My life is very instant. If I want something, I go and get it. If I want a coke, I go and get a coke. If I want to watch a movie, I turn on my computer and watch one on Netflix. If I want to go somewhere, I get in my car and drive. I don’t have to really wait for anything. I’m so used to not waiting that taking ten seconds for a web page to load seems like an eternity and sitting through two minutes of commercials is nearly unbearable. All of this has made me so accustomed to not waiting that, even when I pray, I expect my prayers to be answered by the time I say, “Amen”. But, that’s not how prayer works.
I have always had a hard time making sense of passages like Matthew 7:7-11, where Jesus says that if you ask, it will be given to you. To be honest, I’ve asked for a lot of things that haven’t been given to me. This verse is seemingly disqualified from being truth, if I think of prayer in a one-dimensional way. But the truth is that prayer is not a one-dimensional act. The surface requests we have are not the ultimate request we are making in prayer. In every prayer, there is an underlying request. It’s one we seem to forget. To pray is to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, and in that is the request that His will is done. It’s in the Lord’s prayer. When Christ says “pray like this” and says “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” after giving requests for daily bread and forgiveness, He shows that beneath every request made is the plea that God’s will is done. We may not understand this when we pray. We might not even consciously acknowledge this. But, to pray is to submit to God’s will. To pray is to wait on God.
If you’re like me, It’s really easy to be patient when you know what you are being patient for. If I know the outcome of waiting, it’s honestly pretty easy to be content waiting. However, when it comes to being patient in situations where the outcome isn’t clear, it’s so hard to be content. When all I can do is wait, and I don’t even know what I am waiting for, it can be really easy to grow weary. Often, I think this is what we consider to be waiting on God. We see it as sitting around until God tells us what He is doing. But that’s not waiting on God. In fact, it’s a lot more like wasting than it is waiting. To wait on God is to rest in the knowledge and confidence that He is working all things for His glory. It means that even though prayers don’t seem like they are being answered, we act and live in the trust and hope that, in the end, the will of God will be carried out.
So what do you do when it doesn’t seem like God is answering your prayers? What options do I have when I’ve prayed the same prayer every night for nearly a year and nothing has changed? Wait. You keep praying and living. You do your best to glorify God in all things. In those issues for which you are praying, you trust that the outcome will be God’s glory. The result of waiting is that your faith is forced to grow. It doesn’t mean that you are, all of a sudden, made content in those situations. It doesn’t mean that sleepless nights and internal fights will end. What it does mean, is that you can approach the struggles of unanswered prayers and the longing that God would just “do something” with hope and confidence that everything will be resolved in Glory.