One of the lessons my son is having the hardest time with is learning to wait when he has a question. My wife and I will be in a conversation, and he will walk up, interrupt us, and ask a question. We will tell him we will answer when we are done talking, but that’s often difficult for him when he has a question. I’m teaching him to walk up and just put his hand on mine when he has a question. I told him that when he does that, I’ll acknowledge him and then answer him when I can.
I wish I could say that works all the time, but it doesn’t. It’s as hard for him to wait for an answer as it is for us as adults to wait for one. When we have a pressing need or question, we’ll bombard God with questions and demand an answer immediately. We call it faith when we pray that way, but I wonder what God calls it. One of the hardest lessons any one of us has to learn is how to approach God and to ask for what it is that we want or need, especially when we feel we need it urgently.
They say that patience is a virtue, but we often lack it in waiting for God to answer our prayers. In Psalm 69:13, David prayed a tough, but wise prayer. He said, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose” (GNT). He was telling God that he wasn’t expecting Him to operate on his timetable. He was willing to wait for God to answer on His. That’s a hard thing to pray and to do.
This verse challenges me because I’m not there yet. In my prayers, I’m like my son trying to get an answer. I don’t want to wait for God to finish what He’s doing. I want my answers right now. If David was a man after God’s own heart, and he had the ability to pray this way, I believe it’s something we all can learn to do. Instead of trying to force God to use our timeline, we can start asking God to give us the answers to our prayers in His. I’ll just need a little help learning to wait.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Have you ever prayed for patience? If you haven’t, don’t try it! I’m kidding. It turns out that when you pray for patience, God typically doesn’t just give it to you. Instead, you will earn patience through a series of events that will try your patience. I don’t really have patience when I see things that need to be done. I start doing the work to get it done whether it’s the right time or not. There are times when my wife has to make me stop and wait to do things. I’d rather do them right then and get the satisfaction of completing the task than to wait. I’m also competitive, and with that comes comparison. If someone else is doing more, working harder, completing tasks or succeeding where I think I should be, it drives me to push forward without rest. I easily lose sight of the bigger picture, and I forget that patience and steadiness bring success and blessings.
I don’t think Abraham and Sarah were very patient either. When God made the promise that he would be the father of many nations, Abram was 75 years old. When his wife didn’t immediately get pregnant, I’m sure He doubted God, or did what we do when we run out of patience, and took matters into his own hands. Because they didn’t wait for the promise, Abraham got another woman pregnant thinking that he was doing God a favor or enacting His plan for Him. It was 25 years after the promise that he had Isaac through his wife. If he thought he was too old to have kids at 75, imagine what he was thinking as he approached 100. Yet, because God told him to wait for the promise, he did.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Be patient and wait for the Lord to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans” (GNT). I love that this verse speaks to our focus. Quit looking at what other people are accomplishing, and thinking about how you wish you were farther along at this point in your life. Be patient and wait for God’s timing. There’s a greater blessing for us when we do. Put your focus back on being faithful where you are, doing the little things, and God will reward you in due season. I know how hard that is, but it is the right thing to do. Even though you may be able to act now, be patient. God is using this time to prepare you for the blessings that are coming so that when His time is right, you won’t squander what He gives you.
I’ve noticed that when people are nervous, there are those who get real quiet and those who ramble on. I find myself in the later group a lot of times. For me, talking helps me to figure out what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. It helps me to sort out the problem, but it also keeps me from listening to good advice and can make others around me more nervous. I was once told, “You have two ears and one mouth. You need to listen twice as much as you speak.” That’s something I have to remind myself of quite often.
When it comes to prayer, I can find myself in the same boat. From the time we are young, we learn that prayer is talking to God. What we’re not taught is that it’s listening to God as well. I think God talks as much or more than we do, but we can’t hear Him over our own talking. Being quiet in the presence of the Lord requires discipline. You have to learn to shut down your mouth and your mind. The silence can be deafening at times, but it’s in those moments where we hear God the loudest.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Quiet your heart in his presence and pray; keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you” (TPT). Many times there is a nervousness that God may not answer our greatest need. If you’re a talker, quiet your mouth. If you’re the quiet type, silence your mind. God doesn’t answer our prayers on our timetable. If we’re listening to what He says, and trust that what He does is always right and for our good, we can have hope in any situation. God is good all the time, and He sees beyond our most pressing need at the moment. Get quiet and still in His presence today, listen for His voice and give Him freedom to answer His way instead of yours.
Do you know the difference between going to a fast food restaurant and going to the DMV? At one of those places, you’re going to have to wait a while. I recently had to get my drivers license renewed. As I looked around the waiting room, no one was upset. Everyone was waiting patiently. We all knew going in that we were going to have to wait, even if we were in a hurry or had other things to accomplish that morning.
When we pray though, we treat God like the drive thru at a fast food restaurant. We want it now, we want it quick and we get mad if it takes longer than a minute. Good things take time, and our answers to prayer are often complicated with a lot of moving pieces. When we pray for things, we should think of ourselves as going into a waiting room. If God answers quickly, what a blessing! If not, wait patiently and trust His timing. He’s working in your favor.
Here are some Bible verses on waiting for God.
1. Listen to my cry for help, my God and king! I pray to you, O Lord; you hear my voice in the morning; at sunrise I offer my prayer and wait for your answer.
Psalm 5:2-3 GNT
2. Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.
PSALM 27:14 AMP
3. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
Lamentations 3:26 NLT
4. And I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised. But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.
Luke 24:49 GNT
5. But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.
When I think of living by faith, I always think of Abraham first. The next person I think of is Elisha. Like Abraham, he was minding his own business doing his own thing when the call came to uproot and move. Elisha was plowing a field when Elijah walked up, threw his cloak over him and walked away. I’m not sure what my reaction would be if someone walked into my place of work and did that, but Elisha’s reaction was to run after Elijah. He didn’t ask what it meant or why he did it. Instead he said, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye – then I’ll follow you.”
I believe that God had already spoken to Elisha even though the Bible doesn’t say it. We know God gave Elijah the instructions to find Elisha and to do what he did, but it doesn’t give us any insight to Elisha before this moment. I believe he was a praying man. I believe that as he plowed fields with those oxen, he spent time praying and asking God to use him in mighty ways. Day after day, he plowed waiting for God to tap him on the shoulder and put him into action. I wonder if he had days where he doubted that God would ever move him from plowing fields to doing ministry.
So many who read this are like Elisha. We’re plowing fields day in and day out. We’re waiting on God to come get us and put us into full time ministry. We’re waiting on God to give us the green light. But as we put our hands to the plow each day, it’s easy to begin to wonder if God has forgotten us or if we ever heard Him in the first place. We look at the calendar and wonder, “How much longer, God?” We start thinking the “what if’s” and “how come’s”. Our faith can weaken in the times that it’s intended to grow stronger.
If we aren’t doing the things it takes to grow our faith while we are plowing, how will we ever do it when we aren’t? God uses the times of preparation to grow our faith, to increase our prayer life and to build our trust in Him. He expects us to be people of prayer while we plow. He expects us to plant seeds in people who are already doing ministry. He expects us to be ministering to people around us before he instructs us to minister to the masses. We have to prove to Him that we can be faithful in the little things while we are plowing before He can trust us with more.
If you are plowing today and are waiting for the cloak to be thrown over you, don’t lose heart. This time of plowing and preparation is essential to your growth and necessary for you to be able to perform later. God has not left you in a field and forgotten you. Be a person of prayer while you are plowing. Build up your faith now that when you have to really walk by faith, you have a sufficient amount. Keep your eyes open and be ready for God’s tap to put you in. Be ready to walk away from the plow and to step into that life of faith at any moment. Until then, keep plowing.