Rooted in Christ

The Mystery of Answered Prayer

Sometimes we don’t recognize God’s answers to our prayers because we look for correspondence.

And David said, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” (2 Sam. 15:31, NKJV)

When my children would ask me for something, let’s say going out for ice cream, I would often say, “We’ll see.” They knew that meant “yes.” I knew that meant “yes.” But I was happy to keep my options open so they couldn’t hold me to it. 

God’s answers to our prayers can be even more cryptic. He knows how He will answer our prayer but that does mean His answers are always apparent to us or that He answers in linear fashion. Often, God’s answers to our prayer are figured more by calculus than simple arithmetic. David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 15 gives us an example. 

The setting is David’s fleeing from his son, Absalom. David had cast himself on the good pleasure of the Lord. If God decided to bring him back to his throne in Jerusalem, so be it. But if God decided not to, David would be content with the doing of God’s will (2 Sam. 15:25-26). 

Ahithophel had been an adviser to David but defected to Absalom. We are told that “the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God” (2 Sam. 16:23). Esteem for the counsel of Ahithophel prompted David to pray, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” (2 Sam. 15:31) 

Indeed, Ahithophel’s counsel was impeccable, evidenced in making a statement (2 Sam 16:21-22) and in strategy of war (2 Sam 17:1-3). But David had prayed that God would render Ahithophel’s counsel foolish. God, however, had a different approach in answering David’s prayer. He thwarted Ahithophel’s counsel by using Hushai, whom He had positioned as a counselor in the court of Absalom, and by inclining the hearts of the hearers to his advice (2 Sam. 17:7-14). 

Sometimes we don’t recognize God’s answers to our prayers because we look for correspondence. Like a child’s toy where the square block goes in the square hole and the circle block goes in the circle hole, we tend to reduce God’s creativity and complexity to the limitations of what we have in mind when we pray. 

God answers our prayers but often in ways different or even contrary to our machinations. We do not have access to the secret will of His workings. We don’t know when His answer starts or finishes, where it winds its way, what things it carries in its wake. But we do know that God hears and acts when we pray. 

Digging Deeper

  1. Do you look for ways God has answered your prayer differently from what you had in mind?
  2. How does praying in Jesus’s name relate to the mystery of answered prayer?     

Father, Your ways are higher than mine. So I rest myself in You. Grant me grace to trust you, content in Your will, confident in Your ways. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale