loss, internal bleeding, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts or even death. Of course, it should be noted that these side effects are probable. That is, the side effects that are listed on medications may or may not happen. But even if they do, for most, there are still other medicines that may be taken to offset unwanted side effects.
Depending on what ails us, side effects don’t always outweigh the desired healing from the medicine, treatment, or procedure. Meaning that the side effects are bearable. For example, we are willing, normally, to deal with a mild headache or momentary dizziness in order to be relieved of excruciating pain.
Perhaps, many of us have seen the commercials that advertise different types of medicines. The people in the commercials portray the desired healing result of the proposed medicine. They look happy and relieved. However, at the end of every one of these types of commercials, an announcer lists all of the possible side effects. We don’t get to see how the people in the commercials would respond to hearing, often times, the long lists of side effects.
The side effects that come from prayer are different. We don’t get a list of side effects that come with praying particular types of prayers. Well, on second thought, maybe we do. We may have heard, “be careful what you pray for because you just might get it.” Or “if you pray for patience or faith, you will have to go through something to obtain it.” There may be other examples, but for the most part we are not warned.
Allow me to share a few of my experiences. I have prayed for God to remove verified enemies from my life, from my space. (Being verified is a thing now in social media.) It happened, but not right away. It took years. I learned a lot. Let me just tell you that I labored in prayer; that means I boo hoo’d and prayed regularly and extensively and on my face. I learned how to pray earnestly and always. I learned how to trust and have faith in God, even when the answer was no and not yet. I learned that the same way God loved me He also loved them. I learned that God commanded us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36), that included me loving mine. So, I had to love them enough to really want God’s best for them. I learned that the same love and forgiveness that I had given to others who had behaved like my enemy was what He wanted me to do for them. Why? Because He did it for us (Romans 5:8; Luke 23:34).
God built me. He built my character. He taught me what it meant to love people. He taught me how much He loved people. While I experienced the side of effects of time and mistreatment, the outcome was far greater. Not just what He did in me, but in what He did around me in other people. It was miraculous and abundant. God definitely is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Oh, I forgot to mention that prior to praying this prayer, I had prayed Psalm 86:11, an echo to my normal prayer of Luke 9:23; Psalm 51:10; Psalm 19:14; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; John 15:5; Psalm 119:105; and Matthew 6:33.
Psalm 86:11 (NIV84)
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I thought I knew, but in reality, I didn’t know what I was actually praying. But on the other side, I am thankful because God helped me to mature, to see people and myself the way that He does (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; John 15:13).
I will just share one more because that one was pretty long. I have prayed for different people to change their ways or that God would bless them. What I discovered was that the way that God would answer my prayers would be through me. He used me as instrument to do it. What were the side effects? Giving my time and attention and resources to the people I was praying for. Again, God was building my character and my faith with my literal actions (Mark 6:35 - 44 NIV84 "37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (emphasis added.))
These side effects are different from those that come from drugs, chemicals, or procedures. These side effects are for God’s glory. These side effects required something of me or something in me to change. The side effects of answered prayer may require something of the one who is praying. The side effects work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Revealing a little of my “nerdiness”, praying to God is a reflection of Newton’s 3rd Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. God is glorified, and we become more like Jesus. God is magnified, and we are blessed. We are thankful, and God is praised.
In hindsight, I appreciate the side effects of answered prayer. And while I may not know the side effects of any of my future prayers, I have no fear, for I trust and know that God means every one of them for my good and for His glory.
(Please know that comments are very welcome.)