In the name of transparency and dependence on Him, I do pray for specifics and I pour out my desires. I believe that He can do what I am asking . . . if He chooses to. I have no doubt that He is capable.
But in the name of humility, I have to allow Him to answer as He wants. And sometimes this means waiting a long time for Him to answer or to work things out. More often than not, God moves a lot slower than I want Him to. And learning to let things happen “in His time and in His way” has been a really hard lesson to learn.
So how long should we continue to hang in there and pray for something that doesn’t seem to be happening? When it seems like God is not listening and it hurts us to have to plead again about a certain request?
I’ve pleaded with God for things that haven’t happened or that were a long time in coming. And so I have explored the issue of prayer a lot. And I recommend that first you read the “Understanding Prayer” posts before this one. If you have done that and you have applied what you learned there and prayer still doesn’t seem to be “working,” then the next best advice I can offer is to keep praying about your concern until one of five things happens. Until . . .
1) God says “Yes.”
2) God says, “No, My grace is sufficient for you.” (And sometimes a “no” is actually a blessing in disguise.)
3) God has strengthened your conviction that this is indeed the way you are to continue praying, and you need to persist in prayer until it happens.
4) God has purified your desires through the trial and the waiting, and He has shown you how to change your request to be more in line with His Will. Or . . .
5) You realize that you have made an idol out of the request and the answer that you want.And if that has happened (#5), let go of the prayer request. When we have been so focused on a request that we have lost our focus on God, lost our confidence in God, or have caused ourselves emotional distress, then we need to confess it and to fully hand the request over to Him to do with as He pleases. We need to let it go.
If your prayers have become despairing prayers where all you do is lament all that God is not doing for you, when you are tempted to bail on Him because you don’t think your prayers are being answered, I would recommend a temporary experiment:Stop asking for things!
Stop asking for things and start asking God what He’s trying to teach you through this time, about faith, about yourself, about Him. Examine your heart to see if you are willing to wait for Him to answer in His time and in His way. Do you trust that He is listening to you? Do you trust that He cares? That He is working behind the scenes on your request? That He can handle whatever problem you throw at Him? Ask Him to examine your heart and to reveal why you are having such a hard time waiting on Him or trusting Him. It can be eye-opening and faith-changing.
And during the wait (and even in the face of His “no” answers), praise Him. As much as you can. While we are in the long waits and facing unanswered prayer, we need to praise Him. And to keep praising Him - until we have Him so clearly in focus and at the forefront of our minds that our desire to get what we want pales in comparison to His glory and His love and His presence. (And praise helps repel evil.)
God will answer when it’s time, but we have to be willing to accept the answer He gives. And sometimes, I think He makes us wait until we work through our trust issues and control issues and self-sufficiency issues and fears and doubts and misconceptions about Him and faith and ourselves. And He makes us wait until He knows we are ready for the answer, whatever it is.
Our job is not to demand answers from God, but to be in a position of expectant willingness to receive them, when it’s His timing.
When our requests are causing us to despair, we need to stop asking for things and to start using prayer to get to know Him and to get to know ourselves and to learn to be honest with Him. Go to Him with your questions, your feelings, and your doubts. And ask simply that God grows you through them, that He searches your heart and mind and uncovers anything that you need to face.
But be prepared for it to hurt or surprise you or challenge you or convict you, such as if you are continuing in a sin that you think you have hidden from yourself or God. If you don’t face these things - these fears, misconceptions, hidden sins, etc. - you are choosing to keep up walls between you and God. And you can’t expect Him to break them down for you. He allows us the final choice in closing the gap.
Also, if it seems as though God is not answering your prayer, ask yourself (and ask God) if there is anything that you should be doing or not doing. Ask Him if you are using prayer to be lazy. What I mean is . . . Are you praying about something as a way to avoid making a decision or to avoid actually having to do something about it?Sometimes, we pray “lazy prayers.” We ask God to do something for us while we ignore the resources and wisdom He gave us to do it ourselves, such as praying that God gives us a healthy body when we won’t exercise or eat right, or praying for a job when we won’t go looking for one. Or we pray prayers from the wrong angle and we need to slightly shift what we are asking for. Instead of praying, “Lord, change my spouse,” it would be far more effective to pray, “Lord, help me see what I can do/think/change to make this marriage better.” Sometimes, to get our prayers answered, it takes tweaking them a little or praying that God opens our eyes to the answer that is already there.
I don’t really think that God will answer prayers that are just helping us be lazy. I think sometimes His silence is to force us to look deeper at ourselves and the ways we are being lazy, careless, or resistant. Sometimes, His silence may be to challenge us to see what we are neglecting to do ourselves.
And if you really want wisdom to deal with a concern, He will give it. verse on wisdom. But do you really want the answer? Enough to hear it?
During the wait, examine your heart. Are you really willing to accept God’s Will, whatever it is? Because when we park on a particular answer, oftentimes we become unwilling to consider that God may be saying “no” or that He may have other plans. We basically tell Him that this is what we are waiting for, and we will accept nothing else. But that’s not true faith.
True faith would be saying, “Lord, this is what I pray for and hope for, but Your Will be done.” True faith isn’t waiting for a particular answer before we really live and shine for Him. It’s glorifying Him in the here-and-now and being faithfully obedient in the smallest things, knowing that His plan will unfold as we walk with Him and obey now.
It’s one thing to dig in our heels and say, “I’m waiting for You, Lord, to show up and light the way.” It’s another to dig in our heels and say, “I’m waiting in front of this particular door, Lord, until it opens. And I will accept nothing else.”
Now, if He really has given you a particular answer in advance, don’t just sit around and do nothing while you wait for it. Continue living your life and glorifying Him in every way, big and small, and meet with Him daily in prayer and His Word. That is His Will for us, no matter what - in the good times and the bad, in the answered prayer and in the waiting. And if we happen to have misunderstood His answer to us or if we unconsciously “made up” His answer in our hearts, then His true Will will become clear as we walk with Him and remain close to Him. And if we remain close to Him, it will be easier to accept the change of plans.
So if you glorify Him while it is “today” and remain close to Him and obey Him no matter what, you really can’t lose. It’s when you let your hope and faith rest on a particular answer to prayer that you are tempted to lose faith in Him if it doesn’t happen. Don’t let your faith hinge on getting a particular answer; let it hinge on the God who loves you and who will work His plan out in your life if your heart is sensitive, if you are obedient, and if you remain vitally connected to Him. That should be our focus everyday anyway.
As long as our hearts are sensitive to Him and we are in a receptive place to hear Him, God will answer eventually. But it is just a fact that we have to wait a long time and go through some pain before He does. But hang in there! He will remember you!!!
- Heather K (Joshua 24:15, Psalm 46:10)