Just some old timey religion for your Thursday morning!
It’s OK to say to God, “I don’t know how to do what you’re asking me to do. I don’t know how to be loving or kind or patient or forgiving. I don’t know how to want to do any of those things!”
Christians who can’t admit this inability to perform the basic requirements of Christianity are like toddlers who won’t admit they need help carrying the milk into the house. And the results can be just as messy.
What if I told you that I held the secret to meditating like Jesus did? And that I have been practicing it with amazing results for 15 years? And I can teach you the secret to meditating like Jesus did. Would you pay me $29.95 for access to an online book explaining the secret of this great mystery? Pay to attend a seminar to learn under my expert guidance? How about if I threw in a money back guarentee – use the technique for 90 days and if you are not completely satisfied, I’ll refund your money (upon receipt of documented evidence of practicing this meditation technique for 90 days, of course).
Yeah, well, if you want to send me money, you are always welcome to – there’s a donation button on the right side of the page on my site. But don’t worry – I’m just going to tell you what I know. Making a book, seminar or marketing plan out of it sounds like way too much work. Maybe one day when I’m feeling less busy/lazy, I’ll work up the ambition to build a multi-million dollar enterprise sharing my expertise as a spiritual
First, a quick confession; I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. I have learned to pray and meditate almost entirely by instinct and/or following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I’ve never read a book or had any training or gone on a retreat to learn to meditate properly. I’ve probably read a couple of magazine articles or blog posts over the years, but that’s about it. My only actual training in prayer was memorizing prayers for Catholic catecism classes when I was a kid. So what I share is my own idiosyncratic understanding which may or may not meet the standards of Meditation, Inc.
So, first allow me to explain my own understanding of how to meditate, which probably isn’t too much different than anyone else’s. Then I’ll explain the part about meditating like Jesus. (Which may or may not actually be how Jesus meditated, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Because I was Catholic when I started learning to meditate, I used a candle. Catholics really like candles, you know. I would simply look at the flame of a burning candle and try to focus on nothing but the black wick at the center of the flame. Of course, this is almost impossible to do right off the bat. Your brain keeps wandering off and before you know it, you’re trying to figure out why Justin Donnelly, the boy whose children you plan on having, should he ever notice your existance, has a British accent even though he’s been attending school with you in the midwestern United States since second grade. Once I realized that my mind was wandering, I’d just let it go and refocus on the flame. Over and over and over and over.
I won’t go through the whole process, which I’m sure has been documented in excruciating detail elsewhere, but eventually the brain chatters itself out. It’s replaced by silence, for just a few seconds at first. But eventually, for extended periods of time you can silence your brain and just focus on your breathing or a flame or a word. This can take time – like years. My sister once attended a week long, silent meditation retreat in Thailand and was able to do it in 5 days. I’m sure she could give you a reference if you need one.
Being able to meditate like this is a great skill to have. And it is a skill which requires regular practice. But for my purposes, being able to sit with a blank mind without thinking wasn’t really the point. Yes, there are benefits to meditating in this fashion, like reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, etc. But this is my own idiosyncratic version, so for me, being able to sit with a silent mind wasn’t an end to itself.
Rather, the bible says repeatedly that we should meditate on God’s word and ways. For me, being able to get my mind blank and quiet provided a good, clean starting place for me to do this. I could introduce a bit of scripture or an idea into my meditation time and rather than having a brain that wandered off or engaged in free-association from the starting point, I could concentrate fully on what I was meditating on. The thoughts which came up were purposeful rather than random. Often I could see connections or gain a deeper understanding while engaging in this sort of meditation.
So, that’s all well and fine, but I started by positing that I might know the secret to meditating like Jesus did. And I might even have been practicing it for many years. Which might be true. You see, many years ago, I read an article, written by a Jewish person, which claimed that the ancient Hebrew style of meditation was to take two ideas which were seemingly in conflict with each other and meditate on them. The ancient Hebrew thinkers, they said, would hold these two seemingly opposing ideas together in their mind until the connections between them revealed themselves. In the end, not just the connections, but the interdependance of thse two seemingly opposing ideas would become clear and then the meditator would be able to see the reality of the situation and why God had made it so.
It’s been many years since I read this and honestly, I’ve never been able to find this explanation for how the ancient Hebrews meditated anywhere else. So maybe the ancient Hebrews really did meditate this way and maybe they didn’t. But when I read that, it occurred to me that, if this were true, then this would be how Jesus had meditated. Plus, it seemed like a good approach to try and I did.
After many years of engaging in this sort of meditation, I am inclined to think that this may well have been how Jesus meditated on God, scripture and theology. If you look at his teachings, you can see that he was the master of the third way. That he was able to find a way to be faithful to scripture without ever sacrificing the primacy of the command to love God, neighbor and self. In my experience, meditating in this way – by taking two things which appear to be in conflict and holding them side-by-side – is an excellent way to find this third way. Especially, if you choose Love as your north star – the thing that everything must be measured by – this sort of meditation does allow you to see connections, recognize what’s extraneous or an unwarrented assumption and eventually, how what you once though was in conflict fits together.
I suppose that I really could write a book or put together a seminar or retreat explaining the ins and outs of how this works. But this is a blog post, so you’re getting the cheapy, free version. ;) However, if you are intrigued and want to give it a try, I’ll just leave you with a few tips.
First, examples of subjects which this style of meditation can be useful for:
- Bible verses which appear to contradict
- The science of creation vs the creation stories in Genesis
- Christian customs or teachings which are in conflict with human nature or culture (ie women’s roles, homosexuality, wealth)
- Theodicy – why we live in a world where there’s suffering if God is good
When you have a subject you are meditating on, these can be useful questions to ask yourself:
- What if this were true?
- What if I let go of this assumption?
- Why do I think this must be true/false?
- Am I making connections between things that aren’t really connected?
- Is there a different way of understanding this word or concept?
And finally, if you do adopt this method of meditation, know that it’s not a quick fix. On occasion, I puzzle something out quickly, But there are subjects I’ve been meditating on, off and on, for years. Usually, you gain greater understanding without necessarily resolving the whole issue. So it’s not a panacea.
As for whether this is actually a good way to figure out what is true or just a nice way to make your own arguments, I’ll just share this. Over the years it has been incredibly common for people to ask me, “have you been reading so-and-so? Because what you’re saying sounds an awful lot like what he writes about in such-and-such.” The answer, nearly 100% of the time is no, I haven’t read and unless they are a church father, I probably haven’t even heard of the person they are asking about. My book budget is non-existent and I don’t have the sort of education where one would read or learn about various theologians. Nearly always, what I’m sharing which bears such a strong resemblance to what someone else says comes out of this habit of meditating.
Because we each bear God’s image, I believe that we each carrying within us the answers to everything. It’s just a matter of uncovering them and separating the wheat from the chaff and what is particular to me from what is universal. So, maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I can’t help but think that the frequency that I am told that what I am saying is much the same as what some church mother or father or some theologian says is a pretty good sign that this way of meditating has been quite productive for me. I think it’s a bit like how scientific discoveries or inventions tend to pop up in multiple places with multiple people all at once – a sign that something solid has been hit on. Or the way evolution tends to produce the same traits repeatedly in different places and settings – a sign that something useful has been produced. The fact that I’m often reaching conclusions that others have seems to be a good indicator that meditating like Jesus (presumably) did works.
Anyhow, if I ever decide to become a
charletanguru and sell my super secret, revolutionary method for meditating like our Lord and Savior, y’all will be the first to know. In the meantime, give it a go yourself!
Related: Just A Housewife In Wisconsin
Once upon a time, in the deep recesses of time on this planet, there was some slime. Or maybe it was bacteria. Slimey bacteria? I don’t really know. I wasn’t there and I’m not actually a scientist. But there was something alive. It was in water, consumed energy and could reproduce itself.
One day, a bit of this slime got left in a puddle on the beach and survived. Then little by little, over the course of more time than you or I can imagine, it changed. It left the water and adapted to dry land and became a plant. It could take the light of the sun and use it to grow itself. The plant loved the sun. At every chance, it would adapt to grow higher and higher, ever closer to the sun it needed, loved and desired. When many eons had passed, what had once been slime left on the beach, had given way to trees so tall they seemed to scrape the sky. And yet, no matter how much of the sun they took in or how high they grew, the trees could never reach the sun. There would always be a space between the trees and the object of their desire.
While the slime that got left on the beach was morphing into mighty trees, another bit of slime was far out at sea. Over the eons, it adapted and morphed until it became a fish. At first the fish kept close to the surface, eating what grew in the sun. But as time went on, the sun became bothersome, the food more plentiful down below. And the fish adapted bit by bit to delving deeper and deeper into the sea. Like the trees, the fish was seeking life, but instead of reaching for the light, the darkness pulled it deeper and deeper in its quest.
The light became faint and the fish grew accustomed to living in a twilight world. But still something kept drawing it deeper. At the same time the trees were striving to meet the sun, the fish had all but lost its eyes in the darkness. It could hardly fathom the world it had known so many generations before when it had swum where the sun shone. The fish came to think that the darkness was all there was and that it was endless.
But a funny thing happened. One generation, the fish began to glow a bit. And in what seemed like the blink of the eye in the scheme of things, the fish didn’t just glow, Its light could blink and flash and dazzle in the dark depths. The fish had found life and become light there in the inky blackness.
The slime that became the tree was doomed to forever seek, but never reach the light it loved so dearly. It took dwelling in complete darkness for the slime which became the fish to discover that it carried light within itself.
And so it is with man. We can seek after the light of God with all our might, but we will never own it that way. It is only when we allow God to lead us into the darkness that we discover the light of God within our very being.
“Moses’ vision of God began with light; afterwards God spoke to him in a cloud. But when Moses climbed higher and became more perfected, he saw God in the darkness.” ~ Gregory of Nyssa
I think courage is a terribly underappreciated virtue. There’s a tendency to see courage as something a soldier or a superhero needs to face grave danger, while failing to realize how much courage everyday life requires. You can’t grow as a person or keep a living faith life without ample amounts of courage.
The Greek word for courage is tharseo. Jesus uses it four times. Three times it is when he tells someone he is healing, “take courage”. Healing doesn’t seem at first glance to be a situation which requires courage. Who could be afraid of being healed?
And yet, healing does require courage. It requires having the courage to consider that things might be better than they are. It requires learning to live from health where previously you had survived in misery. It means facing the world in a way which is new, unknown and different. Healing means you will not be the same person after you are healed that you were when you were sick. It means upsetting a lot of apple carts.
Strong’s Greek Dictionary says that tharseo literally means to “radiate warm-hearted confidence”. What does someone trapped in sickness, death and blindness know about being warm hearted and confident, much less radiating it? Jesus was asking the people he healed to do something they had no real experience doing before – radiate warm hearted confidence – be courageous.
Today we may or may not need physical healing, but all of humanity needs spiritual healing. We’ve all been made sick by our wounds, our sins and our fear. Jesus said he came to bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the mourning, set the prisoner free. He is as intent on healing our spirits, just as he healed people physically 2000 years ago.
And he still says, “take courage” to those he would heal. Because it takes courage to look at our wounds, our sins and our fear. It takes courage to be honest with ourselves, each other and God. It takes courage to let go of the life of suffering we are so accustomed to. It takes courage to embrace a new way of being.
So many people are spending their lives fleeing from what they fear will undo them. They are fleeing from failure, from shame, from disappointment, sometimes from reality itself. They cover themselves with accomplishments, money, relationships, distractions in their attempts to avoid facing what they need to be healed of. People who are fleeing from what they need to heal from will lie, cheat, steal, harden their hearts, hurt those closest to them. Anything to avoid looking into the abyss of fear, shame and pain they carry within.
And Jesus says, “take courage.” Healing takes courage. It takes courage to be honest about our failures, our wounds, our sin and fears. It takes courage to give up the tools that kept them at bay. It takes great courage to let go of what we have known and how we have survived up until now. Being healed is not for the faint of heart.
Is there something you are running away from? Something you have lacked the courage to face? Some wound, some failure in your past, some secret you carry and hide? Take courage, friend.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus, John 16:33
I pray today to you, Papa God who loves us, that you would make us men and women of courage and strength.
I pray that your perfect love would cast out our every fear.
I pray that we would move courageously into the healing you offer us.
I pray that you would grant us courage as free men and women, radiating warm-hearted confidence so that we can face, with you and the grace you offer, every monster, every secret, every wound, every lie and every harmful thing which has kept us in sickness and bondage.
I pray that we would know in our heart of hearts that we have been utterly released from any condemnation and shame. That no matter how frightening the sin or suffering we carry, that we would have full confidence that with your love and grace, it is already over come for us.
I pray that you would grant us the courage we need to step out of darkness and sin, sickness and blindness, death and fear and into the full light of your love.
May we move forward this day and always with hearts full of courage as we enter into the full healing which is your hearts desire for us.
Amen and amen.
Dear Lord, I will remain restless, tense, and dissatisfied until I can be totally at peace in your house. But I am still on the road, still journeying, still tired and weary, and still wondering if I will ever make it to the city on the hill. With Vincent van Gogh, I keep asking your angel, whom I meet on the road: “Does the road go uphill then all the way?” And the answer is: “Yes, to the very end.” And I ask again: “And will the journey take all day long?” And the answer is: “From morning till night, my friend.”
So I go on, Lord, tired, often frustrated, irritated, but always hopeful to reach one day the eternal city far away, resplendent in the evening sun.
There is no certainty that my life will be any easier in the years ahead, or that my heart will be any calmer. But there is the certainty that you are waiting for me and will welcome me home when I have persevered in my long journey to your house.
O Lord, give me courage, hope, and confidence. Amen.
~ Henri Nouwen
“I want you to know I never believed the things people said about you. Those people who said they could see better than you could what your faults are? I never saw what they thought they were seeing in you. All those times you were told that you are lazy or selfish or undisciplined or a stubborn know-it-all? I always thought the people saying those things were being incredibly unfair.
“I know that when you took these accusations and misjudgments to heart, you were just trying to be good. But I had already made you just the way I wanted you. I had already looked at you and said you were good – very good. Headed to amazing, in fact.
“I know you worked really hard to prove to the people who misjudged you wrong. And that you felt like until they removed the labels they put on you, it was your job to carry them. But they never had the right to put those labels on you to begin with. I’m the one who made you. You and I are the only ones who have the right to say who you are.
“I’m glad you are letting go of those labels people put on you. You and I know what your real strengths and weaknesses are anyways. You don’t have to allow anyone else to put in their two cents. They never knew what they were talking about anyways. I know you’ve doubted that. But I can see you clearly. Those people were wrong.
“Please know that when you were struggling against all of that misjudgment, misunderstanding and criticism, I always took your side.”
God often does not answer my prayers because he knows me. He knows that if he allowed me to enjoy material ease, plenty of affirmation and affection from the people around me, a good name and reputation and eased the intensity of my many imperfections, I would be satisfied. But my satisfaction would be in the good life I had rather than in God himself.
So God has often withheld good things from me, not because he doesn’t care and not because he doesn’t want them for me. Rather, it’s because none of those things are good enough for me or for him. None of them are God.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”
I don’t think it’s God’s desire for us to live in poverty and misery. I think he wants us to enjoy the good things life has to offer. But he also knows that none of those things are permanent, they don’t bring life and they don’t redeem the world. Only God can offer that. Without first finding what we need in God, all the things this world offers are poor substitutes for the real deal.
The bible says that God is a jealous God. He doesn’t share his throne with idols. This isn’t because he’s a petty narcissist who must be the center of attention all of the time. It’s because he is the source of life, love, truth, light and every good thing. All the good things of this world are temporary at best. Without a firm foundation, they aren’t life giving, but corrupting. God does not want us to build lives on such shaky foundations. And that is why he will not share his throne with them.
Until we are satisfied in God, the abundance of this world will be an idol. Until we’ve been shaped by love, we’ll resist using abundance and excess for the benefit of others instead of for ourselves alone. Until our identity is grounded in Christ, our relationships and possessions and work and reputation will carry the weight of providing an identity for us.
And ultimately, our idols, our wealth and our false identities will require more work to sustain than they give us in return. We will live our lives serving them, rather than the other way around. And at the end of our lives, we will lose those things we invested so much in and go back to God empty handed and depleted.
It’s not God’s desire that any of us would have this experience. But as we spoke of yesterday, God is willing to allow us to make our own choices, even when it does not serve his desire for us. But some of us – a minority most likely – have offered ourselves to him to shape. We have prayed silly prayers like, “let your will and not my will be done.” We’ve sincerely offered our lives for God to do with as he will.
When we do that, all bets are off. God will never push us to our destruction. But he will relentlessly push us to grow and mature in our relationship with him. And more often than not, part of this will mean that he will allow us to be deprived of good things in life. Even when we ask for them in prayer.
I’ve certainly done my fair share of bitching and moaning around here over the last couple of years. I’ve done much more on my own. I’d be embarrassed for you to know how often I wished I wasn’t alive or hadn’t been born.
God could have eased my burdens, answered some prayers, made a way out for me. Instead I often felt like Jeremiah when he said, “He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked.”
When God does not answer your prayers, it is normal and understandable to become bitter. To wonder if he is even real. If he cares. If he will live up to his promises. But the truth is that even unanswered prayers are part of his grace for you.
I’ve been bitter and angry and given up my hope. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I’ve also known that it’s all grace. All of it is grace. When I could find satisfaction in nothing else, I was driven to find it in God. And that’s grace. That I can walk as a companion with others who suffer is grace. Everything I’ve ever sought after or put my trust in has been ripped from me. And it’s grace to be freed from those unworthy things.
As unlikely as it seems, the most important reason God does not answer our prayers is because of his grace for us. It’s what we need on our way.
This week we’ve been looking at common reasons that God doesn’t answer our prayers. Today we’ll look at the problem of people. As in other people. When people refuse to cooperate, refuse to change or follow God’s leading, prayers tend to go unanswered.
Sometimes it can be a matter of people who God would have serve as answers to your prayers not taking up the call. Other times it may well be people who are behaving in ways which are harmful and hurtful and you’re praying for God to change them. Yet they just keep doing what they are doing.
At this point, I could get into a long discussion about free will. But for the moment I’m going to leave that for another day. Instead, for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to work from the assumption that we each make our own choices. Further, let’s posit that God’s interference with each person’s free choices is generally limited to allowing the negative consequences of them to become so unbearable that they may eventually change their ways.
So, when the answers to our prayers require another person to do something or change something and they don’t do it, our prayers will go unanswered. Even when providing an answer to our prayers would be God’s desire.
This begs a question. When it would be God’s desire for our prayers to be answered, why would God allow people’s exercise of free will to interfere with that desire? Why doesn’t God just temporarily short-circuit people’s free will to obtain the desired end? Or why doesn’t he do like he did with the apostle Paul and basically hold them hostage while he gets them all straightened out?
The issue, it seems to me, is that it is God’s intention that we take care of each other. That we be looking out for each other’s needs. And that we be seeking each other’s best interests. But that requires us to have a certain level of maturity. And in order to gain that maturity, we need to grow up and decide on our own to do right by each other. It’s not something that can be done for us.
If God is always stepping in and pulling Jedi mind tricks to use people to answer prayers, humanity will never grow up. He’d be no different than the parent who picks up their kid’s messes, does their homework and otherwise enables them to remain immature and irresponsible. Yes, it creates an easier and more pleasant experience for the kids. But it’s stunting.
There is so much unneeded suffering in the world. It can be a hard pill to swallow to that God isn’t going to step in and fix it or force other people to fix it. instead, like all parents sometimes have to, he’s going to let us fall and fail until we’re finally willing to take responsibility for the mess we have made. Look at the pain we’ve caused. And get to work, with his support, in fixing the wreck we’ve created. And until we human beings get to the point of being willing to do that, there’s going to be a lot of unanswered prayers.
Which is all well and fine on a theoretical, big-picture scale. But maybe not much help when faced with our own unanswered prayers. Or someone who is causing us to suffer and refuses to change. When we’re in this position, there are two truths to hold onto.
The first is that God will not allow anything to happen which cannot be redeemed. This is quite different than saying he won’t give us more than we can handle. I’ve certainly had more than I can handle come my way in life! Rather it’s saying that if it’s happening, I can trust that eventually it will be redeemed. God will bring good out of it, even if it’s awful and not his will for you. And the good will be greater than the evil and suffering you’ve had to endure.
The second is that if we want to live in a world with fewer unanswered prayers, then we must be the sort of people who are answers to prayers ourselves. We must be more aware of and attuned to the needs of people around us. We must be more willing to make some sacrifices for other’s sake. We must be more determined to live and act out of love instead of indulging our anger, self-righteousness, selfishness and fear. The world cannot change if we do not change first.
I could probably keep this series on reasons for unanswered prayers going for several more weeks. But for now, I’m going to end it tomorrow with a post on what I think is the most important and unrecognized reason for answered prayers. It’s a good one that you may never have heard before, so be sure to check back tomorrow!
Especially when I was younger, I was prone to saying prayers that amounted to “God, please don’t let reality be reality.’ I would not prepare for a test and ask God to help me do well on it anyways. I would wake up late and ask God to somehow make the 5 minutes I had extend to the 15 minutes I needed. And if the bus could be running just the right amount late, that would be great. Or to let the $3 in my bank account somehow cover the $25 I needed for gas. Pretty please, please, please.
Oddly enough, God never seemed inclined to answer these prayers. In fact, anyone who has known me for a while will tell you that I have remarkably bad luck. I’m the sort of person who hits every red light, always gets stuck behind someone who has a problem at the checkout and when I switch lanes while driving, that lane immediately slows down. At least twice a year, my mail mysteriously gets waylaid or returned to sender. And it’s almost always mail with money or something important in it. My checks always went through miraculously fast while my deposits were usually delayed. So on and so forth.
After a while, I stopped fighting life as it is and just went with it. It’s much less stressful to just let life be what it is than to continually hope against hope that just this once, I’ll catch a break.
The thing is that God made reality. It works according to certain rules and principles. And it works the way it does for reasons. Asking God to make reality work some other way for your benefit isn’t really a reasonable request. Nor is it practical. There are 7 billion of us. Imagine if God changed the rules of time, physics and biology every time someone prayed for it in Jesus’ name. It would be an unholy disaster. For all of us.
Right now some of you are saying, “but Rebecca, you’re talking about petty things you were asking for here. I had a kid who I asked God to heal and he didn’t. I asked God to provide safety or shelter and he didn’t. I understand why God isn’t continually making time stand still or changing traffic for our benefit. What about the really major tragedies people ask God to intervene in?”
The examples I’ve given are pretty petty, but I too have prayed “please stop reality from being reality” prayers in some very serious circumstances which have remained unanswered. People I’ve begged God to heal and tragedies which went un-averted. I get it.
And I don’t often understand why God can’t just intervene and set things right. What possible harm could come from healing my 33 year old brother in law who is imprisoned in a body he hasn’t been able to control for the last decade, for example.
To a certain extent, the issue is that there’s a bigger plan at work than we understand. Some things are the way they are and will remain so because to change them would interfere with other important things which are going on. And often there’s no way for us to know the why’s behind such things.
However, I think that mostly the answer is basically the same as for our unanswered petty prayers: reality is what it is. And God made it that way for a reason. As I’ve said often before, all of creation works not in spite of destructive forces, but because of them. The planet could not support life without earthquakes, fierce weather and death, for example. The evolution of life which lead to us could not occur without mutations which more often than not lead to deformity and death. Remember, when God created the world he declared it “good”, not perfect.
As Job said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
Have you ever considered how it is that we came to have the ability to suffer? If God had intended the world to be perfect and for us to never suffer, then why would he have created us with the capacity to suffer? He could have made us so that no matter what happened, we wouldn’t mind and would just carry on our merry way. But he didn’t.
The truth which has too long been denied – especially by Christians – is that this world is as it should be, even though we often are not. Even with all the trouble which being alive can bring. When we ask God to change reality for our benefit, we are rejecting the reality he made. Which I am certain he understands, but he made reality intentionally, for good purposes. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t often step in to change it?*
Now, I’m not claiming that God never steps in to change reality. Sometimes prayers for healing are answered. Sometimes favor is given, luck strikes and tragedy is averted. And those are good things. Some people say that this is what we can expect when we have enough faith. As if one child will receive healing because of the faith of his parents while another dies because her family’s faith wasn’t good enough. This is simply not true.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, Jesus is the author of our faith, so our faith is always just what it should be. God will not find fault in us and withhold blessings from us because our faith doesn’t meet his standards.
Again, we have to go back to what I said at the outset about answered and unanswered prayers. Different people need different things. Life is far too complex to be boiled down to simplistic formulas.
So yes, there will be times when God answers prayers for reality to be something other than what it is. But as a rule, we should expect that reality will remain reality. Jesus said that no father would hand his son a scorpion when he’d asked for bread. He didn’t say that he’d turn a scorpion into bread for him, though.
*Sometime soon I will have to write more about why God might have desired to make a reality in which suffering is an unavoidable part. But for now, consider that grace, mercy, compassion, empathy and patience are all part of God’s character. And we are made in his image, so it’s part of our true identity as well. If no one ever erred or suffered, what need would there be for grace, mercy, compassion and the like? How would God and man ever express these parts of our character?