Two Answers to Prayer

Robert Wurtz II

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9 NKJV)

Our passage reveals to us that in the final analysis there are two answers to prayer. Paul pleaded with the Lord in prayer three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed. He was hoping at some point for relief. In other words, he wanted the Lord to grant his petition with a “yes.” God had other plans and a greater purpose.

It would be superfluous for me to say that God doesn’t always give us what we desire. In times of trouble, we typically want relief. We want God to intervene. When He doesn’t we sometimes question, why not? Paul approached his problem differently. He never complained or charged God foolishly. He had confidence that He was fulfilling God’s purposes for his life and understood that nothing befalls us as Christians without our Heavenly Father’s knowledge and tender care.

Paul came to realize that the reason why God allowed the thorn in the flesh (whatsoever it was we cannot say) was so that he would rely on the power of Christ and not his own strength. Paul found himself in a place of weakness. In fact, the late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson commented on this passage saying that the thorn in the flesh was as a messenger from Satan personified. He further remarked, “The messenger of Satan kept slapping Paul in the face and Paul now sees that it was God’s will for it to be so.”

God doesn’t take pleasure in his children being abused of Satan. Nevertheless, He will allow Satan to bring trouble into our life for God’s purposes. Satan knows our weaknesses and he will exploit them to the fullest extent that God will allow him to. This is why we often deal with the same old problems. Satan will hit the same sore places in our hearts and lives over and over again. Sometimes it’s like the same old song… just a different verse.

God answers our prayers with yes and no. I think it is that simple. Sometimes the yes is delayed. In other words, “yes… but not right now.” When God answers our prayer with “no” we can rest assured that we will receive the same enabling that Paul received. It is not just no, it is no, but my grace is sufficient. No, but I will enable you to endure what you are going through. Although we prefer our lives to be painless and problem-free… Paul put the best construction on his troubles. He refused to be pain and problem free and powerless. This is why he writes, Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.    

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