I defined prayer as practicing the presence of God. That’s the posture of prayer, and what it means for us to pray without ceasing and live lives connected to God. Jesus put it this way in John 15:7 - “If you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!”
In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, “Call to me and I will answer you…” Ask and you shall receive. But it doesn’t tell us how God will answer, and yet, for some reason we only give God credit for answering our prayers if the answer is “yes”.
However, the Bible is full of examples where God said “No” to people. In Genesis chapter 17, Abraham prayed for God to make Ishmael the son of promise. but God said “No”. In Deuteronomy chapter 3, Moses prayed for God to let him into the promise land, but God said, “No”. In 2 Samuel 12, David prayed for God to save the life of his son, but God said, “No”. And remember Jonah? He prayed for a Mediterranean cruise, but God said, “No”.
We can be confident that our Father knows best. He is working for our good, drawing us into His presence and to make us more and more like Christ. He’s right beside you—no matter where you are. God is all over the place. He is omnipresent. That means, no matter what you’re going through, God is with you. When you look at the struggles we’re dealing with right now, God’s presence changes everything. God’s presence fuels our prayers with expectant hope and confidence.
Regardless of the answer, we can trust it’s the right answer.
God always answers:
1. In His own time. His answer is according to His schedule. It’s on His timetable. Whenever God thinks it's best – it’s best. The fact is, God often delays answers to prayers. He doesn't answer everything immediately. Or maybe He does answer our prayers immediately, but maybe He just doesn’t let us in on the answer right away.
In Psalm 40:1 David writes, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.” Waiting is hard for us, isn’t it?! We don’t like to wait for anything. Even for God. I just want to encourage you not to panic, but to pray. Keep praying – patiently and persistently. God is never late. His timing is perfect. We may think He's late but He's never late. God's delays are not God's denials. "Not yet" does not mean "No".
2. In His own way. Not only whenever He thinks best, but however He thinks best. God's ways are always better and usually bigger than ours. God says in Isaiah 55, "My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine…my ways are higher than your ways…”
Our problem is two-fold: We ask too little and we want it too quick. Instead of letting God work in His time, in His way to do something big, we don't dream big enough. We don't pray big enough. We don't think big enough. We aim too low. We need to claim Ephesians 3:20 where Paul writes, "God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…." Our God is a big God and He can do big things.
If God had answered some of my prayers exactly as I'd asked them, I would have gotten short changed. I'm thankful that God hasn't answered all my prayers. Some of them would have been a disaster! I remember getting a card from someone when I was facing some tough decisions. It said, "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him." Let God answer in His time. Let God answer in His way.
3. In His own power. Don't try and help God answer your request. Don't ask and then go and try to work it out. Let God answer in His own power. God says, "Let Me take care of it." Why? That way He gets the credit. He gets the honor and the glory. By God doing what only God can do, people are drawn to Him.
We read about Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus in John chapter 11. Lazarus got sick and so Martha and Mary sent for Jesus to heal him. They sent a message "Jesus, come quick. It is an emergency situation. We need You right now. Our brother is sick." They were frantic. A lot of times we pray that way. "God, you've got to do something now! It's urgent. Do it now!" But nothing happens.
Jesus intentionally delayed. He was just a few miles away from their home, but it took Him three days to get there. You look at it from an outsider's perspective and it looks like Jesus was callous. He waits three days. Only then does He turn to His disciples and say, "Let's go."
He goes to Lazarus' home, but by this time Lazarus died. They come running out crying out, "Jesus, where have You been? If You had been here when we called You, this wouldn't have happened. We called four days ago. You delayed and our brother's dead." They're rebuking God.
We do the same thing. We say, "Why, God? Why are You doing this? What are You doing? Why haven't You answered?"
Jesus just calmly looked at them and said, "Mary, Martha, if you'll just believe, you will see the glory of God. You'll see a miracle." And they did. Here’s the point: Jesus waited until the situation was humanly impossible and then he answered. In His own time, in His own way. In His own power. For His own glory.
God answers prayers. In His own time, in His own way, in His own power. He also answers prayer For His own purpose. Not only whenever He wants, however He wants, but also for whatever reason He chooses. He is sovereign. His will, will be done. We can rest knowing that He is working for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Prayer is not simply getting things from God. It is much more than that. It is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God, being present to His presence and being aligned with His power, plans, and purposes. Lord, teach us to pray!