I am going to go ahead and say this, despite the frowns I know it’s bound to elicit from some of you: there are times when I get very frustrated with and by the Word and its instructions. I just have so many questions! Do I only need a little faith (like a mustard seed), or must I believe anything is possible? Do I pray about something once, trusting God to handle it, or do I pray about my need(s) without ceasing? Do I go boldly before the throne with high expectation, or do I humble myself, acknowledging that I have no power in and of myself? And don’t even get me started about the confusion that frequently swirls around praying for something that hasn’t yet come to pass. Did God say no? Do I need to just keep praying? Do I need to pray about it in a different way? Is my faith not strong enough to get me that “yes” I keep asking for? Should I pray about it with someone else or keep it between me and God? HEEEELLLLLPP!!!
Before we get started, let me ask you this: have you prayed about your confusion? God isn’t bothered by our confusion, by our questions, by our struggles to fully understand. He knows we are human and that we have limitations. He is bothered, however, by our reluctance or even flat-out refusal to take our confusions and questions to Him. Proverbs 2:6 tells us very clearly that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. So, ask for it. It’s that simple. When I found myself very confused about praying, specifically prayers that weren’t answered clearly or quickly, I asked God to help me understand. He soon began to shed light on my questions, helping me to understand more about my relationship with Him where fruitful, patient, expectant prayer was concerned.
We’ve all heard that age-old saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Sometimes, I’m downright shocked at how God can use everyday life situations to impart His wisdom to me. I kid you not, He literally used NASCAR (do what?!) to help me once (and Nathan has never been more delighted).
If you know my husband, you likely know his love of all things NASCAR. Old NASCAR? Yep. New NASCAR? Of course. Do you ever find yourself wondering, hmmm, I wonder who won the NASCAR race at Richmond in the spring of 1997? If so, my husband could answer this question for you faster than Google. Truly, NASCAR is his love language. And it’s not just NASCAR races he loves. He”ll watch just about any NASCAR show available, especially those broadcast specials where they take a trip down memory lane and feature every single minute detail about some racer’s first win at a popular track. It was while we were watching just such a show about Jeff Gordon’s first win at Daytona that God helped me understand His instructions regarding praying while being patient and expectant. (Does this not sound totally nuts??)
While discussing that first win and the final laps leading up to it, Jeff Gordon was being interviewed about what he was thinking while trying to keep his car in first place. He talked about not allowing himself to get too nervous or too excited prematurely. The interviewer asked him if he was just being patient, and Gordon laughed and said, “Yeah, kind of aggressively patient.” It was at that moment, when I heard that phrase “aggressively patient” that God whispered to me, That right there is how I want you to be in your long-running prayers. Aggressively patient. Seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? I felt that way, too, but the more I thought about it, especially applying it to what the Bible says about our attitudes during prayer and waiting, I saw its accuracy, its value and its truth. (Would you look at that…God was right!)
Before we get into the scriptural truths that God showed me regarding our topic, let’s first do something very old-school and archaic; let’s actually look up the definitions of these two seemingly opposing concepts.
Aggressive: making an all-out effort; being boldly assertive
Patient: bearing delay with fortitude and calm and without complaint or anger; quietly and steadily persevering; showing the capacity for endurance.
Not quite as opposing after all, actually. Being “aggressively patient” is actually possible, as long as we stay focused, keeping our heads down and our attitudes positive. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s actually scripture that supports this…like God knew ahead of time that we’d need some help with our prayer lives!
While there are many, many scriptures regarding prayer and patience and waiting, Psalm 31:24 wraps it all into one and instructs us on how to proceed when the prayers we’re praying seemly go unanswered. The Amplified version states, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!” So when you’re praying about something so important to you, only to be met with what seems like radio silence, there are three things we must do.
1.Wait for the Lord. We all know that God’s timing is not our own, and in today’s world where instant gratification reigns supreme, we’re going to have to work even harder, dig even deeper within ourselves to ensure that we’re allowing God’s timing in our lives. Nothing worthwhile ever happens instantly, and God’s more interested in creating long-term change within our lives than immediately giving us whatever our greedy little hearts desire. Throughout the Bible we’re reminded just how crucial it is that we wait (patiently) for the Lord, for His movement, for His timing, for His guidance. James 5:7 tells us to be patient while we wait; Psalm 38:15 says, “For I am waiting for you, O Lord…” We must do the same. But. We must do the same while keeping a good attitude. Look back at that dictionary definition of patience. We must offer our prayers to God, we must decide to wait on His timing, and we must keep a good attitude (a good heart-itude, as Joyce Meyer puts it), free of anger and complaint, while waiting.
2.We must also keep hold of hope while we wait and continue to pray about our as yet unanswered request(s). Remember, just because it hasn’t come to pass yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t. In fact, scriptures throughout the Word give us instructions about exactly this type of concern. So what do we do when we pray and pray, praying maybe even for YEARS, without seeing God move? According to Luke 18:1, we “…pray and [don’t] turn coward ([grow] faint, lose heart, and give up).” John 16:24 expounds on that even further by telling us to “…ask and keep on asking,” but it doesn’t stop there. What happens when we stay faithful and hopeful in our prayers? “…Ask and keep on asking and YOU WILL RECEIVE”! Praise the Lord for his faithfulness! He doesn’t guarantee it’ll be immediately. He doesn’t guarantee a time frame at all. God does, however, guarantee that He’ll show up, as long as we’re patient and remain hopeful.
3.And last but certainly not least, we must remain expectant. Whether you approach your prayer with faith that’s confident or whether you approach it with just that tiny grain of mustard seed sized faith, you must expect God to show up. We must keep our eyes and hearts attuned to the lies that the devil will try to tell us in those days or months or even years while we pray and wait expectantly for God. He’ll try to convince us that God’s not listening, that our prayers are falling on deaf ears, but we must not agree. He might even move on and try to convince us that while all of these other people are getting their blessings and their prayers answered, we must be doing something wrong because our wishes aren’t being granted. We must not listen to those lies either. God isn’t a genie. He doesn’t show up and grant us a wish or two here or there. He LOVES us. He wants ONLY GOOD for us. And you know what? Sometimes those things we think we want or need, they’re just not right for us…or they’re not right for us and where our lives or hearts are right this minute. And Satan knows that. But instead of seeing that as God caring for us and parenting us in the most loving way, Satan tells us that maybe it’s our fault our prayer didn’t get answered. Maybe it’s because God isn’t really even able to grant what we’re asking. But we know the TRUTH. We know that NOTHING is impossible with God. No prayer request gets a no because God can’t make it happen. Maybe God actually is saying no to your request. That does happen. But because God is good and because He loves us so much and literally seeks to bless us abundantly, God doesn’t just say no; He says no because He has something so much better in store for us.
Be bold in your prayers, no matter how long they take to be answered. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) Come boldly…find God. And in the meantime, wait on Him, hope in Him, and expect Him at every turn. Desire God’s timing, God’s hand, and God’s plan over your own. Trust in Him. Have faith (even tiny baby faith), and watch God work in your life in BIG ways that bring glory to Him and His kingdom. Isn’t that our purpose? More than getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, let’s decide to be aggressively patient with our praying…keeping an expectant, joyful attitude in the midst of our waiting.
Dear Lord, thank you so much that I can come to you with my prayer requests and KNOW that you hear me. Help me, God, to trust your plan and your hand instead of getting impatient or bitter. I pray that you would help me to stay calm and patient, especially while praying for important things that take time. Help me, Lord, to sense Your Presence even when the answers haven’t come yet. I know that you love me. I know that you care about me. I know that you hear me, and I am so very grateful. Thank you for Your Word, which strengthens my resolve while I wait patiently and expectantly on you. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.