Here we are, our last week of January (can you believe it?) and the end of our unanswered prayer series. My deepest prayer is that Lynn and I have been able to encourage you. Without our hope in Christ, well, it’s pretty hard to keep going. We run out of juice. Thank goodness Jesus doesn’t!
So, let’s talk some more about those unanswered prayers. In Part One
, we talked about believing and trusting that God hears our prayers and considered what other reasons there may be for our answers to be delayed or different than what we expected.
Lynn wrote an awesome post about Dreaming Big with God
, how sometimes God has something bigger in mind than what we're praying for.
Last week, we changed the label of unanswered prayers to Prayers in Waiting
, another step in pushing our faith beyond ourselves and trusting God more. And Lynn shared how It's NOT about us
Are you ready for more? I hope you said yes.
One of the questions left on the Facebook site was about praying effectively. That’s a great question. But first I want to ask you, what does that mean to you? What tells or shows us we’re praying effectively?
Our prayers quickly answered?
Which then leads me to ask, can we pray ineffectively?
If we go back to Hebrew 11:1, we’re told faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This all has to do with our faith in God, his Son Jesus, and his Holy Spirit. We believe God exists, we believe his Son Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected, and we believe that upon accepting Christ and his resurrection, the Holy Spirit takes residence in us. We are sealed, belonging to God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
This is the beginning of faith, the core of who we are as Christians. From here we learn to understand the daily pursuit of God and learning his will for our lives. And we do that by spending time with God, learning his ways and how we can join him in what he’s doing around us, in our own lives and the lives of those we love. We are all so interconnected that to not do this means we can wind up praying outside of God’s will. Then, yes, we wind up praying ineffectively.
I can only go back to what my family and I have experienced the last several months and hope I don’t sound like a broken record.
A year after my daughter’s brain surgery, I expected to be rejoicing on that one year mark when the MRI came back yet again clear. No sign of the tumor returning and everything looked pretty much normal. Yet her condition was worse than ever with bad headaches and missing so much school we wondered if she’d make it to the next grade. I prayed constantly for God to heal her, to take the headaches away, to make her want to go to school every day.
Basically, I was praying for God to fix it. But like Lynn so aptly said in her post, it’s not about us. It wasn’t about me. It was about my daughter’s journey and what God is trying to teach her.
I’ll be honest, my heart railed against this, to see my daughter still struggling so much, and nothing seemed to change. Why didn’t God hear my prayers?
The thing is, he did. And I know his heart ached as much as mine. That he matched me tear for tear. But he KNEW what my daughter needed more than a simple fix-it solution. He wasn’t just interested in her immediate comfort. He’s also interested in her future, one he designed specifically for her. One he’s building her character and equipping her for.
And I’m on the sidelines watching. You know that place. It’s a difficult one to be in. But necessary. God showed me (slowly because I’m a stubborn mama sometimes) that my prayers needed to change. That I needed to let go of what I wanted for my daughter, let go of my will, and consider the bigger picture. I was praying for what would make our lives easier. Hers. Mine.
My prayers began to change from fixing to equipping. To praying for guidance on how to best help my daughter learn what God was trying to teach her (Lord, equip me…). To prayers for her to make good choices. To praying Scriptures God lead me to pray for her.
This wasn’t an easy road...isn’t an easy road. It means doing the hard stuff and sacrificing what I want to achieve a greater goal. One that I catch a glimpse of and know in my gut what it all potentially could mean to my daughter…and to my unbelieving hubby. And I’m sure I won’t fully understand it all until I’m with Jesus and can ask him to show me what I didn’t see.
I can’t tell you a method or pattern for praying effectively. I can only tell you that when we pray in God’s will, when we can go before God and release what we want and desire only what God wants—desire only Him—that’s when things happen. And so often, we have to reach the end of ourselves to get there. And trust God with the outcome. Mix this with praying his Word out loud and worship, big things will change in YOU.
Our week of fasting and praying was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. I had to let go of everything I’d held onto. Actually, I had nothing left to hold on to at that point. I’d tried everything and nothing had worked. I released myself and my daughter to God completely, ready to do whatever God said had to be done.
I won’t go into all the details, but some pretty big stuff happened. Tears return even as I write this and remember what God has done. I did what God asked. Even when I wanted to doubt, I still proclaimed the truth. He didn’t expect perfection from me, just the first steps. He helped me take the rest with the gift of proof. My daughter is healed. I could write a book on how these events played out, how the MRI even amazed her doctors. It’s all there. Or should I say, not there. The biggest proof though is in how she’s changed—a change that came after she made the decision to seek God herself.
Sometimes I think praying effectively has more to do with what we don’t do, and more to do with how we trust God. Or choose to trust him. When your prayers seem unanswered, it’s time to step back and take another look. Maybe even ask some hard questions like, am I praying this more for my own selfish needs (like I was with my daughter because I wanted my life to be easier) than for the other person? What does God really want in this situation?
Do I want what I’m praying for (even if it’s your spouse’s salvation) more than I want God?
When we earnestly seek God, he says that’s when we’ll find him (Deut. 4:29, Matt. 6:33, Heb. 11:6). That I can tell you is the gospel truth.
Praying and believing,
Dineen(Go to BibleGateway.com and read 119 Scripture references to the word “seek.”)