I sit and wait for God to let me in on His, up until now, secret plot for my life. I have heard it a thousand times or maybe only one hundred times, as a matter of fact I don’t know how many times I have heard it and I don’t know how many times I have preached it but I do know that yes, no or wait are the only possible answers to my requests. So I sit and wait with nothing to do but wait until wait becomes a yes or no or maybe a no not now becomes a wait a little longer or a yes for now becomes a no for later or a wait becomes a…
Living for an answer makes prayer no more than a quest for directions.
Over time we have made our interactions with God about seeking His will. I would be teaching questionable theology if I said prayer had nothing to do with seeking God’s will. I also would most likely end up ducking holy lightening bolts (the holy lightening bolts may also be questionable theology). Prayer is the very act of seeking God’s direction, His provision and His blessing as we seek to understand His will and live it out in our lives but there is so much more to it than this.
The act of prayer begins a process.
The act of prayer is not the beginning of the process of God taking action in your situation as many would have you believe. The act of prayer is the beginning of the process of you trusting God with your situation. It would not be bad theology to say that God often waits for us to pray before He acts but it is bad theology to say that God requires us to pray before He acts. Prayer works because God has chosen to make prayer a part of the Christ follower’s journey of faith. Each prayer is a step in our journey to trust God completely.
The process is not waiting in the void of unanswered requests.
In the simplicity of the yes, no or wait doctrine on prayer requests lies the emptiness of God’s perfect timing. I know that calling anything God does both perfect and empty in the same sentence suggests I don’t proofread my work or even worse, I have a very poor or even nonexistent theological understanding, but bear with me on this one. If all prayer, at least the petition part of prayer, is about waiting for a yes, no or even worse waiting longer for a yes or no, then prayer is not only the beginning of the process of trusting God, it’s the beginning of the process of emptiness until something happens. How depressing.
The act of prayer makes a statement.
Even though most prayers are questions/requests, all prayers are statements. To ask is to believe, to have faith even if your faith is weak.
When we pray we are making the statement that we need God.
When we pray we are making the statement that God can do something that we can’t.
When we pray we are making the statement that God cares enough to listen.
When we pray we are making a statement that God will answer.
These statements lead to so much more than a void.
There should be no emptiness, no void after we pray. By praying we have admitted that we need God and He is the only one that can help us. By praying we acknowledge that He is listening and will answer. If all this is true then it is not a void we are in but instead we are in the presence of a perfect God who is already addressing our requests. To put it another way, a shorter way, we have peace in the middle of our situation not a void.
Peace, God’s peace, is not emptiness or nothingness, it is not a void or the removal of trouble. God’s peace is the replacement of our fear caused by our understanding of the hopelessness of a situation with the understanding that God can and is addressing it.
In our human condition the peace of God exists in a state of flux.
It would be nice to hear a yes or no answer right away along with a set of instructions on how to proceed every time we pray. Even if we do get that yes or no answer we most likely will have to wait for the next step and we will most likely find ourselves losing the sense of peace that only God can give. Whether we are waiting for the first answer or the first step after the first answer, it is in our nature to become anxious.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
This verse is not a line but a circle. Even when we go from anxiousness to the peace that passes all understanding we can become fixated on the lack of progress and the peace we have can turn into the emptiness of God’s perfect timing.
Lack of peace is the beginning of anxiousness but the words of our prayers lead to the return of peace.
We are not in a void but in a battle to pray continually and remain in God’s peace.