Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12
Day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, century after century (well, it feels like it)… I keep praying. I don’t know about you, but I find it really difficult to keep asking for something that after a while just doesn’t even seem possible anymore. Sometimes I feel like the widow in Luke 18 knocking relentlessly on the door of the judge wondering if anyone’s at home or if he’s just going to roll over and put a pillow over his head. Or like the neighbor in Luke 11:5-10 trying to feed my friend but without the means to do so. Beating on the door of the one who has what I need trying to coax him out of bed to fill my request. My knuckles are sore and bruised from pounding on the door. Don’t you hear me? Won’t you help?
But then again, that’s only some of my prayers. I have seen others answered in miraculous ways; I’ve seen marriages, babies, and spiritual births that I have prayed for come into being. I’ve seen God answer prayers for provision—money for my car payment, food for my growling tummy, friends for my lonely heart. I’ve prayed and seen God say “yes” to things as big as a heart-transplant for a 4 yr old precious daughter of a friend (who, I’m happy to say, is doing very well) to something as relatively small and insignificant as a good home for a stray kitten (though it was definitely a big deal to the kitten and to my friend). But recently, by God’s wonderful grace, I’ve witnessed the answer to 15-plus years worth of frequent prayers.
This past weekend I went to visit my family, which included a whirlwind of Fall festivities and a birthday party for my 6 year old nephew. On Sunday, I had the pleasure of worshiping at my brother’s church. My brother and I rode together and had time to chat in the car. I hardly recognized the familiar voice talking about what the Lord was doing in his life. I had to look out the car window to hold back the tears listening to him talk about Jesus, because the change in his heart was so vast. I remember when he would quickly shut me down with even a mention of that wonderful name.
So during worship, I was an emotional mess. I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude and joy as I sang full voice beside my brother, whom I had prayed over for so long, both our hands raised to the One who is worthy of our praise. My tears of joy were also mingled with regret. Regret that I had ever doubted the Lord’s kindness or ability or willingness to answer my prayers for my brother. The tears were also tinged with sadness that I still don’t trust Him. He answered that prayer but what about the others that I’ve been praying for so long? But His timing is perfect and seeing the beautiful miracle of answered prayer so plainly beside me gave me great hope for future answers. He is still answering prayers. His arm is not shortened. He is still the God of the Bible who answers the prayers of His beloved.
Our unfulfilled requests are an opportunity to trust Him and let Him decide what is best for us which, if we submit to and accept from His nail-scarred hand, often becomes something more beautiful and beneficial than what we had originally wanted. Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We may not understand His timing or why He doesn’t do things the way we think they should be done, but we can trust that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and all together wonderful. If you have prayers that you are discouraged with, look for the prayers that He IS answering, pray more varied prayers, look for His work, don’t give up. He is faithful. He loves you. He knows what’s best.