This past winter, my heart mulled over a mysterious lapse in my prayer life, causing disquiet as the Holy Spirit surfaced the sin. Initially, I couldn’t recognize the problem. And then I read this:
“And he (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)
Of course, as is usually the case, I then saw this truth everywhere, popping up in sermons, in articles, and in other passages. We are often blind. The Holy Spirit knows that we need to see the message repeatedly before the light comes on and the ah ha! moment follows.
Simultaneous to this realization, in my study through Isaiah, I came upon the Lord praising the watchmen — the prophets, those who kept watch over Israel’s spiritual well being. He said this in Isaiah 62:6-7:
On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
Here, we learn that the watchmen prayed constantly, urged continually, and begged God repeatedly to fulfill his promises, to answer their prayers for Israel, for Messiah’s coming, and for their restoration. They never ceased. There were never silent. They reminded the God who never forgets not to forget them. They expected an answer.
This is the prayer model that Jesus likewise lifted up in that opening passage: Don’t quit praying. Pester the Lord with your requests. Expect him to act.
This is the prayer model Jesus lifted up: Don't quit praying. Pester the Lord with your requests. Expect him to act. Click To Tweet
Okay, so we all know that. But, do we really?
Have you ever prayed long and hard for something or someone? Have you then seen the results veer in a direction that seemed to be the exact opposite of your prayer requests? Did you lose heart? Then, in your frustration at God or due to your loss of heart, did you quit praying?
In my devastation, I gave up gradually, rather than suddenly. It crept up on me. Many years of begging God seemed to have resulted in the opposite of everything I’d prayed, yet I knew I had asked for good things of which he approves. I prayed for things that God himself tells us to bring to him in prayer, things that are the best.
However, and this is a huge however, I am not God.
Seeing and hearing these passages everywhere caused me to recognize that I had lost heart because I had forgotten the sovereign goodness of God. I know the fact of God’s sovereignty theologically, front and back. I believe it, but emotionally, I wrongly felt betrayed by him.
I had forgotten that God works in ways that I never even know, nor could possibly even guess, in order to bring about the end results. I learned this when, all of a sudden, these prayers were answered in unexpected ways long after I had quit begging every day. This gave me heart. I began to pray again. But, now I prayed differently.
What God had not answered were the specific ways and means that I had spelled out for him. I had prayed for excellent things, for blessings, asking him to bring these good things. I had dictated to God how it should happen, and so, of course, he didn’t answer that prayer, because he knew better.
My ways are not his ways. In asking for first this beautiful thing and then that one to occur in a neat little row so that the good outcome would arrive, I had been wrong in the way I had prayed.
I didn’t leave the means to God, the God of the universe who knows our hearts and minds better than we know ourselves. He knows the course of history, knows exactly what is necessary, and knows the heart of every single person in my prayers. I had told him how to go about his business, rather than praying:
“Lord, whatever it takes, because only you know what that is, please bring this about according to your will.”
Pray like this: Lord, whatever it takes, because only you know what that is, please bring this about according to your will. Click To Tweet
Why pray like this? Because we have no idea what answering that prayer will involve, or what God will need to allow to happen. Maybe the blessings we ask would result in the opposite outcome of what we actually seek, not resulting in what is truly good at all. God knows how to bring people to himself. We don’t.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . . This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:1, 3-5 ESV).
In the case of the prayer I had gradually quit praying, it had taken the opposite actions to produce the results for which I had prayed. God opened my eyes. There it was. In losing heart, I had stopped praying when all I had needed to do was to shift to a more yielded position.
I hadn’t yet yielded to: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Have you ever done this? Do you beg for the particulars about how God should bring about someone’s salvation or a specific request? We give God a list of specifics. We think we know what is needed, but we don’t.
Let God have it. Don’t be afraid. Give it to the Lord.
He’s the One who knows how to do what is best and according to his will. Pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is a prayer built upon good theological footing.
This is very good!
Thanks, Barb. God bless you!
Powerful reminder, Melinda! When we know are praying for something that is aligned with God’s Word and God’s will, like the salvation of another person, we can and should still pray fervently for that outcome, yet yield to God’s workings, ways and timing. I am learning all of these things – to pray persistently and urgently, like the watchmen at night. And yet, to pray with a posture of remembrance that only God is God, so I yield to His sovereign goodness. He will bring about the best for His kingdom and His glory and He will bless us in the process with His presence. Whatever it takes, bring this about according to Your will. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt prayerful wisdom!
What surprised me most, Melissa, were the good things that were withheld so that the work could be accomplished. All very good things. All exactly what every parent, friend, and church prays for others. The withholding of these very good things broke my heart. They were extremely good and right. Yet, those things were withheld, so the breaking could occur that would drive the person into Christ’s arms. I would rather have taken all that on me, rather than them, so it could happen. Jesus, took it all on himself, so he knew what was necessary in the shaping of those for whom I pray.
Yay, congratulations on your successful click to tweets! I love your post on prayer. So often I think I am too busy to pray so thanks for the great reminder. Very inspiring.
Thanks, Yvonne. I didn’t realize my crawl out of the dark on my problematic prayer issue would be inspirational.
I love how we can pray to Him at any time. He is always listening.
Yes, unfortunately I was writing here about losing heart in prayer and not praying at all. Thank God he showed me this lesson.
It is very difficult at times to wait as God works. Thank you for reminding us He is working in our circumstances even when we aren’t aware.
Especially hard to wait when the evidence appears to the contrary! Yet still, he is at work!
I enjoyed and needed this post. It is helpful to know that I am not alone, but even more helpful to know that my God knows I’m not alone. He used your experience and lessons learned to encourage me in The Way. Thank you for not withholding the wisdom God gave you from us. God bless you!
Juanita, thank you for commenting. Dear sister, I feel believers should be transparent with our struggles for the very reason you state. We’re all struggling. We’re all sinners. Perhaps your words can uplift me, helping me to see and to understand God’s working. Perhaps mine can do the same for you. We find complete transparency by the Scripture writers, all their faults and their foibles recorded for our instruction. We should do the same. Only then will we engage in true fellowship. I’m glad my struggles and what God is teaching me in them uplifted and encouraged you, dear sister!
Oh my goodness!! Literally, Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses but I have not thought about it in depth, and I so needed the reminder. You are so right about God sending the same message over and over until we get it. Discouraged was a very real state for me in so many areas, but He will not let me stay there. He answers every prayer, even the ones we stopped praying because we gave up. This is so encouraging.
Finding out that he does indeed answer even the prayers we’ve stopped praying was a game changer. My prayers hadn’t taken into account that he alone knew what was needed. This is his gig, not ours! Our prayers are the way we come alongside him and align ourselves with his purposes, not the way we bend him to our wills. I’ve watched you wrestling in prayer through your posts. We’re learning such deep lessons, Brittany!
Our hearts get in the way of truly seeking God’s will. This is a good reminder of God’s sovereignty and how we need to yield to it, Melinda. I do offer up the details sometimes when I pray. I also often feel like I shouldn’t be a party pooper in groups when we pray for people to be delivered from bad things, like health issues or sticky situations. I feel like I can’t pray for God’s will or plan without offending the people around the table. Thank you for this clear teaching.
You’re absolutely right, Stephen. Even our prayers for good things like healing should be wrapped in “your will be done, Father.” Maybe, as it is with my chronic illness, that trial is exactly what is necessary for teaching them to rely on the Lord, rather than on themselves. God knows what we and our loved ones need better than we do. Will we yield and pray that his will be done? Your prayer is a good one!
Dear Melissa, these are wonderful words of encouragement for all of us. I’m glad we can persist in prayer without fear of having our hearts broken. God will comfort us when the answer is no and he will direct us to pray according to his will.
My motto is: It doesn’t hurt to ask.
God is merciful to his children.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
Our hearts can be broken, even though we know the Lord is gracious and in control. It hurts to see loved ones suffer. The only consolation is to remember his promise of working all together for our good and of guiding and directing those we love, for their good. It will be made good and beautiful!
I needed this today!! Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in thinking it’s all on us, but we have our Father in heaven who is there to help us through in the way and in the timing He knows is best. Thank you for your encouragement!!!
Getting to the point of yieldedness is the challenge of faith. “Thy will be done” shows us where our heart is committed and trusting.
This is such a great meditation for the beginning of the day!
Powerful post, Melinda. It’s easy to wane in our prayer life when neither the outcome or the timing happen the way we hope. But I know I never gave up on my dad, an atheist, coming to believe in God and accept Jesus as Lord. When my faith faltered, I put my dad’s name in Scripture and prayed it. Every day…for 16 years and the prayer was answered. He as gloriously saved! James 5:16 in the NIV says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
In the end, we know prayer is powerful to change us and others and situations. And we trust God is working when we can’t see it.
Thank you, Melinda!
My prayers spanned decades. My heart was broken when the opposite continued to happen, in spite of my prayers. The results hurt too much. I lost heart and quit praying those specific prayers. I thought my prayers had been ineffective. But, they were not. God in his mercy and kindness showed me that he had been at work just as I had asked, but that he was answering in ways I never considered. In fact, I NEVER would have prayed for the things the Lord had to allow in order to bring about his purposes. NEVER! Only he knows what is necessary. That was how he worked in this particular situation. In other instances, my prayers of decades continued unabated, he also used unexpected circumstances, and he answered, as with your father. God is merciful. I’m not the first broken-hearted prayer, and I certainly won’t be the last.
I remember a friend I was praying for over the course of about four years. He had all the head knowledge, but none of the heart knowledge. I struggled with wanting to stop praying for him and to stop talking to him about Jesus, as it seemed like he wasn’t any closer to making a decision for Christ. But God got a hold of him in His own timing! I love remembering that and knowing our prayers are never in vain, and they’re more powerful than we realize. And also that God works in His own timing!
Thank you for sharing that, Emily! That’s such a good reminder. It’s easy for us to forget this when we’ve prayed for something for years and years and yet see no evidence that God is working. And then, surprise! Change happens that we never knew was coming. We don’t see the internal work. Only God sees the heart.
Occasionally, we have to fall on our faces to discover this. My point is to demonstrate God’s faithfulness, even when my heart was broken, I lost hope, and I quit praying. I’m not the first to do this, and I won’t be the last. It’s not about me or my faithfulness in prayer, it’s about Him. I hope my honesty gives someone the hope to carry on in their prayers.