Prayer, at times, is a big mystery to me. Sometimes God answers prayers in the way that we want Him to, or in even better, grander ways. Other times He says NO to our prayer requests. Or NOT NOW.

At times it seems like others around us are having every prayer answered in a positive way–solid marriages, healthy babies, financial prosperity all seem to drop into their laps effortlessly. Meanwhile, our own earnest prayers, asked in faith, may at times go unfulfilled.

I can’t explain why God seems to be inconsistent in how He handles prayer requests. As Jesus said, He causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Sometimes the good guys win. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes nobody wins. I can’t explain it.

However, I do think one reason for this seeming inconsistency is that it actually fosters relationship with God. If He never answered any of my prayers, then I’d likely give up my faith. If He always answered them just the way I wanted Him to, on my timetable, then I might take Him for granted and eventually think I did not actually need Him.

Prayer is not easy business. Sure, some days the words flow effortlessly from my lips, words of praise and thanksgiving. But on some days they spill out tearfully as I pour out my heart to God in distress and disappointment. Many days I’m wrestling in prayer, unsure of exactly what to pray for but feeling a deeply-rooted need to pray anyway.

Sometimes I am so focused on seeing results to my prayers that I miss out on the greater purpose in prayer, which is fostering a relationship with God. I’m trying to not focus on seeing results from my prayers, but rather focus on deepening that relationship.