“I tried that once and it didn’t work.”
That statement was made not about the latest weight loss plan or gizmo bought from a late-night infomercial.
No, that statement was made about prayer. The person had evidently asked God for something important to him, and he didn’t get it.
So prayer obviously doesn’t work. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t completely sure whether this guy was being completely serious with me. But he was serious enough that I didn’t quite know what to say.
What I could have said was the same thing the man said when he was interviewed at his 100-year old birthday party. He was asked, “So, what is the secret to your advanced age.” The man replied, “Well, I worked hard. I ate well. I went to bed early.” The interviewer said, “My grandfather did all that and died at 70.” The man answered, “Well, he just didn‘t do it long enough!”
That was the problem with the guy who tried prayer and it didn’t work. He didn’t do it long enough.
Consider the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth The book of Luke describes this couple as not only “righteous;” he also said that they followed “all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Lk 1:6). These were pretty good folks! The problem was that Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children in a culture that valued children so much that being childless was a “disgrace” (1:25). This Godly couple had been praying for a child (1:13), but they had grown “very old” and their prayers for children had not been answered. Yet. God had not told them “No.” He had said, “Wait.” The problem was that God’s “Wait” felt just like “No.” The birth of their baby John was such a shock and surprise to them that it is obvious that they had not been praying this prayer for some time. God answered their prayers, but He did so in a way that fit with His plan and His purpose for them. Their prayers were answered at the proper time… but after a long period of waiting.
Let’s face it, it’s hard for us to wait upon the Lord (Isa 40:31). We get weary of waiting, and we see the passing of time as proof that God has forgotten all about us.
His silence FEELS like He has forgotten us.
His “Wait” feels to us like a “No.”
We can see God’s purposes in the story Zechariah and Elizabeth because we read their story from the beginning to the end. But we live out our story from the middle— and we have to wait for God’s ending. We can never tell the difference between God’s “No” and God’s “Wait” until we get to the end of our story.
Why do we often have to wait? Maybe God has a plan and a purpose for us like he did for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Or maybe we aren’t ready right now to receive His “Yes.”
God is not a vending machine where we pop in a prayer out pops our blessing! But when we struggle with something in prayer, we needed to remember that “Wait” does not mean “No” even though they feel the same at the time.
Remember the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
God works in His time, not in ours!