Just a few quick thoughts while I'm sitting here waiting for my laundry to finish drying . . . not sure how coherent this will be since my brain is fried from studying for exams, but bear with me!
I really do believe that prayer is the world's greatest untapped resource. But what about those times when it seems like God just isn't answering your prayers? In my life for the past couple of months, I have been grappling with unanswered prayers. Or to be more specific, prayers that are not being answered with a "yes." I'm sure that many of you experience this too, at least sometimes.
Without boring you with the details, I have been praying for some things that I both really need and really want, and things that I genuinely believe are a part of God's will for me. I have been trying to seek out God's will and plan for my future as it relates to the things I'm praying about, and I believe that the desires I'm praying for really are ones that the Lord has given me and will eventually fulfill.
But he hasn't done so yet. And I feel like I'm running out of time. When people deal with unanswered prayers, I often hear this sort of sentiment expressed: "God must just not want that for you." "God doesn't want you to do or be (insert the prayer request here), so that's why he's not answering your prayer." While people who say these things surely mean well, I think they are often wrong. In fact, I think this sentiment is really a myth that has insidiously crept its way into our modern Christian discourse. What it really says is this: if you encounter obstacles or failures while trying to achieve a goal or see a prayer be answered, God is trying to tell you to give up on it and pursue something else. It's a way to "spiritualize" a passive approach to the accomplishment of goals and the pursuit of God-given dreams.
But I for one don't believe that obstacles are any reason to quit. While it might be true that sometimes God "shuts doors" on an opportunity, that doesn't mean that facing difficulties, long days and nights of unanswered prayer, or setbacks means that we should discard a desire or dream that we truly believe God has placed in our hearts.
What if, on the 7th day of the week as the Israelites circled Jericho, they got tired of walking around and believed that the setbacks and the difficulties meant that God didn't want them to take the city? After the 6th lap around, they would have walked away in defeat as the walls still stood--and they would have stopped just short of their miracle. Sometimes, it just takes one more time, one more prayer, one more bold act of obedience and commitment. What if God wants you to pray through your failures and your setbacks, but you quit praying because you're sick of not seeing results? You could be missing out on your miracle. Really, a prayer that goes unprayed can turn into a tragedy that we don't even recognize, because we may not even know what blessing we're missing!
There's a lie that's entered into today's "Christianese," and the lie is that facing failure is God's way of telling you that you're pursuing the wrong thing and need to try something else. Now, there may be some occasions where God uses failure as part of a bigger plan to lead us toward or away from something. But that certainly doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to have anything that we're having trouble getting. Prayer is not always supposed to be easy, or rewarding, or instantly gratifying.
Sometimes, God carries us into the last possible minute before He answers our prayers. I'm in that position now--the position where you feel like you have to remind God that an answer that comes too late is really no answer at all. But God knows all about timing. He created time, after all, and He is never early and never late. He is always exactly, perfectly, right on time. He invites us to stand on His promises when we are strong, and to fall on them when we are weak.
I will NOT forego a miracle just because the praying gets long and hard and frustrating. And if and when I can't pray anymore, God's grace can fill in the gap and give me the strength to begin to pray again.