Much that perplexes us in our Christian lives is caused by the answers to our prayers. The problem is, we often don't know what we're really praying for, because we don't really know how we ought to pray. As a result, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us by translating our prayers into groanings that will eventually grant us God's answers to our prayers (Romans 8:26). Let's consider a few examples.
- We pray for patience, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for tribulation, since tribulation produces patience. (James 1:2-3)
- We pray to be obedient, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for suffering, since we learn obedience through the things that we suffer. (Hebrews 5:8)
- We pray to love others as Christ loves us, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for opportunities to lay down our lives for others, since only in doing so can we love others as we've been loved by Christ. (1 John 3:16)
- We pray for strength and humility, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for thorns in the flesh and buffeting messengers of Satan, by which we are humbled and strengthened. (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
- We pray for the increase of our faith, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for our faith to be tested, for only in its testing can our faith be substantiated and strengthened. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- We pray for Christlikeness, but the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf for lowly service, a cross to bear, and unjust suffering, for only then can we exemplify Christ and follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
Have you ever prayed for a storm in your life? Unbeknownst to you, you have if you've ever prayed for the peace of God, which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), for it is only in the storms of life that the miraculous peace of God is found (Mark 4:37-41). Have you ever prayed for conflict and opposition in your life? Unbeknownst to you, you have if you've ever prayed for victory (1 Corinthians 15:57), since we can only obtain victory and wax valiant in life's fights (Hebrews 11:33-34). Truly, to live in peace and victory we must live in heavenly places, where we are seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), looking down upon our earthly circumstances as lovingly and divinely appointed!
A great illustration of such a heavily perspective on our earthly lives, by someone who didn't know how to pray as he ought to have prayed, is found in the following prayer, which was found in the pocket of a dead Confederate soldier at the Devil's Den, on the Gettysburg battlefield.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.