I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find that I ask God for something and it seems like He’s not listening. He just isn’t giving me what I want!
When I ask God for something, it seems like He has three ways of answering – Yes, No and Wait.
I have no problems with the “Yes”. Although, sometimes I am challenged because I am surprised. I realise that I had not actually asked believing that He would answer.
The answer “No” is harder to stomach. But at least there’s a firm answer, for example, if you don’t get a job, it is clear to see that it was not the path that God thought was best for you.
But the hardest answer I think can often be – WAIT.
It is on these occasions when it feels as if God just isn’t listening. You begin to feel that God isn’t there or doesn’t care about you. As I have been reflecting through Lent on God’s timing and waiting for God’s timing I have been challenged to think about how I cope when I am waiting for an answer.
What can I do to ensure that I do not lose faith in God? How can I stop myself from becoming bitter?
1 Focus on who God is
When faced with difficulties and life’s storms where God just doesn’t seem to be answering, it can be easy to begin to doubt Him. As I read the Bible I see this lots of times. In the earlier part of the Bible, Elijah saw God send down rain from Heaven, after a prolonged drought, but within days was in a pit of despair and was wishing He was dead. (You can read about this in 1 Kings 18 and 19.) The Israelites moaned to Moses that they would have been better dying in Egypt as slaves, rather than following God’s miraculous escape plan, which included clearing a path through a sea so they could walk through on dry ground. (You can read this account in Exodus 14 – 16).
When facing challenges it is so important to remind ourselves to stop, reflect and remember who God is.
I sometimes find it helpful to think about one of the many names of God that are given within the Bible, to think about His character and to focus on His Greatness. It can also be helpful to listen to worship songs that focus on His greatness. You might not be able to sing them truthfully at the time, but listen to the words and remind yourself of who God is.
2 Think about things God has done in the past
When I am struggling, one of the places that I find great comfort is reading the Psalms. These songs, written mainly by King David, are his expressions of calling out to God when he was in trouble. There is often a pattern within them. David cries out to God, asking how long God will forget Him, wondering whether God can hear Him, and making sure God is aware of the awful things that are happening to him and the Israelites. Then David switches and thinks about times in the past when God has blessed them. He remembers good things that have happened. This then gives him hope to believe in future times when God will answer prayers and bless them again. (Psalms 12, 22 and 40 are good examples of this).
If you keep a prayer journal, flick back through the pages and remember times when God has answered your prayers.
Think about ways in which you have seen Him move in your life or the lives of others. Think about the time that you first got to know God. Thank Him for all of these amazing things that He has done.
3 Practice Gratitude
When we are going through hard times and feel that our prayers are not being answered it is often tempting to focus on what we don’t have and not what we have already got. This seems to be a human instinct… always wanting more. I have this discussion with my children regularly. We see what others have around us and compare ourselves with those who have more than us. Perhaps their car is better than ours, their house bigger, their holidays more luxurious, their food posher, their clothes smarter. But actually we compare the wrong way – we focus on what we don’t have. We compare with those who have more, rather than comparing with those who have less. The same can be true for our prayers. We focus on the prayers that God has yet to answer and lose our gratitude for everything that God is already doing in our lives.
Next time you are despairing of the prayers that have not been answered, write a list of the things that God has given you.
I love the letter that Paul, one of the leaders of the Early Church, wrote to the Church in Ephesus. Sometimes, Paul just gets so carried away talking about everything that He was thankful for. He hardly stops to take a breath! If you need a reminder of the amazing things God has done for you – read Ephesians 1.
4 Focus on ways you may need to change
Sometimes we find that God doesn’t answer our prayers not because He’s not ready, but because we’re not ready. He may have other things that He needs us to learn whilst we wait. It maybe that He wants to use the time to highlight areas of our life that we need to alter, areas in which we are not allowing Him to be in control but we’re holding on to control. Jesus told a story of a rich man who gave three of his servants some money to look after whilst He went away. Two of the servants invested the money, using the time whilst the master was away to keep working and improving. One of the servants, buried the money and did nothing whilst the master was away. At the end of the story, the master returns and rewards the two servants who have invested the money and used the time He wasn’t there. But the servant who did nothing is left with nothing. (If you want to read this story see Matthew 25.)
If you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers at the moment, is it because He has something else that He wants you to do?
Is God telling you that there’s something you need to change in your life?
Use the time to focus on becoming who God wants you to be, doing the things He wants you to do.
5 Keep on praying
How badly do you want this thing that you’re praying for? Sometimes we ask God for something and then almost forget about it. But God asks us to keep on praying. Keep asking.
Keep persistent. Don’t give up just because God is saying wait.
Jesus told another story of a widow who keeps on asking a judge for justice because she was being treated unfairly. In the end the judge decides to do something about it, just to stop her coming and bothering him. The point of the story is that this judge, who wasn’t a follower of God gives in and helps the woman out. Jesus highlights that God who loves justice and good things for those who love Him, is even more likely to answer persistent prayers. To read this story see Luke 18.
So these are some of the ways I use to help me focus on God when I am waiting for prayers to be answered. I would love to hear of ways in which you “wait for God”. Let me know in the comments.