by Trey Faull
I’m not a very patient person. When I want something I usually find a way to get it as soon as possible so I don’t have to wait. When there is an event or a trip planned, I will often waste the time leading up to that event because all I can think about is how much fun it will be. I’ve wasted much time not being productive in my waiting because my impatience drives me to obsess over whatever is on the horizon.
It’s ironic though, because I’m obsessed with my time. I’m never late and always early. I love watches and have a clock in every room. One of my greatest professional skills is time management - I always get my work done. Yet, I still get impatient and waste time when there is something I want waiting for me in the future. The thought of a future reward often distracts me from working and getting things done in the waiting.
I think we often approach God in a similar fashion. We pray for God to move in our lives and do a miracle, but then we fail to make the most of our time while we are waiting on Him to move. It’s easy to pray, “God please relieve my financial stress,” wait a few days, and then get mad and quit when we don’t have a big increase in income.
But that’s not God’s fault… That’s our fault for not knowing how to wait.
What if, instead of sitting idly by and wasting our waiting time, we actually set out to grow and improve so that we are ready when God does answer us. Let’s go back to the finance example.
You want an increase of income, but do you have a budget that says, “I can manage money?” Have you worked to pay off your debts so that you’re not slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7)? Have you taken the money you do have and been generous with it by tithing or helping others?
You see how the attitude is different in the waiting when you commit to working on yourself in the process? By the way, this is a principle that Jesus taught in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Except in this situation you’re investing in yourself and in the time God has given you.
What if instead of throwing a hissy fit when God doesn’t give us what we want, when we want it, we inclined ourselves to wait and grow through the time we spend waiting?
Maybe you are waiting on a job, so while you hustle with Uber Eats to make ends meet, you should spend extra time learning software, a trade, adding new skills to your arsenal, and getting yourself ready to accept that job that you have prayed for.
Maybe you’re waiting on the relationship to heal. Have you gone to counseling? Have you taken inventory of your life and apologized for the wrongs you may be guilty of? Are you working through the pain (s)he caused so that you can forgive him/her when (s)he asks?
You see, when we decide to grow while we wait, we end up placing ourselves in a better position to receive the answer to our prayer. Your growth in the waiting will often indicate that you are ready to receive whatever God has in store for you.
So be patient. Trust God’s timing… But use that time to grow. Grow by pursuing God. Grow by becoming a better you. And maximize the time God has given you while you wait on Him.
Is there power in prayer? Depending on your background you might have a different answer to that question than the person sitting next to you. However, there is no denying that prayer is pervasive throughout our culture (We talked about that HERE).
Lots of people want to know if prayer works… Is it worth journaling or getting up early to spend time with God? It’s a valid question. But it might be the wrong question. Maybe a better question to ask is, “Do you work?”
Last week I saw a tweet from Christian artist Lecrae that said,
Most people say, ‘I’ll pray for you…’ and that’s it. That’s the prayer… Don’t be that kind of person.
While this made me chuckle, it’s true. So often we say or comment, “I’ll pray for you,” but then we never take the time to actually pray for that person. We end up using prayer as an excuse to actually get out of walking with that person through their pain (See James 2:15-16 for some excellent sarcasm on this topic).
I think a better way to be with people in their pain is to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and then actually go home and pray for them. But then, those words should immediately be followed with, “How can I help?”
I’ll pray for you… How can I help?
Here’s why this is incredible: You end up being the very answer to the prayer you’re praying for them.
Example: Joe is having marital problems and he lets you in on the drama. You say to Joe, “I’m going to pray for you right now… God, restore their marriage and give them the willingness to work through the uncertainty.”
As soon as you say “Amen,” Joe looks at you for more help and this is the moment. This is not when you say, “Welp… See ya later.” Rather, this is when you say, “Would it be helpful if I babysat your kids for the evening so you and your wife can have some time together and work on your marriage?”
Boom Sauce. You’ve prayed for him and asked God to heal their marriage… And then, holy smokes! You’re able to immediately help Joe take a step in seeing that prayer come to life. You are the answer to your prayer!
Saint Augustine once wrote,
“Pray as though everything depended on God… But work as though everything depended on you.”
I believe prayer works (God’s already proven Himself), but I’m hesitant to say, “We work.” Prayer is important, but God almost always calls us to move.
And understand, our work does not take away from the power of God, rather it taps into the power of God as we allow ourselves to be used by God see His kingdom become a reality on Earth as it is in Heaven.
I’ll pray for you… How can I help?
If I asked you to describe a situation where you were “desperate”, what comes to mind? Are you recalling about nine months ago when half the country was “desperate” for toilet paper? Or maybe it’s that time when your car broke down and you realized your cell phone only had 4% left?
Maybe it’s not desperate like having to go to the bathroom, or your car breaking down. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you are desperate. Maybe you are desperate because your world is slowly sinking and you aren’t sure what you can do. You are desperate for help, for direction... You’re desperate for God.
We talked about praying and fasting this past week. These are two spiritual activities that were often combined by the people of God when they were desperate. Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah are just a few of the people in the Bible who had times of prayer and fasting during a season of personal or national desperation. When God’s people were desperate, they went to God. And they did so with prayer and fasting.
But what if I told you God is desperate for YOU? What if told you that God, in all His glory and power, is more desperate for you than we are for him?
In Matthew 18, there’s an account of a lost sheep that shows how desperate God is for us:
“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14
Jesus tells this story to illustrate how much He loves us. He talks about a sheep, like a person, that wanders away and gets lost. When this happens, a shepherd will actually leave all the other sheep to look for the one that is lost. Jesus says that “Your Father in Heaven” is happier about finding you “in the same way” that the shepherd was about finding his lost sheep.
God is desperate to be close to you. I want you to think about that as you go through these 21 days of praying and fasting. As you grow closer to God, know that long before you started praying and fasting, God was already coming for you. Sometimes we don’t realize where we’ve wandered to. We can get so busy doing life that we can forget to live life and lose site of the life that God has for us when we “wander."
Sometimes, when we dedicate ourselves to a time of prayer and fasting, we can suddenly realize that we have been farther away from God than we realized. We’ve wandered. And when God shows up, it’s almost as if He says, “There you are! I’ve been looking for you. I was wondering where you had gone.”
God is desperately wanting to be close to you. Keep praying. Keep seeking. He'll find you.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8 NIV
I’m not sure what your personal thoughts or experiences with prayer are. But prayer is unavoidable.
In all cultures, through all eras of time, prayer has been a fundamental part of life. Prayer is a global phenomenon. Whether you are Islam, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or even an atheist, prayer is one of the most common practices in all walks of life.
Muslims pray five times a day to Allah. Jews have traditionally prayed 3 times a day, Christian prayer varies based on your tradition, Buddhists use prayer wheels, and Hindus pray for ultimate union with the Supreme Being. For those who claim no religion… Well I’ll send some good vibes your way. Tim Keller says, Prayer is one of the most common phenomena of human life. Karl Barth calls prayer our incurable God-sickness.
Prayer seeps into our cultures because deep down all of us long to believe that there is something greater. We want to believe that there is something beyond ourselves that we are able to connect with.
In fact, that’s what we see time and time again in the book of Psalms. We see God connecting with His people. The Psalms are ancient prayers from God’s people. And you can learn a lot about prayer just by spending a few minutes each day in the Psalms. For example, read Psalm 25 today. And as you read it, watch for these two truths.
Prayer is the ultimate path to self-discovery
In verses 1-7 look at how many times David cries out to God and trusts in God. He says things like, I give my life to you, I trust in you, you are the God who saves me, Remember your compassion and unfailing love, and do not remember the sins of my youth. Why does he say those things? Because anytime David approaches God, he’s confronted with the evil and sin that exists within his heart.
David realizes how helpless he is and that the only way to live and experience salvation is to trust in God. Modern meditation practices would tell you to go off and be alone and work through those thoughts. But prayer in the name of Jesus invites us to sort those thoughts out in the presence of a Holy God that we can trust.
So get rid of the Enneagram, the Meyer’s Briggs, and any other personality profile… Instead, spend some time in prayer before God and you’ll quickly learn who you are. But it’s more than just learning about who you are.
Prayer is the ultimate path to knowing God
When we pray, we are demonstrating and taking advantage of the access to God that we have been given. We are literally talking to the Creator of all that we see and experience everyday. And as we spend time with Him, we inevitably learn more about Him. Read verses 8-10 and see how much David recognizes about God.
As the Psalm progresses, we see David go through some intense spiritual battles. And every single time he cries out to God for salvation. Why? Because He knew that God was good, that God guides, that He does what is right, that God teaches, that He loves, and that He is faithful (see v. 8-10).
So why should you pray? Because in prayer you learn more about yourself and you learn more about God. And those just might be the two biggest questions that every human being asks… Who am I? And who is God?
The answer is waiting for you in prayer.