A mother of five took one of her daughters, age 9, out for a mother-daughter breakfast. During their meal, she courageously asked her daughter, “How do you think I could be a better mom?” The young girl thought for a moment. Then she promptly related, “Well, you do yell a lot. I know you’ve been praying about that, but it isn’t really working yet.”
Touché! A quip like this had to hurt just a little. Why doesn’t prayer “really work” sometimes? Why do some of our most earnest and sincere prayers appear to go unanswered?
In this blog and following, I am going to focus on our attitudes in prayer. My focus is not about “the how to’s” of prayer, or the “whys” of prayer, but our attitudes. Maybe you’ve sincerely attempted prayer but are still not netting many results. If so, then follow along as I attempt to examine four attitudes which will help get results from heaven.
Time is one of the biggest issues most face when it comes to prayer. In order to receive from God we must be willing to let the Lord answer in His own time. If you are like me… I want what I want, when I want it. I want answers to my prayers right away. After all, I think that what I’m praying about is important and God should answer…quickly. But it’s not always in my best interest or God’s, for Him to answer immediately. During these moments it is imperative to maintain the belief that the Lord has our best interest at heart. If the Lord delays, it is the very best for all concerned.
God often delays answering our prayers because we are not mature or responsible enough to receive. The question becomes can we handle it?
A hundred years ago, who would have thought it would have been possible to send pictures through space? Who would have imagined that somebody standing in front of a camera in New York could be seen by people in Washington? Who could have imagined that instead of waiting for the news to arrive in a newspaper, you could see it happening for yourself, live? A hundred years ago they would have said it was impossible. This is not the case now.
Who would have thought a hundred years ago, it would be possible for people personally to send their own pictures and videos through space to be on the news which runs 24/7. Yet, this happens everyday.
Now, even children and teenagers have this capability. Many have learned the hard way that just because they can, doesn’t mean they should post every pic and video of themselves. Many of them have chosen to send naked pictures of themselves for the whole world to see. Just because we have been given this power doesn’t mean it has been the very best thing for us.
Being willing to wait for something you want or even need is a sign of maturity. Not being willing to wait is a sign of immaturity.
This wasn’t the reason Zechariah and Elizabeth’s answer was delayed in Luke 1. In verses 6 and 9 we see that they were upright, blameless, and kept faithfully serving God despite their disgrace and disappointment in not having a child.
This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men. Luke 1:25
Yes, this elderly couple was “disgraced” by God’s lack of movement in their lives. Ever been there? Do you think God is even concerned when He delays our prayers? Maybe He is in heaven laughing at our disgrace. People wrongly conclude we are “less spiritual” because God has delayed our prayer requests.
Real maturity is loving God despite it all. Mature people do not stop loving God when life doesn’t make sense. Zachariah and Elizabeth kept plugging away with their faith and love for God intact.
As strange as it may seem, God’s delays are not God’s denials! He needed someone He could trust to not deny Him when their prayers weren’t being answered right away. He wanted to answer Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers in a miraculous fashion. This meant that their answer would not arrive right away. This also meant they were the “exceptional parent material” God needed to raise a prophet… not just any prophet … the prophet that would usher in Messiah.
Cable television tycoon Ted Turner has often been quoted as being critical of Christianity. Turner made some very revealing remarks at a banquet in Orlando, Fla., in 1990. On this occasion he was given an award by the American Humanist Association for his work on behalf of the environment. Turner said he had a strict Christian upbringing and at one time considered becoming a missionary. “I was saved seven or eight times,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. But he said “he became disenchanted with Christianity after his sister died, despite his prayers.” (Spokesman-Review, May 1, 1990. http://www.christianglobe.com.)
Here is a man who didn’t pass the “prayers delayed test.” In fact, this test actually changed the course of his life. His personal prayers were not answered by the Lord, so he chucked his whole relationship with God.
I am sure we have all considered giving up on prayer at one time or another. We get discouraged and quit praying for a season because deep down we wonder if prayer really makes a difference. In Zechariah and Elizabeth’s case, God wanted to do something greater than they had originally requested. God trusted them because they would not give up on Him when their prayers seemed to be going unanswered.
Have you given up on God because He appeared to be deaf to your concerns? Or, are you still faithfully serving Him despite the delay in getting what you have been praying about? Can God trust you to not deny Him when the answers to your prayers are delayed?
Zechariah couldn’t believe the angel’s good news. He doubted what he was hearing.
Zachariah said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” Luke 1:18
Even good, sincere Christians have doubts at times! Why did he doubt the angel’s message? Because he knew he and his wife were “well along” in years. I am feeling a little advanced in years myself these days. They knew that it would take a full-blown miracle for them to have a child! We tend to doubt God when the answer to our prayers requires an actual miracle.
This is the difference between Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Zechariah. Mary did believe God could do a miracle. Zack, because of his age… couldn’t make the leap.
Different issues create certain problems for people. Some can’t believe God for a restored marriage. Some can’t believe God for restored health. Others can’t believe God for a financial miracle. Bottomline… You will hear words like, “That’s impossible!” In other words, “I can’t believe that will actually happen for me. God might be able to work a miracle in somebody else’s life, but not mine.”
The way to correct this is to speak and believe like Mary. “Be it done to me according to Your word.” Luke 1:38