God answers prayers.
And sometimes – many times – He does it in such a way that it takes you a while to recognize your answer at first. You might even spend your years and livelihood on what you have concluded is the answer, saying, like Samuel, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” We are human beings, after all, and sometimes what we expect is not what is. If you strolled along the streets of Jerusalem circa 32AD, and dared to ask any Pharisee what he thought of Jesus of Nazareth, his response would probably have had nothing to do with “Messiah.” As far as most of the Pharisees were concerned, nothing good could come out of Nazareth, you see, and the king they were expecting would not only fulfill every prophecy, but also do so in so humanly flamboyant a way that it would be impossible to miss him for miles. Yet scripture tells us that one day, they will look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, for they rejected the only One who could save because He just wasn’t “cute” enough.
Perhaps, like Samuel, you become distracted by the accessible, the available, the maridadi. But try as you may to ignore Him, you hear the Lord say “Stop obsessing over gift-wrap; do not judge by appearance.”
Because it takes you a while to recognize the answer to your prayer, you continue to pray, and the Lord gives the kind of silence that He can only give when you are praying for something you already have. Do you know that silence? I have heard it many times. Yes, it is an audible silence, if there were ever such a thing. It is a peaceful silence, albeit somewhat deafening. That silence usually prompts me to look around. It usually means that the answer to my prayer is here, yet unrecognized.
Maybe you do the same thing, and then finally realize it’s time to look around. You finally locate your answer, but glance at the package, and do a double-take. That stunned double-take is so familiar to me. It’s funny how you probably don’t remember what wrapping paper was used for your birthday gift last week, and you have no clue what color the packaging was for your Christmas gift last year, because you hurriedly (or meticulously, depending on your personality) opened the gift, discarding the wrapping paper, curious to discover what was on the inside.
Year in, year out, you receive gifts, but pay no attention to wrapping paper or packaging, no matter how beautiful it is, because despite the fact that it glows and gleams and glistens, it is $2 paper that often cannot be reused. Its main purpose is to carry a gift. To conceal it until the right time.
But somehow, packaging seems to matter so much in other areas of life, so that instead of embracing and rejoicing in your answered prayer, you pay too much attention to the manner in which your answer is presented. You approach it slowly; cautiously. “This?” you screech inwardly, trying to shake yourself into the stupor you highly suspect must be holding you captive. “Surely, no…”
You bind and rebuke. You narrow your eyes, searching for flaws, which you definitely will find because – and far be it from me to put the Lord in a box – our Father will not give worldly perfection to the child He is trying to grow in holiness. You find the flaws, and you throw a tantrum worthy only of someone who has no beam in his or her eye and can thus see clearly to remove the speck in another’s eye. You make elaborate plans to reject your gift. You slowly inch away, side-eyeing it, perhaps even side-eyeing God to see if He will let you get away with this. “This mess is not what I prayed for,” you begin. “See, what I had asked was…” and, as though speaking to one who cannot remember, you begin to enumerate your previous requests, making sure to announce that you have even received confirmation from your pastor, usher, family, and friends that you are too cute for this “mess” that the Lord has brought your way. “It’s a test,” you tell yourself. “This cannot be it.”
But it is it, and as always happens to every child who hears the Savior’s voice, you finally realize that everything you prayed for is right under your nose. You see that even if not everything checks out 100% okay in the worldly sense, you have been gifted with a treasure that is perfect for you. You have fought so long and so hard to keep from feeling peace about something or someone you think is beneath you, but you finally get to that place of gratitude. In other words, you realize what it is Paul means when he says, “Let the peace of God rule in your heart…and be thankful.” You finally understand that had you run after what you thought was better, you would have been settling. I will go so far as to say that you would have been exchanging your inheritance for a bowl of pottage. You would have despised your birthright. You would have despised the day of humble beginnings, and in so doing, turned your back on a glorious journey.
God answers prayers. So pray. And while you wait – for that thing, deal, or person – know that every day brings you closer to your answer. He does grant the desires of our hearts. Do not be surprised if you find that He put those desires there Himself. If you hear silence, ensure that your answer is not already wrapped and at your doorstep, being side-eyed and judged unfairly. And at all times, keep your eyes on Jesus, for He is, always will be, your Exceeding Great Reward.
And [Jesus] said.. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15.