As I was praying this morning, a few prayers prayed long ago were brought to mind.
1 As a young pastor and father, I remember being concerned about how few books I was actually reading. I recognized that a huge source of growth and understanding for me came from books (not just in terms of the content, but also in terms of the thinking process). And because of having a little boy and being involved in youth ministry, I was not getting much reading done. I don't know if I prayed about it, but I do know the Lord discerns our thoughts. Now I log more hours as a pastor, I have four children, and yet I am reading a lot more than I used to. Thank you, Lord. I don't know what you did, but you sure helped.
2 (I do not wish to discourage my single friends, but this is nonetheless a prayer answered for me.) I was 21 and somewhat discouraged. My dad married at the age of 21, and he had known my mom for a couple years prior to that. Seeing my dad's life as a basic pattern for mine, I felt a little behind schedule, to put it unromantically. But as for me, I was not engaged, and further, there was not a visible prospect in my life. Again, I don't know if this was an actual prayer (I think it was), but it was at least a desire: I wanted to be married. Within three months, if that, Sara and I had reconnected and were engaged.
(Just to clarify: I did not pursue Sara because I wanted to be married and anyone would do. I pursued her because I finally realized that she was the one for me. Sometime around Thanksgiving 1990 I was brought to see that I would do well to have Sara as a wife if she would have me, a thought that had little occurred to me before. It was almost a spiritual experience, I think, and maybe sometime I'll go into the details.)
At any rate, the Lord answered my prayer to be married, and he did so in a rather quick and dramatic fashion. His reasons for doing so were good. His reasons for answering others' similar prayers "No" or "Not now" are also equally good, and maybe we'll understand those reasons one day.
3 I remember sitting in the little church I grew up in praying something like, "Lord, I don't think I have a real appreciation of your grace. Surface knowledge is all. Help me to appreciate your grace." I think I was in college at the time.
He has answered that prayer and continues to answer it. He did so and does so by revealing my sinfulness to me. It's not been a pleasant learning experience but a necessary one. The truth is I was sinful then but didn't know it. Now I know it, and I appreciate grace far more.
The Lord is good!