This was scribbled over 150 years ago by an anonymous soldier of the Confederate army:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve -- I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help that I might do greater things -- I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy -- I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life -- I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for -- but everything I had hoped for.
Despite myself, my prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed!
How would you analyze the prayers of this man, and the answers to each of those prayers? Let's look at the first one. Instead of God answering the prayer for strength to achieve, he answered with weakness so the humility of obedience could be learned. Why would God do something like that?
I think of myself praying such a prayer, but the longer I think about that prayer being answered, I would probably be taking all the credit for any achievements made. Yes, I would rush to say the prayer, but human nature would have me believing I had accomplished great things by my own strength.
The same is true with all the other things this man prayed for. If God were to give him that for which he was asking, the outcome would have been entirely different. He would have not learned humility, nor wisdom, nor the priorities of life, nor real happiness.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8:26-27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God."
Back to our soldier praying, there is little criticism that could be made in the things for which he prayed, but could this be the activity of the Holy Spirit, interceding so the prayers could be in accordance with the will of God?
God loves conversation with his people. But aren't we glad when we ask him for something, the answer he gives is always something that is better for us, and always in line with his will.
I am surrounded by some of the "prayingest" people on earth. We know and love the opportunity to talk to God about everything. Above all things we ask for, all situations we pray about, all our problems and even our successes, I continually pray for us to seek only those things which are in accordance with God's will.