From The Struggle of Prayer by Donald Bloesch…
“The efficacy of our prayers is tied to the discretion of God. He will answer the prayers of the faithful, but He will answer in His own way and in His own time. He will often give us beyond what we ask for. As Luther phrased it, ‘We pray for silver, but God often gives us gold.’
Yet God may also answer with a refusal. He will not reject our prayer, but He may well reject the way we wish our prayer to be answered. We must not insist on our solution after it becomes clear that God chooses to impose another solution. There is a time to resist and there is a time to submit. God may delay His answer in order to secure our humble dependence on Him. We need to wait for the right time, which is known only to Him. It was seven years before William Carey baptized his first convert in India.
It is well to recognize that there will always be a tension and sometimes a contradiction between our desires and God’s will. The reason is that sin still darkens the minds even of believers, so that we do not always know or desire what is best for us. God is infinite, whereas we are finite; He is the Creator, we are only creatures. This immeasurable gulf between God and man is vividly portrayed by the prophet Isaiah: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The paradox of prayer that is not answered according to human expectation but that is fulfilled in the perspective of eternity is admirably set forth in the following poem:
He asked for strength that he might achieve;
he was made weak that he might obey.
He asked for health that he might do greater things;
he was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He asked for riches that he might be happy;
he was given poverty that he might be wise.
He asked for power that he might have the praise of men;
he was given weakness that he might feel the need of God.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life;
he was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He has received nothing that he asked for, all that he hoped for.
His prayer was answered!
In our prayers we will not always get what we expressly desire, but we will receive what we need.”