In the adorably hysterical film, Evan Almighty, there lies a truth so profound, it may just change the way you view prayer. It did for me.
I am sure there are many of you who have seen this movie. For those of you who have not, a little background: Evan (Steve Carell) is a politician who prays for God to help him “Change the world.” God (played by Morgan Freeman) shows up and tells Evan to build an ark. While Evan was praying for help to change the world, his wife (Lauren Graham) was praying for their family to become closer.
Stress levels are high when Evan does start building the ark to the embarassment of his co-workers and family. The wife, thinking Evan has cracked, leaves with their three boys. I will not continue with many more details of the movie (except one). You will just have to watch it yourself. You will be glad you did. And let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with Steve Carell folks.
The part that changed my life, and my prayer life as well, is the scene that unfolds in a diner between the wife and a waitor, “Al Mighty,” (God). Al asks the wife if she needs anything, and she pours her heart out to him telling him the wacko building the ark on every news channel is her husband. Al responds to her,
“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them the opportunity to be courageous? And if someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?”
At this point it hits the wife (and me). The very thing that was upsetting her, that she was turning her back on, was the answer to her prayer. She had prayed for the family to be closer, but when her husband needed her the most, she did not draw close to him.
Doesn’t God work this way in our lives? Often He answers prayers, but we don’t even notice the answered prayer, because it doesn’t look how we pictured it would.
This year I have prayed for patience, I have prayed for strength, I have prayed for humilty and I have prayed for grace. This is just a handful of the prayers I have prayed. And you want to know something? This year has been the most difficult year of my life! And I kept finding myself upset and disappointed when I still didn’t have the patience with my kids I had prayed for or when I still didn’t feel stronger to face life’s trials. I have come to understand however, that this has been a year of answered prayers.
God is not magically making me strong. He is giving me trials to endure so that I come out stronger in the end. He didn’t fill me with patience as I requested, rather He has made me wait for Him and His perfect timing. He has also provided opportunities for me to practice being patient (though I have failed in them miserably).
You see I am fairly certain that God anticipated our ego-centric ways as humans–after all He created us. So I think He gets crafty with prayer. He knows everything we are capable of and all He wants us to be. He also knows we would never pray for trials, even if the outcome was for us to become the stronger, more patient individual we long to be. So next time you pray, open your heart to how God is answering you, because He always answers.