Somewhere along the way I picked up this quote from Phillip Brooks: “Do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.”
Several years ago I was going through some difficult things, and though I don’t remember the exact words I used, I prayed and asked God to get me out of the situation. My sense of the Lord’s response was this: “I don’t want to get you out of this, I want to develop you in this.”
And that is precisely what he did. He developed my faith, my ability to persevere, my hope, my character, my ministry skills, my trust in the Word of God, my commitment to prayer, my willingness to seek and heed the wise counsel of others, my ability to foresee and head off similar problems in the future, and many other such things. What I saw as a problem from which to flee, God saw as an opportunity in which to develop me and bless the people around me and glorify his name through me.
When we pray for the strength of the Lord instead of escape, when we pray for powers equal to our tasks rather than tasks equal to our powers, we give God the opportunity to show himself strong and gracious in our lives. And we do indeed become a means by which he displays his miracle working power, not to make much of us, but to make much of himself. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13).