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The prayer that takes possession of God's best often involves waiting.
Why does God delay? There are many reasons. But there are some things we should understand, or we'll misinterpret why we have to wait. We must avoid interpreting God's delays as God's denials. In the Bible, you'll discover that delays are the norm, not the exception.
Unless a specific need must be had by a definite time, delays are inevitable. America is the home of microwave living; we are used to drive-through restaurants, drive-through banks, and drive-through grocery stores. But with God, there is no such thing as drive-through breakthrough; there's a price for progress.
I am going to share seven thoughts about waiting on God in prayer:
* Another reason God delays in answering us is because it keeps us talking to Him. God also uses delays to line up the human channels through which He'll provide our answer.
* God uses delays to expose unsurrendered areas of our life.
* God also uses His delays to expose wrong motives in us (Ecclesiastes 4:4; James 3:14-16).
* God sometimes delays if the answer to our prayer might take us away from Him.
* God sometimes delays granting a request until we learn to find our satisfaction in Him and Him alone (John 17:3).
So why does God seem to take forever?
One reason we have to wait is that God is teaching us to trust Him. The longer the delay, the greater the impact the answer will have for God's Kingdom.
Noah waited 120 years while building a boat before the flood came. Abraham waited more than 25 years for the fulfillment of God's promise. Jacob waited 20 years until he was out from under Laban's thumb. Joseph waited 13 years for the fulfillment of his God-given dream. Moses waited 40 years until it was God's time for him to rescue Israel. David waited 12 years from the time he was anointed until he was crowned. Jesus waited 30 years before He fulfilled God's promises as Messiah.
Most of us know Proverbs 3:5-6, but we have never lived it. We're prone to take back control of our lives when things get tough. God intends that we all learn to trust Him.
Another reason God delays in answering us is to keep us talking to Him. Otherwise, we might not talk to Him at all.
My son, John Paul, is like that. He really lays on the, "I love you 'Dad," when he's interested in getting some money to go out with his friends. I'm a human ATM to John Paul; if it weren't for that, he wouldn't talk with me as much. Someone said, "God either leads us to pray, or He drives us to pray. "
I'd much rather pray voluntarily than be driven to my knees by tough times.
God uses delays to line up the human channels through which He'll provide our answer. God uses many means to answer our prayers. Fickle human beings happen to be one of His favorites.
Human channels sometimes argue with God instead of instantly obeying. In Acts 9:10-17, the Lord told Ananias to go to a certain street, and to pray for a certain Saul to receive his sight. Ananias nodded his head, up to the point he heard who he was to pray for. That's when Ananias thought he knew more about Saul than God did. He argued with God over whether God got the name right. Ananias eventually agreed with God and then obeyed. But, what if he had delayed because of his fear over approaching Saul?
Sometimes God has to get more than one human channel lined up to answer your prayer. And if one refuses, how much delay will there be until God gets His second choice to answer your prayer lined up?
An important lesson is found here. Waiting on God involves trusting His timing rather than moving ahead with our own timing. Think about David's trust in God's timing. And consider Abraham's situation.
Two different opportunities occurred in David's life where he could have taken the Kingship of Israel into his own hands (1 Samuel 24:3-22; 26:6-25). But he didn't. Eventually when David did become King, he didn't suffer from the problems he'd encountered if he had taken God's will into his own hands.
Then look at Abraham. If Abraham had waited on God's plan and His timing, he'd eventually gotten Isaac. But when Abraham went with his own timing instead, he got Ishmael. And we still feel the impact of Ishmael today. Problems caused by our own Ishmaels can hang around a long time.
God uses delays to expose unsurrendered areas of our life.
Once I was praying for a new job, with a definite timeframe for the answer to come. I prayed everyday towards that specific deadline. Later, I found out one of the two people who got the available jobs was less qualified than I was. This made me angry with God. I thought I'd done such a good job praying for the new position. I thought I deserved it, because I'd been particularly obedient in the financial areas of my life.
Walking in a mall one day, not too long afterwards, God suddenly told me what happened. It was like a bolt out of the blue, because my mind was on something else. I don't even remember thinking about the issue that day, before God spoke. In the still small voice that, in this case, got loud fast, God said, "The degree of your stress over this issue reveals how unsurrendered this area of your life is to My Lordship."
I was perplexed.
Let's just say God was right. He was more interested in getting that area surrendered to His Lordship than He was with my getting the new job. All the prayer in the world wouldn't have changed His mind in this instance.
About a year later, God did grant me a similar job. But, I had to wait patiently for a year in a position I didn't relish. I learned to say, if God wanted me there for the duration of my career, then that was ok with me.
God also uses His delays to expose wrong motives in us (Ecclesiastes 4:4; James 3:14-16).
Often, our prayer requests arise out of envy. We want what someone else has. And in our jealously, we discount God's present provision for our lives.
When we want something someone else has, we also miss out on what God wants to develop in us. We want someone else's gift, so we belittle what God has given to us. If God isn't allowed to develop the gifts we have, we get increasingly frustrated. God may have wanted us to progress to a certain place in our own gifts, but we haven't allowed Him to develop us because of our jealousies.
God may want to give us the gifts we envy, but uses the delays to purify our motives. Such motives are often indications of how far we've bought into the world's value system. Bigger is better, you have to possess a certain lifestyle, look a certain way, etc. in order to be happy. James says, "...where jealousy and self-ambition exists, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:13). Jealously and envy crowd God out of your life. Why? It's like putting out a welcome mat for the enemy, and issuing an eviction notice to your Creator. That's why He won't let those emotions dominate you for long.
God sometimes delays if the answer to our prayer might take us away from Him.
This isn't always the case. The father in the prodigal son parable did give the younger son his portion of the inheritance. The difference between the father in this story and our Heavenly Father is that our Heavenly Father knows ahead of time what we will do, while the father in the prodigal son story didn't know what his son would do.
God uses delays to change our character so we can handle the temptations that come with the answer. And the greatest temptation is to walk away from Him.
The lessons of the prodigal son are manifold. If God does grant us something that, at our present level of maturity, can take us away from Him, then God has left a pigpen somewhere in our future to turn us back to Him. Psalm 106:15 says, "He gave them their request...but sent leanness into their soul." We can bring this leanness upon ourselves.
We can be "cursed with the burden of granted prayer."
God sometimes delays granting a request until we learn to find our satisfaction in Him and Him alone (John 17:3). We often feel like we are missing out on something. We feel incomplete without that special something, or that special someone.
Satan will use this. He'll say, "God is withholding something from you that will make you truly happy." That's similar to the original lie he told to Eve.
God will challenge us with frustrations until we change our priorities. Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you." When we reverse that priority and seek other things first, we miss out on the most important thing in life: Jesus.