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Have you ever been weighed down while waiting on God? Yours is a common experience (Hebrews 6:12).
Elijah had to pray seven times before the rain started again in Israel (1 Kings 18:41-45). That's seven times. In between the prophet's prayers, his servant went up the mountain to see if anything was coming. That took up time between the requests. And God has declared that our prayers carry as much influence with Him as did Elijah's prayers. (James 5:16b-18).
Think about it. Elijah had to wait on God and pray multiple times before his request was answered. Should we expect any less? Waiting on God is the work of prayer, a requirement of prayer. It takes time for nature to turn a hunk of coal into a raw diamond. So why are we surprised when it takes God time to turn our raw prayer requests into His precious provision for us? If we understand a little of what He's up to, we'll be much more willing to cooperate with the process.
In this installment, we'll discuss seven additional truths about waiting on God. These include:
Sometimes we delay God's answer to our petitions with bitterness and unforgiveness.
Matthew 5:23-24, Ephesians 4:26-27, and 1 Peter 3:7 declare how important it is to keep our relationships free of bitterness and unforgiveness. Many people don't deserve our forgiveness anymore than we deserve God's forgiveness; but we have to forgive them anyway. If we don't, not only will it hinder our prayers, but it also invites Satan's tormenters to harass us.
We sin when we continue in unforgiveness and bitterness. At the same time, forgiving someone doesn't mean trusting them. Forgiveness is free, while trust is earned. Trust is the fruit of faithfulness in a relationship.
Next, God often delays so our requests can be fine tuned. There is a huge difference between what a little kid thinks he needs need and what his true needs are. (Matthew 7:9-11).
Our Father knows what's best for us. When a kid is hungry, he thinks he needs candy and a soda. But Daddy knows what the child really needs is meat, potatoes, vegetables, and milk. The lesson is this: sometimes what we ask for isn't necessarily bad, but its not God's best. And He wants us to have His best.
Sometimes God's answer doesn't consist of one answer, but a series of events, like one door opening after another. Don't let your expectations blind you to the obvious open door.
Let's illustrate this with a little story:
Once, a Christian decided to stay at his house and wait out a flood. As the water grew higher, and his idea didn't look so hot, he began to pray for God to save him. When the water got up to the edge of the roof, a guy in a canoe came by and offered to give the man a lift. The man refused, saying he was believing God for a miracle. Well, the water got higher and higher, until the guy had to stand atop his chimney to keep from getting wet.
A helicopter came by and offered to take him out of the water, but the guy refused, steadfastly saying he was waiting for God's miraculous answer to his prayer. Well, the water got higher and higher, until it went above the guy's chimney, and he drowned. When he opened his eyes in heaven, he said to God, "I prayed and prayed; why didn't you save me?"
God said, "Son, I sent you a canoe, then a helicopter to pick you up. What more was I supposed to do?"
We shouldn't get mad at God for not answering our prayers, when the reply may be standing right in front of us.
Next, it isn't always God delaying a prayer's answer; sometimes we delay answers to our own prayers. We cause the delay because we don't do our part in praying for an answer. The Bible says in Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask, and it shall be given, seek, and you shall find, knock, and the door will be open unto you..." You have to give your best to get God's best. If you casually pray for something, expect a casual answer. If, however, you are constantly bugging Him, like the widow pestered the Judge, He will bring about the justice your prayer request is due.
You can just hope that God will do something for you...and out of His great mercy, He may do it. But without prayer, He may not. Hope plus faith equals prayer.
Jesus said the Father feeds the sparrows (Matthew 6:26). Worms represent an inheritance to the sparrows. But birds starve if they don't scratch the worms out of the ground. You can't expect to be the Valedictorian at your college without studying, then blame God when you don't achieve it.
If it's not important enough for you to pray about, then why should it be important enough for God to act on your behalf.
Frequently, Satan can delay the answer to a prayer request, but not deny it. A satanic delay becomes a denial only when we give up. We know that in Daniel 10: 1-3, 12-13, and 20-21, Satan delayed the answer to Daniel's prayer for 21 days. Also in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul explained that he'd tried to visit the Thessalonians more than once, but that Satan thwarted his plans.
In instances like these, you have to hang in there until the backbone of the enemy's resolve is broken. Sometimes you have to take your praying up to the next level. Daniel did a limited fast during the time he waited for God to answer his prayer. If you can medically handle it (Check with your physician first), fasting can break the enemy's hold over a situation. Remember Jesus' words at the base of the Mount of transfiguration. When the apostles asked why they couldn't cast out a demon, He said: "This kind doesn't come out, but by prayer and fasting."
Be aware that you can't use fasting to twist God's arm into doing something against His will. However, you can sure twist the enemy's arm and make him squeal. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, fasted one day a week to keep up the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. That might be a good place to start.
God's opportunities lead to satanic oppositions. When you face satanic resistance, stand your ground. Like the song says, take your stand on the promises of God (Hebrews 6:11-12). Do you want to stay in the wilderness of unanswered prayers, or enter the land of granted promises?
Often God tests and tempers your faith by His delays (Matthew 15:22-28). Take a look at the gentile woman who wanted a demon cast out of her daughter. Notice how unloving Jesus' treatment of her appears.
First, Jesus ignores her when she makes her request (v.23). Second, He acts as if she was disqualified, because she's a gentile (v.24). Third, He limits what can be done for her (v.26). But after all that, He grants her request, marveling at how much faith she possesses (v.28). Why did Jesus treat the lady so badly, then speak so positively about her faith? Obviously, He meant to test her.
Sometimes God is silent. When God is silent, the enemy says we're not worthy enough for God to answer our prayers. But, what's worthiness got to do with anything? Only Jesus is worthy. So, if God doesn't answer you right away, or He seems silent in the face of your prayer request, don't take it as a sign of His disapproval. Press into God and pray towards your goal. Never give up, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn.
And lastly, waiting deepens our faith so we can handle all that God intends to give us. Psalm 105:17-19 reads: "He sent a man before them, Joseph who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters. He himself was laid in irons. Until the time his word came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested Him."
Often God intends to give us more than our faith can handle. He stretches our wineskins, so that we can hold more. Waiting involves deepening our faith so that we can receive all God intends to give us. Deepening our faith means our roots need to go deeper. When storms come and our faith is tested, the depth of our roots determines whether we stand on a promise or topple into error.
Sometimes God wants to make you a prince (or princess) through the prison. Rees Howell, the great intercessor, found his smaller prayer victories became the platform for larger intercessory victories later on. His faith grew as God proved faithful on each rung of the ladder. Joseph's victories were also progressive. First came faithfulness with Jacob's herds, second, Pothiphar's household, third, the royal prison, and fourth, the political leadership of Egypt.
Many of us treat our inheritance as a credit card with a low spending limit.
We're afraid we'll overextend ourselves, and it won't be there for real emergencies. Is it any wonder that we pray for thimbles of blessings, when God wants us to pray down showers of blessings?
Prayer is how we obtain our inheritance, not how we spend it.
In the next lesson, we'll examine the crunch time that often occurs while we wait on God. Have you ever given up too soon on a prayer request?