Jon Bloom points out how we may be missing the answers to our prayers:
We can’t help but have unreal, romantic imaginations and expectations about what God’s answers to our prayers will be.
Therefore, we are often unprepared for the answers we receive from God. His answers frequently do not look at first like answers. They look like problems. They look like trouble. They look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, sorrow, and increased selfishness. They cause deep soul-wrestling and expose sins and doubts and fears. They are not what we expect and we often do not see how they correspond to our prayers….
If we ask God for greater, deeper love for him, what should we expect to receive? Answers that give us a greater awareness of our deep and pervasive sinful depravity, because those who are forgiven much, love much, but those who are forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).
If we ask God to help us love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), what should we expect to receive? Answers that force us to give unexpected attention to a neighbor (who we might not put in that category (Luke 10:29)), which are inconvenient and irritating….
If we ask God for a deeper experience of his grace, what should we expect to receive? Answers that oppose our pride and humble our hearts (James 4:6)….
If we ask God to help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10), what should we expect to receive? Answers that require more humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) than we thought possible and might result in destitution, affliction, and mistreatment, like many saints throughout history, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).
Etc., etc. Read the rest here.
We often forget that God “predestined [us] to become conformed to the image of His Son”—that He is working in our lives to achieve this, and that we can expect pain will be involved. As Hebrews 12 reminds us, “[Y]ou have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons”:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines”…. He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.