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What do we do when we are waiting for God to answer a prayer? I'm referring to all types of prayers which require waiting, but especially to those types of prayers that will likely take years or decades before an answer comes.The past two weeks we've looked at two passages in Scripture that reference how God's perception of time is not like our perception of time. If you remember, we know from 1 Peter and also in the Psalms that to God, 1000 years is like a day, and that our lives are like mere seconds when we consider our time spent in our present bodies versus time in eternity.
Unfortunately though, this also means that to us, it feels like we are often waiting on God for a long time for an answer or for direction in response to our prayers. And unfortunately, there aren't any direct, clear, step-by-step instructions in scripture on what to do while waiting specifically for answer to prayer. We are told that those who wait on the Lord will be blessed and rewarded. However, there are those of us, like myself, who have a default setting of "worrying while we are waiting." I find waiting hard to do because I want resolution or direction - right now, and I don't know what to do in the meantime other than wondering and worrying about what the answer will be. In other words, some of us, including myself, find that we are prone to "getting stuck" when we are waiting.
I actually had a special session with God this week in my quiet and prayer time where I finally felt led to focus on this question, and I asked Him to reveal to me or to remind me what He wants me to do while waiting. These are the promises, scriptures, and examples that His Spirit quickly brought to my mind when I lifted this question up to Him. I'm sharing these now.
First, let us remember that God has promised to bless us and reward us when we wait for Him. In Isaiah 30 we are told, "blessed are all those who wait for Him."
Second, remember that Jesus himself had a lot to say about worrying while waiting, and that it is a waste of our time! In Luke 12:25, Jesus asked the rhetorical question, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?"
We have to recognize, as Jesus wants us to, that "worrying is wasting." We need to recognize that God wants to take our worries, He wants to work them out and work out the outcomes in our lives, and we need to keep living, and especially to keep living for our purpose in Him, to keep pressing on.
This brings me to the final scripture God brought to my mind this week as I asked Him to show me what to do while I am waiting. What do I do instead of worrying? The answer?
We are to press on. Specifically, in Phillipians 3, Paul shows us that we are to follow his example by this verse: "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize that God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
But press on for what? What does Paul mean by "press on towards the goal to win the prize that God has called me to?"
I'm going to step back a bit to tell you about the greek underlying the words "goal" and "press on," and "called" here. The word used for "goal" is skopon and it is related to the English word for scope. The word for "press on" is pronounced dee-o-ko, and it means to pursue something quickly and with urgency. The word for "called" is pronounced klaysayohs - and in the English the translators of the NIV have changed this to the verb "called" for conciseness in the translation. However, in the greek, klaysayohs is a noun! And it means the calling God has for us, or it is our purpose that God has for us! So Paul says here that, instead of just waiting and worrying, we are to pursue with urgency, with our scope focused on our purpose that God has for us.
Instead of waiting and worrying, we are to pursue our purpose with urgency and with our scope focused on our purpose that God has for us.
Now, some of us may have an idea of what our longer term purpose and focus is in our walk with God is; some of us, most of us likely, don't have much of a clue. We need God to reveal that to us. And here is what I know to be true; God reveals our purpose to most of us in little steps, and we have to take the first little step and then the next one is revealed. It is a daily adventure to purpose with God, as it tells us in Psalm 32:8 that God "will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go."
So here are some strategies to help us let go of the worrying while waiting, to help us get unstuck, and to press on in both discovering and fulfilling the purpose God has for us.
First. Accept the truth that Jesus spoke to us that "worrying is wasting." Now I know that we cannot always easily just turn off our worries. So a strategy that cognitive therapists teach is to actively plan and limit the time you spend worrying. We have all heard of a prayer journal; and I recommend for those of us who struggle with worry, to also have a worry journal. The important thing about the worry journal is to decide when you are going to worry and how much time you are going to worry, and then - when you decide when and for how long - to make yourself worry for that full amount of time. For example, make yourself worry and journal your worries at 4:30 pm for 10 minutes. Set a time and make yourself worry for those 10 minutes. Journal your worries for those minutes. Eventually you will discover that either you are able to keep your worries confined to shorter and shorter amounts of time each week, or you may discover you don't need to worry at all about the thing that had its grasp on you.
Second. Each day, when you wake up in the morning, ask God to show you something he has for you to do that day. Ask God to reveal to you even just a "little step" towards purpose that you may take for that day. Ask God, what is something you want me to do today that will contribute to the purpose that you have for me? Then see what He brings to your mind. If for some reason nothing is brought to your mind, it may be He merely wants you to spend set aside time with Him that day. You may need to set a basic foundation of time and relationship building with God before he begins revealing the next steps. Or, God may bring to mind, for example, a friend you haven't spoken to for awhile and prompt you to make a phone call to check in and connect with them. He may bring you to a person who needs some help and prompt you to help that person. He may show you something that was already on your "to do" list for the day; but that you now need to do with more conscientiousness because you are completing it for Him as part of your divine purpose.
All in all, recognize that worrying is wasting; so therefore we are going to minimize the time wasting by limiting the time that we worry to a prescribed, fenced-in time slot each week or each day. Then - as far as what we are to do during these times of waiting - we will daily ask God for direction in what to do, or what steps to take towards our purpose for the day.
And using these strategies will help us when we find ourselves in a state of waiting and worrying. It will allow God to help us set aside and overcome the worrying, while pressing on towards the purpose that He has for us, the purpose both in this life and for the one that is coming.
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