The gift of prayer is one of God’s rich, rich blessings.
The opportunity to enter the presence of the sovereign God of the universe who delights in our coming is truly mind-boggling. And the gift of knowing that in His presence we are safe to bare our hearts, share our pain and even our doubts without worrying about judgement or condemnation. Our hearts soar when our requests are answered, and we bow down in worship, gratitude, and praise.
Prayer truly is a gift of grace.
But there is a part of prayer that many if not all of us find difficult…when our heartfelt pleas for salvation of a loved one, healing of a disease, restoration of broken relationships, or cries for justice and righteousness to prevail are not answered in the way or time we had hoped for.
Waiting for answers to prayers can be confusing at best and dispiriting at worst.
And what makes it worse is that the evil one senses our time of weakness and starts to fill our mind with lies to draw us away from our one true hope – trusting God’s love, His character, and His plan. At times we want to cry out, “Is God listening?” “Does He care?”
The answer is YES! Yes, He does!!
But even when we truly believe that, it is a profoundly difficult to move forward when God feels distant and remains silent when we pray. It is at times like this we need to reach out to friends to pray with us and for us. These are the times when we (like Moses – Exodus 17)) need our Aarons and Hurs to prayerfully support us in the battle to hold on to hope and faith. Identify people who you trust to walk with you when you feel alone and scared and have the courage to ask for their prayers when you need them.
In addition to faithful praying friends, there is a phrase found multiple times in scripture that has been a source of hope for me. It has enabled be to let go of anxiety and fear (at least for a time) and trust God’s faithfulness as I rest in the assurance of His providential, loving care. One of the places that phrase if found is in Romans 5:6, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Did you catch it…”at just the right time”?
Not too early, not too late, but exactly at the right time. (Also see John 13:1, Galatians 4:4, and Ephesians 1:10a) God will answer and it will be at just the right time.
These seasons of waiting are some of the most difficult journeys we are asked to take, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can let go of our expectations for timing and trust God’s plan. It won’t be easy, but God won’t let us down.
Our prayers will also be answered in just the right way…although perhaps not the way we wanted. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Again, we do not always understand why it seems like God is saying, “No” or “Not yet” to very reasonable requests. But as hard as it is, we need to learn to open our hands to let go of what we think is best and let God fill them with what He knows is best.
I realize these suggestions will not take away the turmoil in your soul when you receive a terminal diagnosis, your marriage is in trouble, you lose your job, or your child is walking away from the Lord, but perhaps remembering God’s character and His love for you and your loved ones, will enable you let go of expectations and work at waiting in faith and trust.
It is so easy to type those words and so difficult to actually practice them. I have been praying for salvation of my birth family for over 50 years now and so far, no one has come to the Lord, but I keep praying and believing. I cried out fervently for God to heal my husband and He did… by taking him home to heaven which is not the result I wanted. But even now I can humbly say, I know the blessing of praying friends. I know prayer is powerful and I know God listens and answers…at just the right time and in just the right way.