“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6 (NIV)
One of the most frustrating things everyone has to deal with at one time or other is unanswered prayer. Unanswered prayer is so perplexing because it brings us face to face with the mystery of God’s ways. It is an unsettling reminder that God does not always do things our way nor operate according to our time table. It confronts us with the reality, as Steven Curtis Chapman sings, that “God is God and I am not!”
It is particularly difficult, if not painful, when the unanswered prayer is a strategic one; a prayer upon whose answer so many other things and breakthroughs in our lives depend. It can be a prayer for the mending of a broken relationship, a financial release, a healing and deliverance from some affliction or wisdom to make a critical decision etc.
When prayers like these go unanswered they have a way of putting our lives on hold. It is as if everything hangs in the balance upon God answering that prayer. Sometimes even our relationship and trust in God can seem to be at stake, because we feel that if He doesn’t answer such an important prayer in our lives, He must not love or care for us.
This type of prayer might be called a linchpin prayer. A linchpin is a fastener that holds two important parts together, like the pin that keeps a wheel from sliding off an axle. Without a linchpin the wheel eventually comes off, the car breaks down, the journey comes to a halt, plans are put on hold and we are stuck. The natural reaction then is to begin to pray desperately, fervently for a linchpin. Linchpin prayers demand answers because we depend upon them to get our lives unstuck and moving ahead in God’s purposes.
My wife and I have had to deal with that reality over the past two years in our prayers to sell our vacation home. Everything I know about prayer in 40 years of walking with Lord has been applied to that end. We have done it all: faith confessions, crafted prayer with scriptures, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of agreement with other believers, binding and loosing prayers, forgiving and blessing prayers, humbling with repentance and fasting prayers etc. etc. But seemingly it has been all for naught and we have not had one bite in two years! It is as if God has totally ignored our prayers to sell the place. We did rent it out for a year, which gave us a reprieve from our concern about it, but our renters moved out last month and now we are back to square one – once again wholly dependent upon an answer to our linchpin prayer.
Yesterday as I was praying again about this I had a revelation. I believe it was inspired by the Holy Spirit for it had never crossed my mind before. The thought came to me, “maybe you should change the way you are praying about this.” Hmmmmm.
It was a liberating thought because although I have sought to be persistent in this prayer, as Jesus teaches, I was finding very little peace and confidence in the process. (Luke 18:1) Sometimes praying linchpin prayers simply fuel our anxiety rather than faith. That was a nagging effect my praying was having upon me.
We can become so obsessed with an answer coming our way in our timing that we slip from the “tranquility” of faith into the “toil and chasing after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) Sadly then, we can fail to pick up on God’s subtle re-directives through unanswered prayer. That realization dawned clearly upon me as I prayed yesterday. I sensed for the first time that God was leading me to change the way in which I was praying about our vacation home. Long story short, I have stopped asking Him to sell it. Now I pray for peace in my heart regarding it, God’s provision and protection in preserving it and the grace to enjoy it as a gift from Him. Faith and an accompanying peace have now once again permeated my soul and for the first time in several years I am confident that God has a plan for that home and will unfold it in His time.
When I first became a Christian the Serenity Prayer, often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, seemed to me to be a cop out, a prayer for those who really did not have genuine persistent faith. “Why,” I thought, “anything can be changed if enough faith and prayer grease are applied to it.” My years of walking with the Lord however have significantly humbled me. The wisdom of that prayer, whose origin by the way has never been verified, now seems very applicable in situations where the mystery of unanswered prayer persists. “God grant us the serenity to accept the things (unanswered prayers) we cannot change (get answers for), courage to change the (ways we pray for) the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
What are you learning about unanswered prayer?
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