We all pray for things.
For safety, for peace, to do well on a test, to get that job, to find a mate, to gain financial security. Some prayers are more serious such as for someone to be freed from addiction, to get pregnant, for a marriage to stay together, for someone to be healed from a terminal illness, or to see someone receive salvation.
We hear stories of God answering those prayers positively, and it’s almost easy to believe that the journey was a quick one. Often the story of the joy at the end of the answered prayer skips the piece that there was a lot of pain in the midst. We don’t necessarily hear or feel the daily struggle of praying & believing that God is faithful. It’s difficult to think that someone else doubted that God would provide when you are on the other side of their faith journey. We can look back at someone else’s situation, but have a hard time looking forward when it’s our own.
Our pastor, Andy Stanley, spoke about this recently in regards to people in the Bible. Abraham was promised future generations that outnumbered the stars, but when he died, he had not seen this promise fulfilled. The disciples of Jesus risked their lives and scattered across the lands to tell about all they had seen. They were just a few men & women. How would their message reach across the earth & stay alive two thousand years later? They were looking ahead, not knowing the future & what the outcome would be. But they trusted God. Hebrews 11:37-38 is so powerful:
They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins & goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
They did all of this for the promise of future fulfillment, not of what had yet been fulfilled. They faced much more serious & deadly situations than many of us will ever face, but they had faith.
So, while we are in the midst of our trials and prayers that have not yet been answered, what can we do?
- Renew Your Mind. Replace your doubting thoughts with truth. Take a verse that has meaning in your situation & repeat it constantly throughout the day. When new doubts crop up, immediately speak truth.
- Read Your Bible. I know this is a Sunday School answer for many of us. But how can we replace doubts with truth if the truth is not in our minds? Can I suggest picking 1 book of the Bible and read it from start to finish? I have been reading through Genesis & John in the last month & already my faith has grown. The words on those pages are living and the Holy Spirit will bring hope and truth.
- Remain Openhanded. This is actually a core value of the North Point Ministries staff. But I love it because it gives me a visual of surrender. There is freedom in surrendering to God’s timing & to his plan. It is a difficult dance between having faith that God will give us what we request in his name, and surrendering to his plan that may have a different outcome. But if we pray with palms spread open, “God, I am asking that you provide a child for us. I believe that you love us and that you can. But if you have a different plan, would you show us? Or give us peace that you are with us, you love us, and will show us your ways.”
- Share With Others. There is nothing like feeling alone & isolated in your problems. When they are brought into the light, even with 1 or 2 other people whom you know are praying, you feel a sense of peace. Do not try to face your struggles alone. I say this as an introvert who can easily keep things to myself. When I surround myself with wise, praying people, my hope is often renewed, even when my prayers are not answered.
I write all of this because I’m struggling with my own unanswered prayers right now. I look forward and cannot see how these prayers are going to get answered. But I also need to point out that if I look back, I have so many examples of how God has been faithful that they are too numerous to list. Maybe I should get started on writing them down. “Oh, ye of little faith…”
Praying for you, friends.