“Pray without ceasing” - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” - Luke 18:1
“Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:’” – Daniel 9:20-23
I’ve often been drawn to Daniel 9. Not so much because of the dramatic “Seventy Weeks” prophecy which follows this passage; not so much because of the beautiful prayer of penitence and confession which precedes this passage and teaches us to humble ourselves before God; but because of the section excerpted above. It is, to me, a source of great comfort, especially when I’m confused and alone.
Did you notice when the answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent? “At the beginning of your supplications” we read. Previous to this, Daniel had been praying for some time; confessing his sin for some time; confessing the sins of Israel – for some time. But the answer had already been determined and sent “At the beginning of (his) supplications”. It just hadn’t arrived yet. God being God, we know that the answer would have been there had He intended Daniel receive it right at the beginning. God being God, we know that the answer could have come to Daniel even before he began to pray. But God, according to what we read here, chose to send the answer at the beginning of the prayer and have it arrive later.
If that’s how God worked with Daniel, is it possible that He works with us in the same way? To let us pray – to send the answer – and to have us wait a while before it arrives? Why wouldn’t He, sometimes, do that?
We all have had the experience of praying; and praying; and praying; and sometimes whining and complaining; all the while our answer is withheld. We all have had the experience of praying for things we haven’t yet received. I’ve prayed for things, sometimes for years, before I’ve received them. Prayed for my wife for many years before I knew who she would be. Kimberly and I prayed for our children before they were conceived. We prayed for our ministry for years before being given the privilege to do what we get to do. We are still praying for things we haven’t yet received.
And this process; this process of praying, working, trying to remember to trust, praying some more, waiting, waiting some more, wondering if perhaps the prayer needs to be changed, and praying some more; can sometimes test one’s faith. Yet, as you just read in Luke 18:1 above, “. . . (We) always ought to pray and not lose heart”.
God is eternal. His ways are not our ways. His approach to our requests is not always what we’d expect it to be. And His approach to time is certainly not ours. He hears our prayers. The answer might be on the way right now. But you might have to wait a bit before it shows up. And since the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27), our request might have been revised a little (or a lot) by the time the answer reaches us.
In our culture, steeped as it is in consumerism, where we place the order and expect it to arrive on time and exactly as we requested, this waiting (for how long?) for something that might be different from what we requested might be frustrating.
But it is good. Because God not only knows what we need better than we do – He also knows when we need it.
Lord – help us to be patient! And to trust You when we’re waiting for the answer.