…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13
My friend Janie says that it takes God seven years to answer a prayer. I’m not sure how she’s come up with that number—perhaps that’s because it’s God’s number of completion. But Janie doesn’t get impatient when answers don’t happen right away. Unlike so many of us…
There are so many examples in the Bible of people praying and experiencing delays in their answers. Sarah and Abraham were well past their prime when God birthed their promised son. Joseph waited more than a decade to see God’s promise fulfilled in his life. The children of Israel waited about four hundred years before returning home. How long did the faithful wait for Messiah? And how long have we waited for his Second Coming?
Yet God is the one who is working. He gives a promise, and then he works to bring it to pass. When Sarah and Abraham tried to help God out, they only created enmity that has lasted to this present day. The pattern is: we pray and God works. He brings together the myriad details, all the connections, and every component that’s needed for what we call answered prayer.
And God works secretly, behind the scenes, and in our hearts. Trying to watch God work is somewhat like planting an acorn and expecting to see an oak tree appear overnight. “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” (Cowper) and we need to get out of his way. Often, it takes time; other times he surprises us with his speed. But the underlying truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), and he’s always working.
So much is written about prayer—pray fervently, pray in faith, ask and seek and knock. I’ve spent countless days praying and praying and trying to see what God was doing. As if I could peek over his shoulder and be a spectator to the wonders of his ways. And when I didn’t feel I had prayed sufficiently or used the proper words, I’d begin again as if God didn’t understand the situation or hadn’t heard me initially.
I am beginning to learn that my job is to pray and then to simply trust and let go. I hand the matter to my Father and trust him to work. I try not to rush him or ask him to explain. I leave the matter totally to him. I walk away and move on to my next duty so that he can work without my interruption (or suggestions).
And then, to my wonder and great joy (sometimes when I’ve even forgotten what I’d asked him to do) in his timing he shows me what he has been up to. It’s always better than what I had prayed, what I had asked, or what I had imagined. God is ALWAYS working. And it’s always good. I’m trying to remember to back out and stop interfering.
Father, thank you for your mercy with my impatience. Let your will be done in your time. In Jesus, our Lord. AMEN.