The Rev. Rick Barbare
Isaiah 40:29-31- [God] gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [NKJV]
Why the wait? We often think a thing is denied if we ask God to intervene in our lives and nothing happens right away. We think, “I prayed, but God has denied my request!” The wife of a famous pastor in the early Twentieth Century was fond of saying to those who were impatient, “God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials.”
We often expect God to act immediately when we pray. We say the right things, don’t we? We love everyone as we ought? Why then do we not have ___________. (Fill in the blank of that sentence with what you are asking of God and yet have not seen happen.) He has not said “no,” nor has he rejected the one praying.
We are not waiting because God wants us to merit his blessing through harder labors or more ardent sacrifices. I hope we are certain Christ has paid the full price for our forgiveness and blessing! The wait cannot be because we are not good enough yet, because we are already “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
Still there is waiting. Why? Bill Hybels in his book on prayer gives a memorable aphorism for us to use to examine ourselves to see why God may be delaying his answer to our prayers. Hybels suggests there are four possible answers to prayer when we are waiting for long periods for God to act.
· When the request is not right, God says, “No!” We are grateful later when we see his wisdom in not giving us what we ask for.
· The request may be right, but we may not be right with God concerning some other matter. At that point God says, “Grow!”· At other times, the request may be right and we may be right with God on all other matters. However, the timing may not be right. Then, God says, “Slow!”
· But, when the request is right, we are right with God, and the timing is right; God says, “Go!”
Waiting, while praying for God to act, is not a futile action. It is meaningful if we are seeking God while we are seeking his blessing. William Jay, early nineteenth century preacher used to tell this story.
A sailing vessel sank in the Atlantic Ocean, but the crew was able to safely enter the lifeboat and escape. As the small lifeboat drew near a large ship, a crew member threw them a rope. Looking at the rescue no one would think the small boat is drawing the large ship closer to it. No. It is the other way around. The ship’s crew is pulling the small lifeboat to the large ship—to safety.
Jay would then make the application to prayer—
In prayer, Christians are not pulling God down to them to compel him to act on their behalf. In prayer, believers are drawing themselves and their needs closer to God so he can act in his way, for their best interest, and in his own time.
Prayer—waiting on God—is a relational matter. God draws us closer to himself as he prepares to act on our behalf. We see him at work in us and for us. We then go to others and speak first-handedly of the great things God has done for us. We were close to him when he acted, so we can speak with personal experience about it. Through our testimony, they are encouraged to trust him too! We ought not to despair of God’s ability and willingness to act for us if we are waiting long in prayer. Our wait is never wasted. God is at work through it all.
If we are at present going through a painful wait, C. H. Spurgeon’s words will be of great comfort—
Father, prepare us for the height of blessing to which you have called us. Help us to receive gratefully the painful preliminaries necessary to fully receive your highest good to us.
To his prayer, let us always add in faith, “Amen!”