“Well, I can’t do much else about it. The only thing I can do is pray.” How many times have I been in situations like this? I have gotten involved in some project – even some worthy ministry. I throw myself into it and have done everything within my power to accomplish it. I’ve given it my best. I’ve come to the end of myself, expended every effort and yet the job just isn’t done.
I can get myself into these situations when what needs to be done is either simple or routine. What needs to be done seems obvious so I go ahead and jump in. Finally, when I’m overwhelmed with unexpected obstacles, exhausted or have at least come to the end of my abilities or options, I realize that I have been going it alone. So, I reluctantly realize that the situation is beyond me. Finally, I am forced to admit it – I need help – help from outside of me. I reluctantly confess that I really need the Lord’s help.
The circumstances may vary greatly, but there are frequent occasions when the Lord is showing me that I really need him. For instance, there doesn’t seem much I can do about personal limitations or sickness or Presidential Politics. I am quick to forget the invitation of the Lord: “Cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you.” Instead, I prefer to remember the (sarcastic) adage of an old friend: “Why pray when you can worry?”
What seems to be a no-brainer, that is soliciting the previously offered aid of my Heavenly Father, who is the Creator, Sustainer and Ruler of the Universe, goes completely ignored. I seem to prefer blundering along, struggling in my own power to do things my way.
My Father loves me too much to ignore me. So he often places difficulties in my way to drive me to him. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Although I can’t document it, it seems to me that when Martin Luther was teaching on prayer, he quoted Augustine (of Hippo) who suggested three great incentives to pray: danger, disease and death. God often goes to great extent to get my attention!
Don’t get me wrong. The Lord has answered many, many of my prayers – even for parking places or a head scratch. Further, I’m learning to trust him more and to consult him more frequently. But my problem seems to be that because God doesn’t answer all of my prayers in the way that I expect, I seem to lose confidence in him. That is pretty blunt. There are times when I don’t pray because I don’t believe that God will do what I want. I don’t think of it that way and it’s hard to put this in writing, but that’s exactly what happens. I have a tendency to do things my way and then when they don’t work out, I am forced into asking for help. Yet I still prefer instant answers.
This tendency is exacerbated because I can move the cursor on my computer screen and instantly discover the latest developments in politics, finances or sports. I have all sorts of information and ability at my disposal. In seconds I can get on Amazon.com and with one click purchase an even faster computer!
So living in this fast-paced world is sometimes a disadvantage. God is more interested in my relationship with him than in relieving my immediate need. This is probably why he tells me to “Wait on the Lord…”
Developing a relationship of trust takes time and experience. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 5.1 – 5:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Go back and read these verses again. Observe the precise wording. It’s very structure slows you down and demonstrates this lesson. Notice that he did not say: suffering produces endurance, character, and hope. He repetitively emphasizes the process by repeating the words. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”
I am learning to remember that my loving Heavenly Father is absolutely trustworthy and delights to hear requests from me, even in my predicaments. I’m learning to remember that he can, will and often comes to my aid. I am learning to remember that when he doesn’t jump to meet my demands, he has a good reason for it.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32, ESV)