Like every night before it, my wife and I knelt beside our bed last night and offered a prayer to close out the day.
It was simple and mentioned many of the same things we mention every night: Please help us sleep well, bless our son, be with our family that is hurting.
Other common topics are mentioned as well, like help for getting into graduate school, showing us when we should try for a second child or helping us earn enough money for all of this.
But as I slipped under the covers, a thought came back to mind that I’ve thought many times before; that thought went with me on the train this morning and it’s still here now as I write:
Why can’t I just have my answers now?
As important a privilege as prayer is, it can sometimes feel like a finicky thing to work with. At times I feel like I have a direct line to heavenly help, and am seconds away from solid responses. At others I feel like I’m talking to myself underwater, speaking a different language entirely.
But the problem isn’t a mystery. It was said best by one of my past religion professors who asked me, “If there is a distance between you and God, who has moved?”
God will not move and will never make speaking with Him difficult. He has a fixed system of communication, and the only way that system breaks down is when we ignore or don’t pay attention to its principles.
On the other hand, that is only one side of this equation. What about those times the channel is open, you are in line with the Lord, you send the prayer and still don’t get a conclusive answer right away?
Please, please resist the urge to throw your hands up in defeat and give up. This setback has something to teach you. When you don’t feel you have gotten a firm answer, ask again.
Ask God the hard questions until you get an answer.
Persistent and patient asking in prayer is a refining and growing exercise for your heart and mind.
Have you ever considered that you may not be able to receive an answer at the time you ask the question?
This is not something to be discouraged about; God wants you to ask Him and search for divine help. It’s patience, not perfection, that makes prayer powerful.
How badly do you want to know what you’re asking for? Is it worth one prayer, or a hundred? Needing to work for an answer isn’t so God can get to you when He has time; it’s proof of Him showing you how serious and sacred the answer is.
Answers to prayers should change you for the better.
It’s a mistake to expect responses on your own time, when God’s timing is all that matters.
Understanding this will completely renovate how you pray. Seeking for God’s responses will be exciting, not frustrating. Answers will have greater weight when you have to grow to hear them.
Most importantly, you will gain the double blessing of getting your answers, and also knowing that God listens.
Nothing could possibly be more life-shaping than that.