I’d like us to consider prayer as becoming more and more like Jesus – and of course that doesn’t happen overnight. This is why prayer is not answered overnight. As I wait for God to answer prayer, I am told not to give up on prayer but to come again and again to the presence of God to pray. This daily time with God is a relationship building time. In the waiting, I am humbled and made small. I don’t get what I want, when I want it and in the words of noted theologian Frank Sinatra, I don’t get it ‘my way’. Waiting is supposed to be good for us.
Yet, it is my experience, times waiting is what puzzles and aggravates the Christian to no end. In the waiting, instead of growing in faith, we’re prone to lose faith and cast doubts and be filled with disappointment. In other words waiting can, instead of building and growing my relationship with God, actually discourage my relationship with God.
Jesus told us a parable to encourage us to keep praying in the midst of the waiting. In Luke 18, there was a widow who was nagging a Judge to grant her justice. In the parable Jesus tells us the main work to do as we wait for answers is to keep on praying. Somehow there is a great blessing and benefit in praying with persistence.
Jesus sums up the story by saying,
“And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8)
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer that hasn’t been answered since the time Jesus gave it. The will of God is not being done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Will this prayer be answered? Ultimately in the end of days, Yes! Is it being answered as we live out a testimony for Christ in our work place and home today? In many ways, Yes! The blessing of consistently praying, “Thy will be done on earth” is that we are directed to Jesus and challenge ourselves to live out Christ and His Kingdom in our daily lives.
Isaiah says, “Those that (wait) on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). The irony of this passage is that in waiting our strength is renewed. Often we think of waiting for answered prayer as the time to grow weary. Not here! God intends the waiting to invigorate us and renew us. How can this be? How could praying and then receiving no answer be an opportunity to be renewed in the Lord? Could it be that by waiting God is taking our prayer and joining our desperate hearts with His and then answering it in a way that is so much more and so much better? Remember prayer is at its heart is not lobbying God or nagging God to get what we want. Prayer is coming before the throne and joining my heart with His. Prayer is a child (think of a child who knows nothing even though he thinks he knows everything) coming before an all knowing Father and into His All-knowing realm. In this ‘realm’ we’re at a place where “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9). In prayer, we should be thinking we are standing before infinity, standing one inch from the sun. Think of prayer as coming before the One who sees all things: Sees the past, sees our hearts, knows our minds, sees our circumstances and then sees the future and everything that will come down our way. Prayer is really, an ant (you and me) coming before a wonderfully kind and all powerful King. Thus when we pray to this King and are asked to wait, we must believe that He is answering our prayer by giving us not always what we ask for, but what we need. We can be even thankful as we wait, knowing He is granting our request in the right way even giving us something more and better than we ask for (Ephesians 3:20).
I asked God for strength that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, 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 power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men, most richly blessed.