First off, I want to thank you, and those who assist you, for your awesome website and the question and answer section. It's such a helpful resource for those who are studying God's word and looking for guidance.
I have a question: I am currently going through a situation that has the potential to have a very severe and negative impact on my life and my families if it doesn't go my way. I have prayed constantly about the matter and truly know and believe that God is capable, be it His will, to answer my prayers as asked. However, I also know that God's ways are greater than mine and that it may not be His will to answer my prayers in the way that I am hoping. In that regard, even though I am praying to God for a particular outcome, I am simultaneously preparing myself and my affairs in case things don't go as I hope.
My question is: Does God view my making preparations for my prayers to go not answered as I would like as a lack of faith?
Thank you for your time.
"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:5-8).
Not knowing what you are praying for makes this question a bit harder to answer. If you know that what you are praying for is according to God's will, then not expecting to receive what you asked is being double-minded. James used the example of asking for wisdom but it can also be applied to numerous other situations, such as praying for forgiveness.
There are other things we might pray for that we are not certain whether it is according to God's will. You might pray for a better job, but in the meantime, you continue to do the best you can at your current job because you know the Lord wants you to be a good worker (Colossians 3:23-24). This is not a lack of faith in knowing your prayers have been heard. It is just that you realize that you don't know what is best and therefore don't know what God's answer will be or when it will be.
Another example is that if you have a terminal illness. We know that all of us will eventually die (Hebrews 9:28), so I can't live forever, but I might ask God for a little more time to get some things done before I go. While I am confident that God can heal, again, I don't know what may be best for me and my loved ones. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again" (Colossians 1:21-26). Paul saw that he was currently living, so he focused on making the most of his time here on earth. There is nothing wrong with making sure your house is in order for your eventual death and meanwhile making the most of what time you have, regardless of what God decides is best in your situation.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me. To give you a little more context, A family member, who we depend on for providing, protection, child-raising, etc., is charged with a serious crime and facing incarceration. We and his attorneys truly believe he is not guilty, but the law is very subjective in a lot of areas, and juries don't always get it right. Guilty people go free and innocent people get convicted.
When you said "There are other things we might pray for that we are not certain whether it is according to God's will." that captured the essence of my struggle. We are obviously praying for his acquittal, but we certainly don't know what God's will is for him. I certainly don't doubt God's power and ability to answer my prayer, I just humbly know that His ways are infinitely above mine. He may have other plans. I know that no matter the outcome, He is faithful and will never place more on us than we could bear. So while I am praying for his acquittal, at the same time I was getting things in order to be best prepared in case he was taken away from us.
I was, however, concerned that God may view that as me praying without faith, which is certainly not my intention. That's why I was wondering if it was OK to pray for the best but be prepared for a different outcome, or if I should I just focus all my energy on just praying for what I want, trust God, and then only worry about him being incarcerated if that were to happen?
I hope I made things a little clearer, and thank you again for your time.
Since none of us know exactly what happened or why it happened, we can't be absolutely certain if someone is innocent or not. However, we can pray to God that justice will be done, that the judge and jury be guided with wisdom, and you have the strength to accept the future. Tell God that you think he should be acquitted but admit that your knowledge is imperfect.
Meanwhile, since you have full confidence that God will see that justice is done, you make preparations for what you don't know -- whether he will be acquitted or not.