In this 11th blog about prayer, I borrow insights from Ronald Dunn’s book, Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.
God Answers Later
When does God answer prayer? He answers immediately, but the giving of it may be delayed. “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). The angel told Zacharias his prayer for a son was heard (Luke 1:13). The Greek word, “heard” has a prefix that expresses “purpose, action, tendency, result.” When God heard their prayer, He also did it. Zacharias and Elizabeth had to wait years before John the Baptist was born.
God Answers Better
Zacharias also learned that God often answers later in order to answer better. Supposed they received a son during their young years? We would never have known about it. Just another son. God gave them something better: John the Baptist. The last Old Testament prophet who lived to see his prophecy fulfilled as Jesus’ first cousin and forerunner of the Messiah. Jesus said, “there has not risen one greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).
God Answers When the Situation Becomes Humanly Impossible
God often waits until a situation deteriorates before He intervenes. God waited until Zacharias and Elizabeth were past child-bearing age before giving them a son. God worked this way with Abraham and Sarah. He promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations. Abraham believed in the Lord (Genesis 15:6). God waited until he was 100 and Sarah was 90 before He gave what He already granted.
God Answers for His Glory
God takes the route that brings Him the greatest glory so “that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). We may experience much pain going through the fire on our way to glorifying God.
God Answers According to Divine Necessity
Zacharias also learned that God answers prayer when it’s linked to divine necessity. The fullness of time came when He “needed” John the Baptist. In solving Zacharias’ problem, He solved His own. A similar situation occurred when God answered Hannah’s prayer with Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20). Israel needed a judge and prophet. God needed Samuel. It solved God’s and Hannah’s problem. God always moves with redemptive purpose.
God Answers According to His Will
We can’t know the immediate will of God, but can know the ultimate will of God where there’s a promise from Scripture.
What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say
When we are at our lowest point and don’t know what to pray, we can pray, “Father, glorify Your name.” This is what Jesus prayed when His soul was troubled (John 14:13). If we have to chose between our petitions being answered or God being glorified, we should choose the glory of God. We must pray as Jesus prayed: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
How Long Should We Pray for Something?
Until we receive the answer: Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock
(Matthew 7:7-11). He gave two parables teaching persistence (Luke 11 & Luke 18).
Until we have the assurance that we will receive it: Sometimes while praying, God will give a quiet assurance that He has heard and answered.
Until God says no: When God says no to a request, we have no peace in praying for it; it doesn’t feel right; there is a sense of restraint. “Let the peace that Christ can give keep on acting as umpire in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15, Williams translation).
Until the burden is lifted: Pray in the direction of your burden believing that God has placed it here. Pray until the burden is lifted knowing you’re released from that prayer.
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