Do you ever take time to look back at answered prayers? How does God’s past faithfulness fuel your present gratefulness?
Early in my career, I traveled for three months visiting college campuses and churches to encourage and inspire them in their missionary service. We saw God move in powerful ways.
Once a week our team of four sat down for an hour and thanked God for ways he moved during the previous week. One of us would write down as many of these items as possible in our team journal. At the end of three months, we had a journal full of thanksgiving and it inspired all of our faith to see the names of people God had touched and ways God provided for us.
When God answers your prayers, how do you respond?
5 examples of how to respond to answered prayer
#1: Anticipate the answered prayer
1 Samuel 1, Hannah wanted to have a child, but she was barren. She prayed earnestly and promised that if God answered she would dedicate the child to God. When Eli, the priest, first saw her, he assumed she was drunk. He quickly learned she prayed out of great anguish and sorrow, he said, “In that case, go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
Feeling greatly relieved, Hannah responded, “‘Oh, thank you, sir!’ she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (v.18).
LESSON: Be willing to sacrifice everything God asks in response to his answer.
#2: Be ready to take action on your prayers
Cornelius served as a Roman centurion and he was also devout in his prayers. An angel appeared to him and said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God” (Acts 10:31). The angel told him to send for Peter. When Peter arrived, Cornelius and his entire house believed the message.
LESSON: Be ready to take the next step when God answers your prayers.
#3: Expect answers to prayers you didn’t ask
The early church spent time in worship and prayer when the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:1-3). The church responded by fasting and praying and then sending Saul and Barnabas on their way.
LESSON: When we worship and commune with God, he will sometimes give us orders we don’t expect. Be ready to obey with thanksgiving.
#4: Return to give thanks
In Luke 17:11-19, ten lepers beg Jesus to heal them. Jesus showed mercy by telling them to go to the priest and show themselves. He could have healed them on the spot, but he asked them to exercise faith. On their way to the priest, all ten lepers were miraculously healed.
Only one of them came back to praise God. And he was a foreigner, a Samaritan. While Luke provides no details about the other nine lepers, Jesus marvels that only one returned. They were all outcasts, even if they were Jews. They didn’t deserve this answer. Only the true outsider understood this fully.
LESSON: When God heals us or answers any of our prayers, our let your first response be thankfulness. If it is not, ask yourself why you’re not feeling grateful.
#5: Don’t be surprised by answered prayers
In Acts 12, Herod imprisoned Peter, but the church started praying earnestly for his release. An angel awakens Peter and helps him escape. When Peter shows up at the disciples’ gathering, the servant is so amazed she forgets to let him in. The disciples don’t believe her until they went to see for themselves.
LESSON: God answers prayers. Sometimes far more quickly or miraculously than we expect. In all cases, give Him thanks and praise.
I find that some days may feel ordinary or even dreary, but when we step back to see how God answers our prayers over time we will be amazed.
Sherman Smith played running back for the Seattle Seahawks. At the height of his career, he was traded to the San Diego Chargers where he injured his knee after a few weeks. Sitting in recovery he asked God why he moved him to San Diego. Around this time he led Miles McPherson, a fellow player, to faith. Miles went on to lead tens of thousands of young people to Christ. God answered Sherman’s prayer, it just wasn’t what he expected.
Go through your gratitude journal and/or your prayer journal from the last few months and spend time thanking God for specific ways he’s been answering prayers.
Lord, I pray you would open my eyes to see whenever you answer my prayers. Open my heart to gratefully praise you, no matter how you answer. Open my ears to hear your commands. Open my hands to give and serve at your pleasure. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.