This is a slightly edited edition of a post which first appeared on Bible Living Blog on November 9, 2020. I am reposting this article, because this thought has kept coming to mind for the past week. I hope it is an encouragement to you!
There have been times that I have prayed about a specific personal need. My needs have varied. I have prayed about finances, jobs, family medical needs, salvation of lost people, heart changes in myself and others. Then my imagination would start running. I have always been accused of having an active imagination. After praying, I have thought about how God would answer the prayer.
Perhaps you have done this as well. Like me, your imagination gets really carried away after reading about George Müller or another prayer warrior. You imagine that envelope with the exact amount to cover your financial need. You think about a family member’s medical test results showing that they have been healed.
I don’t think I have ever had a time when my imagination was right. I didn’t say I have never seen an answer to prayer. I said my imagination has been wrong about how God would answer my prayer. He has answered, but rarely (possibly never) in the ways I imagined He would. I have seen finances provided, jobs found, medical impossibilities happen, the lost saved, and hearts changed. Yet, God always outdid my imagination.
I was praying about something the other day, and God brought Ephesians 3:20-21 to mind. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
God is not only able to do what we ask, but He is able to do far more abundantly than we ask. Paul just prayed an incredibly amazing prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19, then closes by saying that God can do far more than that!
That is such good news for so many reasons. I will mention two here.
First, I am not all-powerful, all-knowing, or sovereign. It sounds like a strange thing to say, because it is so obvious. Yet, I often need to be reminded of this. I am sure you do as well. I can see things to pray about, and I think that I know the best way to pray and how God can best answer. However, I do not see the world correctly, and I cannot know the best answer to the requests I bring to God. God can do beyond what I can think to ask.
Also, I often have my glory and comfort in mind. I want God to provide and answer, so I can look good and be comfortable. But that is not the point of my existence or of this universe. I am to glorify God in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). He is to receive glory in the church and in Christ, forever (Ephesians 3:21). God answers our prayers according to His will, so He receives glory. So, rather than answering the way we think, He answers His way for His glory.
This is why we can pray for a man’s salvation for years, and God brings him to Christ through sickness in the twilight hours of his life. No one else would plan that. That is why God provides in ways we do not expect. If it were according to our plan, who would receive the glory? Us. We would boast, “I just knew God would do…”
As God brought Ephesians 3:20-21 to mind as I prayed, I have decided not to try to imagine what God will do. I have, by grace, decided to reflect on who God is instead. No matter how great my imagination is, I just cannot out-imagine God.