• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Unanswered Prayer

Thanks to John W. for today’s post:

Paul Miller’s A Praying Life is particularly insightful and practical because it is a frank biography of his own “praying life” fleshed out powerfully through the way he and his wife Jill persevered in prayer for their autistic daughter Kim. Chapter 21 gives a great perspective on persevering when prayer doesn’t seem to be answered… and yet how after 20 years Paul realized that God had answered a prayer of Jill’s made back in 1981.

This came to mind during Christmas when I preached on Simeon holding the longed-for Messiah in his arms and thanked God for answered prayer. How long had Simeon been praying? How long had the Jews been praying for Immanuel to come, during those 400 years of God’s apparent silence since Isaiah made those great hope-filled Messianic prophecies?

And then I recalled the prayers of the Israelites in Egypt, crying out to God through 400 years of exile-become-captivity.

“And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Ex 2:23-25)

From our perspective of the cosmic span of the Bible’s narrative it is easy to forget how hopeless and frustrating it must have felt to those who waited centuries for an answer from God. At the same time, it is a reminder to us to be patient, and to trust that in God’s timetable the unfolding of an answer has ramifications ungoverned by our timescale!

Nevertheless, God does graciously allow us to experience answers to prayer within a timeframe we can comprehend and appreciate.

I remember times when I wanted to stop praying for a person after a while, because there had been no news, or no obvious change, yet it seemed to me that God encouraged me, “Keep on praying!” And it was then, when I intentionally and faithfully persevered in prayer, that I saw an answer!

Or, there have been a few times when, like Job, I came to the end of my words! (Job 31:40) I had prayed so intently for so long for someone without “results”. I had nothing left to say except, “I leave it to you, Lord!”  It was then, when I stopped cajoling God or telling him how to answer my prayer; it was then, when I really let go of any sense of control that God graciously let me see how he was already answering my prayer.

And there have been times when I had believed I was praying according to His will, and yet had not seen any answer. Then my mind was opened to realize that my view of His will was too restrictive; I had presumed that “his will” could only be one thing. How foolish to suppose that an answer would be limited to what I could ask or imagine! Our God “is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Eph 3:20)

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