We said yesterday that one of the things that might confuse us, in our walk with the Lord, was the mystery of God’s timings and how they are often so very different from ours. Sometimes it feels like we are praying for something for a very long time. At other times we may feel that God has forgotten us, or a promise that we feel He gave us. The difference in timing is not really that surprising, given that He lives in eternity, and we in finite time. His perspective must necessarily be very different to ours. Not only do we live in a world where, because of death, unlike God, we don’t have unlimited time, but we also live in a culture that is one of ‘the immediate’ and ‘the instant’!! Life in a rural community, several hundreds of years ago, would have been governed by the seasons and by the rhythms of the sun and moon. Now in our digital age, we are increasingly driven, in many areas of life, by the demand for an immediate response.
It’s no longer just that we have instant coffee and instant food, now big things like the fortune of individuals, companies and even nations can be altered in a few minutes on the stock exchange. A text, an email, or a social media post can alter someone’s life for better or worse in a moment, as news of events circle the globe in a few minutes, day and night. And so in our own lives, responding to and keeping up with the speed of everyday life, can make us impatient and irritated with unexpected delays of any kind. It can also be the case that we easily transfer our time frame onto God.
So how does this impinge on our relationship with God? Well God’s promises are not time limited or time sensitive, like so many things that are flagged up to us, and take our attention daily. God does things in His way and in His time, not mine. We just have to look at the life of a man like Joseph, to see a huge time lapse between the prophetic dreams that he had as a young man of seventeen in Canaan, and the fulfilment of that dream in Egypt some thirteen years later. Moses understood this well. He was a man who had to wait forty years to be restored to the position that he needed in order to fulfil his destiny, and lead his people.
In his prayer recorded for us in Psalm 90 he says ‘a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.’ Then there is David who, after Samuel’s declaration and anointing of him as king, had to wait many years, (a good deal of it as an outlaw), for the fulfilment of God’s words to him. He later wrote ‘But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.’ Psalm 31:15. He had grasped that God’s timings are different to ours, and also that the wait might not be in comfortable circumstances.
So what of us? If these towering figures of the Old Testament had to ‘wait’ for the Lord to show Himself faithful to His words, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that with God the answers come, but can often seem unnecessarily delayed, even to the point of it seeming to be ‘too late’, as for Sarah and Abraham. Genesis 18:10-15. We are told in Hebrews 6:12 ‘to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.’ ‘Faith and patience’! An interesting combination. Shouldn’t real faith bring an instant answer??
Paul, after teaching the saints about the whole armour of God, finishes by encouraging them to be persevering in their prayers for each other saying, ‘with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints’. Ephesians 6:18 NASB. I think he is telling us that spiritual battles take time, but if we stay in the right place with God, keeping the right attitude, we will grow and mature during that time.
We also need to remember the encouragement from Jesus after His teaching on the Lords’ prayer and the parable of the persistent friend who needed some bread at midnight. Luke 11:2-10. He said (using the present continuous tense) that we should ‘ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking’. It would seem therefore with God that we need to be patient, but not silent. We need to be patient in our faith for an answer to prayer, but bold to continue persevering in persistent prayer.
Whether that prayer is for provision, or help, guidance or courage, strength or healing, or the fulfilment of a promise, it really doesn’t matter. Asking about anything that we are lacking, or that is causing us confusion and doubt, is so important because all our prayers will be drawing us closer to God in the ‘waiting’ time. This is particularly so if we take Paul’s advice; ‘Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6,7.
So there we are, staying in peace, a peace that transcends all understanding when we are feeling confused, comes from patiently waiting, but also persevering in persistent praying. Asking, again and again if necessary, but always with thanksgiving.