Thanks to a great question from an old friend, and another great question from a new friend, I’ve been thinking a good bit about prayer. I plan to do a bit more thinking and hopefully follow that up with some writing sometime soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you today.


A friend of mind was asking for help understanding the following verse from the Psalms:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour;
No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. {Ps. 84:11}

My friend wondered if you could earn God’s favour, and if He was perhaps withholding a good thing from her because she wasn’t doing something she should’ve been doing. Perhaps you are also waiting for “a good thing” and wondering what you’re doing wrong and why you don’t have it.

The thing about the blessings of the Lord is, I don’t think we earn them per se. I think blessing is the natural consequence of obedience. This is a point of significance though at first glance it might seem moot — what you believe will inform your understanding of your circumstances. It’s hard to put this into context, but let me try to explain with some examples.

God explained to Adam and Eve the consequence of sin in Genesis 2, when he told them not to eat from the tree. If they stayed inside God’s will and didn’t eat from the tree, the natural consequence of that behavior would be that they would continue to enjoy God’s blessing. But if they chose to disobey and eat the fruit of the tree, the consequence for that behavior would be death.

Now it wasn’t that God was rewarding their obedience or even punishing their disobedience — the natural result of their decisions would take place. Obey God, stay in the Garden, disobey, and your decision has dramatically altered the world you live in.

A simpler example: I tell the Bear not to touch the oven because it’s hot. If he doesn’t touch it, he’ll be fine. If he does, he’ll get burned. The choice is his. I am not punishing him for disobeying me if he touches the oven and his hand gets burned. Though I will make efforts to direct him and avoid it happening, he may still make the choice to do it, and getting burned is the natural consequence of the action.

The Lord does bestow favour and honour, and I think blessings are the natural consequence of walking in His ways. He built that into the fabric of the world we live in. (For example, if we make healthy choices in our diet and exercise, we’re much more likely to experience the blessings of good health.)

The challenge might be for us to recognise that our heart is longing for something that we think is good. The Lord who knows all things might know that something we think is a good thing for us actually isn’t. The Bear would probably think getting ice cream for dinner every night is a good thing…but his Mom and Dad see otherwise, and don’t “bless him” with ice cream for dinner. See what I mean?

And while that may seem like a simple example, remember that we are children to our heavenly Father, and His understanding is so high above ours — like the distance from the stars to the ocean. And I think we often forget that our lives are just a blip on the map — a single frame in the motion picture of eternity. And eternal perspective changes everything.

As Second Peter puts it: But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. {2 Peter 3: 8&9}

Sometimes while we’re faithfully holding on for what we’re hoping for, I think God is busy behind the scenes orchestrating events to bring others to repentance, because of our faithfulness.

Have you ever heard the song, Unanswered Prayers? (by country singer Garth Brooks) I wanted to post the music video here but could only find remakes on youtube, so these are the lyrics:

Just the other night at my hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all time
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all

And as she walked away I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life


Some of God’s greatest gifts are all too often unanswered…
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

The Sermon in a Nutshell: I think we would do well to be careful if we think God isn’t blessing us with something and it seems contradictory to a Scripture that says He won’t withhold something good from us if we’re walking in His ways. We are a bit like the Bear in relationship to our all-knowing God. And I can honestly say for the Bear and myself, sometimes we don’t know what’s good for us.