As I said last week, at my house, we’re talking a lot about prayer. We’re praying like crazy for our kids, and we’re trying to help them see that prayer isn’t just a “wouldn’t it be nice if;” instead, as Oswald Sanders says, it’s the Christian’s “vital breath and native air.” Last week, I gave you three things we were learning. Here are four more:
4. Look at Jeremiah 29:11-13. God doesn’t always answer prayers right away. Sometimes He does. But, the purpose in these verses is that you will seek after Him. The way He teaches you to seek after Him is to seek after Him: to require you to be persistent, to keep asking. If He always gave what you asked immediately when you asked it, you would not seek after Him. Plus, you would miss out on the opportunities He has to develop you along the way.
Living in this world is tough, and, when times get hard (and they do) you will need to persistently seek after the Lord even when the most horrible things happen. He trains your heart now, so you will be ready then, because He loves you. Your coaches don’t run you because they hate you; they run you because they love you. They know what the work ahead requires, and they are trying to help you be ready when you need it. God works like that, too.
5. Sometimes the answer to our prayer is “no.” “No” is an answer to prayer, just like “yes” is. So is, “yes, but not yet.” Remember how long we waited to give you a cell phone? Did you ask more than once? Did you wonder what was taking us so long? Do you have the maturity now to see why we were taking our time? Did you have the maturity then? We don’t know everything God knows. Sometimes we ask for things that aren’t good for us, or may be good but aren’t best thing for us. God is governing the entire universe. We don’t live in a vacuum. The things that happen to us affect everyone else.
We have a sweet friend, a teenager who died last summer. At the same time her family was praying for her to live last summer, other mamas and daddies were praying for organ donors so that their kids could live. God could only say “yes” to one of those prayers. And, that’s just one facet of that whole transaction. What about the children, and the grandchildren of those people who received the transplants, people who might never otherwise have been born? What are God’s plans for them? What are God’s plans for the parents of our friend who died? It gives me a headache just thinking about it. Only God can answer those questions with his perfect wisdom; I can’t. That’s where the trust comes in.
God is in the process of weaving a huge story involving through all of mankind, at the same time He’s hearing your prayer. He answers your prayer as one important, but tiny thread in the complex tapestry of that amazing, intricate story, a story we can’t even begin to fully comprehend.
Tim Keller is a pastor in NYC- I listen to his podcasts. Keller has said that God always answers our prayers in the way we would pray them if we knew everything that God knows. I Corinthians says we see through a glass dimly, but one day we will see face to face. God answers prayer according to his timing and his perfect purposes, which we do not always understand.
6. Pray boldly. Don’t ever be afraid to pray for God to show up and glorify Himself. You will find yourself in an impossible situation, not of your own making. If it’s of your own making, you probably won’t be rescued. If you didn’t study for the chemistry test, it’s not on God if you pray and still fail. But, at some point, He will ask you to do something so big, so ludicrous, that only He could make it happen. Don’t be afraid to pray boldly for God to glorify Himself by answering your prayer, by showing up to make it happen. God can take care of His own reputation; you are not his marketing director. He doesn’t need you to manage His rep for Him.
7. Open your eyes. Then, ask Him to show you where He’s at work. Cynics want to look around and find evidence God doesn’t exist. They’re “gas tank half empty” people. People who have the hope of the gospel, people like you, aren’t cynics; they’re optimists, full of hope. Instead of asking God to prove to you He’s real, pray for Him to be glorified, then ask Him to show you where He’s at work: in the lives of your family, and, in the lives of your friends.
The best thing you can do as a friend/daughter/sister/someday wife and mom is to pray for your people every day, or as much as you can. If you are the worst friend ever, and do nothing else for them but that, you will be amazed at what God will do in their lives. You will also be amazed at what He will do it in yours. Now you know what I’ve been doing all those nights I’ve stood over your beds while you slept, ever since you were little. I’ve been praying boldly, asking my God who loves you more than I have capacity to love to make you passionate for Him and, if He ordains it, to find young men for you who love Him, too. I believe my God will show up and answer my prayers. His track record’s been pretty perfect so far. After all, He gave me you.