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The apostle Paul’s unanswered prayer

May 1, 2023

Daily Scripture

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7 I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.
8 I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. 9 He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. 10 Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

If we read the Bible as a set of short, literal sayings, a text like Matthew 21:21-22 seems to promise to give us anything we ask for in prayer. Yet the apostle Paul, a deeply loyal servant of God, wrote to Christians in Corinth that he had earnestly asked God to remove a “thorn in the flesh” (physical ailment). He never detailed the issue, but it clearly hindered his missionary travels. God did not take the ailment away. Yet Paul said the experience didn’t weaken his trust in God but deepened it.

  • Paul did not blame God for causing his ailment—he called it “a messenger from Satan.” He did say he “pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone” (that is, heal it). How good a case can you imagine Paul, who often traveled on foot, making for God to give him full health? Did the fact that his physical struggle continued mean that God didn’t care about him? Did it suggest that he didn’t pray “correctly”?
  • The Message * translated verse 9 as “I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size…. I just let Christ take over!” What “thorn” (or “thorns”—physical, emotional, relational) do you have to deal with? How have you found “My grace is enough for you” a spiritual reality in everyday terms? In what ways, if any, have you, like Paul, found that “when I’m weak, then I’m strong”?

Lord Jesus, I’m human, and you know I like being strong much better than I like being weak. Help my trust in you to keep growing stronger even at times when everything else in life is making me feel weaker. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Kersee Meyer

Kersee Meyer

Kersee Mayer was a part of the Resurrection Experience team at the church and worked alongside other creative folks to make videos to connect people to community, their faith and God. She is currently taking a break to be with her two young children.

(Karra Karst has been carrying a massive workload for the Discipleship team. Unfortunately, that kept her from being able to write for today. We’re happy to share an Insights blog post that Kersee Meyer wrote for us in January, 2022.)

We’re a society focused on our talents. The better you are at something, the more value some would see in you.

We know God can use our talents, but it’s hard to believe God can or even wants to use our weakness. That God can use the parts that might bring pain, suffering or shame is harder to imagine.

One of my weaknesses is my own self-doubt. I’ve allowed it to get in the way one too many times. I allow it to follow me like a thick fog that just won’t pass. I’ve prayed to God to take it away. I just want it to vanish from me, but my prayer is still unanswered.

With all the doubt that my weakness causes for me, I can only hope to be like Paul. To allow God to take it and use it because “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.”

I’m still praying that my weakness will vanish from me, that this thorn will be removed. But since it probably won’t, I’ve decided to change my prayer.

God, please allow me to be hyper-focused on you when I experience self-doubt. Help me to know I’m loved because you love me. Use this part of me to grow into something meaningful and useful for myself and others. Even in the midst of my doubt help me to lean on you. Amen.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress.