“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”—Philippians 4:6 (NIV).
Each Monday, I receive an email from one of our associate pastors. Attached to his correspondence is a list of prayer requests from members of our congregation. The list has grown exponentially since I started receiving the requests about eight years ago.
I often wonder. Have the needs grown or have people come to realize the power of prayer? As I prayed over the latest requests, I also wondered why God answers some and not others.
I came across this quote from the former president, Jimmy Carter. Cited in his book, “Sources of Strength,” he wrote, “Never give up on God, who always answers our prayers. Sometimes the answer is ‘Wait’ or ‘No,’ or perhaps, as our pastor, Dan Ariail, says, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ Then we must reassess what we are seeking. Continuing to pray hopefully in the face of profound disappointment seems contrary to human nature.”
Praying in Hope
Romans 12:12 tells us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (ESV). In the face of trials, it’s difficult to rejoice and even more difficult to be patient while we wait on God to answer our prayers. And sometimes, we get ahead of Him by trying to make things happen in our timing.
Examples abound in the Bible of those who prayed and waited. And waited. And waited. Instead of waiting patiently, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. They lost hope God would answer their pleas for a child. Who can blame them? After all, Sarah’s biological clock had already quit ticking.
But God’s timing isn’t the same as ours. In Psalm 90, David writes, “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours” (NLT).
Trusting God’s Timing
Trusting God’s timing comes with spiritual growth. I’ve had prayers answered as soon as I uttered them. Another prayer was answered after more than 10 years of pleading with God every day to open doors for my oldest son to find a different job. God answered and now my son is happily employed in a job with flexibility, leaving him with time to pursue his passion for horses.
God answered another prayer for this same son after he was injured by a horse. Doctors were concerned my son would have brain damage. Pacing the halls of the hospital, I prayed and pleaded with God. He answered. The doctors couldn’t explain the miraculous healing. But I could.
Sometimes, God gives us an immediate answer. Other times, we must wait. And sometimes, we don’t get the answer we’ve prayed and prayed for more times than we can count. Why should we continue to pray even after waiting years and years without an answer? “Because, invariably,” says Carter, “we can learn and grow in the process.”
Growing During the Waiting Times
If God answered all our prayers immediately or said “yes” to every prayer, would we ever grow spiritually? Would we ever experience something better from Him than what we asked for? Often, He has a better plan. In most cases, the best. What we often forget is prayer is not about getting what we want all the time. It’s about a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father.
God created us for a personal relationship with Him. Not because He needs it, but because He loves us. He loves us so much that He gave His only Son for our salvation (John 3:16). When you love someone that much, you want to spend time with them. Spending time in prayer and reading His Word, changes us in the following ways:
- We draw closer to our Creator and have a better understanding of His Word.
- Even during times of chaos, we can experience indescribable peace.
- We become better listeners and more in tune with His desires and plans for our lives.
- We learn patience, to wait on His timing.
- Our faith increases and our life is more joy-filled.
Prayer has the power to change us. It’s the most important tool in communicating with our Abba Father. Through a strong prayer life, we connect with our source of strength, share what’s in our hearts, and grow spiritually in the process.
After a 30-year teaching career, Carol Round found redirection as a Christian columnist, author and inspirational speaker. She is the author of nine books, all available at Amazon.com. (See her website at www.carolaround.com for more information.) When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her seven grandchildren, working in her yard, volunteering, shooting photos, hiking, going on mission trips and playing with her spoiled rotten dog, Harley.