Monday, February 18, 2013

Unanswered Prayer

Since January, my husband and I have been enrolled full-time in graduate classes at Moody Bible Institute, which explains the dearth of posts lately. Going forward, I hope to simply post quotes from the grand Christian sages of old, like Hannah Whitall Smith, Charels H. Spurgeon. C.S. Lewis and A.W. Tozer. That will be fun.

Right now, however, I will share excerpts of today’s reading from the monthly devotional, In Touch by Charles Stanley. Titled, “Learning to Wait,” it is by far the best and most succinct guidance I’ve seen on how to understand unanswered prayer.”

“We must realize that God doesn’t see us simply in the here and now; He perceives the big picture all at once—where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. He knows exactly how every little decision, action, or blessing will impact our lives. Do you think God wants to bring something into your life that would absolutely destroy you? Of course not! He knows that what may be a tremendous blessing for you later could completely wreck your life now. For this reason, though the Lord hears your prayer, He often pauses to give you time to prepare for that blessing…If we try to make something happen on our own after God tells us to wait, then we’re heading for disaster. The Lord blesses obedience—even obedient waiting.” from In Touch

I love this because, even though one would think it to be obvious, I had never really internalized this concept of God’s hearing our prayers in the wider context of our lives. While we may think we are ready for A, B, or C, God knows we aren’t. I can’t tell you the number of times I got ahead of God, trying to force His hand. Even though God brought maturity out of those times, He also honed me through those not-so-great experiences and outcomes to learn to discern when He is telling me to do something and when He is telling me to wait. You get burned by your own enthusiasm and initiative a few times and waiting doesn’t sound too bad!

That’s exactly what happened with our attending Moody. In the fall of 2011, my husband and I began talking about studying there full time. But we both got definite red lights, to the point that I was sure that option was taken off the table permanently. Lo and behold, exactly one year later, the Moody option did, indeed, return, and much to our amazement, God gave nothing but green lights! That’s how I know that going to Moody when we did was God’s doing and His timing. One month in, I am experiencing the peace that comes with being in God’s will. I think we all know what it feels like to push on ahead of God and not feel His peace in what transpires. When it is God’s will and timing, peace will accompany. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or without challenge: it means peace will prevail.

The joy of unanswered prayer is being confident that God is accomplishing a work via the non-answer. It could be a work in my life or someone else’s. It is in those times of waiting where I’ve found my pride whittled down to the bone, my ideas and plans turned to dust and God brought back to the fore. For that, I am grateful. It means all the obsessions, infatuations, agendas, avoidances and self-centeredness I bring to God in my prayers are burned away in the waiting. His denial of my desired answer is what He uses to bring my sin to the surface to be dealt with in renewed submission to Him. I can only imagine what He is doing in the lives of those I pray for!

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7.

“Be still and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:a

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