The Apostle Paul’s Unanswered Prayer

Did you know the Apostle Paul had a vision of Heaven? In these days when one claims to see a vision of heaven via dream or near-death experience, it becomes a Hollywood movie. Not so with Paul’s vision. Read his experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.

All Paul said about this vision was that he was “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2), and he “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (v. 4). This pales in comparison to the over-the-top drama of modern trips to “heaven.” The Apostle Paul had an authentic, biblical vision of heaven and barely said a word about it.

But there’s far more to the story. In order to keep Paul from becoming conceited about this heavenly revelation (v. 7), the Lord gave Paul “a thorn . . . in the flesh.” What this thorn was, we do not truly know, but we can wonder.

This thorn pained Paul so deeply that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away, but God didn’t (v. 8). God said no to the Apostle Paul. And it wasn’t even a, “No, maybe later.” It was a straightforward no. Even though Paul was in pain, in discomfort, experiencing this hindrance, the Lord said no. Why? According to Paul, there was one great reason.

Paul knew, despite the Lord telling him no, everything would be fine because God’s grace is sufficient. Sufficient for what? we may ask. Sufficient to hold us up, to keep us going, to push us forward. Sufficient for anything that may come our way in life—whether a thorn in the flesh or a fork in the road.

Do you believe God’s grace is sufficient for you? What is the thorn in your flesh currently? Surely there is something, as we all deal with various ailments to some extent. Do you trust God’s grace will be sufficient to meet your needs, or is your faith crumbling from the pressure of your thorn?

God may say no to our prayers but it is never one void of grace. “ . . . Paul’s request wasn’t altogether rejected,” Garrett Kell wrote. “Instead of relieving pain, the Lord promised grace (2 Cor. 12:8). The thorn would deepen his dependence, increase his trust, and strengthen his reliance on the Lord; the grace would keep him from giving up on the God who said no to his prayer.”

But why is God’s grace sufficient? Because his power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness. The Lord is able to shine all the more when his children are especially weak.

When your knees are wobbly, God will hold you up.

As your heart grows faint, God will strengthen your faith.

When you simply want to give up, God will not let you go.

Like the Apostle Paul, we mustn’t look at God’s answer with discouragement, but opportunity. Opportunity to trust in the Lord’s unwavering, unconquerable grace. Opportunity to marvel at the mercy of God. Opportunity to simply trust in the one who saved us. Paul could see God’s grace in his unanswered prayer, and so should we.

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