I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5 NIV
One of the perplexing aspects of prayer is not knowing what to do in the period between the ask and the answer. That phase, commonly referred to as waiting on the Lord, is so critical to an effective prayer life because it is often where the battle for an answer is either won or lost. We all have a tendency when an answer is delayed to be tempted with casting away our confidence, giving up hope and letting our prayer wane.
Practically, what then should a person do while waiting on the Lord to be enabled not only to hang in there but also hopefully move the process along and maximize the inherent benefits of such a time? Here is some tried and tested wisdom from the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul that is guaranteed to resuscitate a prayer that is gasping for hope.
1. Keep Praying – Jesus emphasized to His disciples through the parable of the widow and the unjust judge that we “should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1 NIV) There are many stories in the Bible of men and women who persevered in prayer despite prolonged periods of heavenly silence and yet prevailed for their persistence. (e.g. Hannah, Elijah & Hebrews 11) Sometimes however we simply are at a loss for words, having prayed for something for so long our energy and faith can become depleted. What then?
How do we stoke the dying flame of prayer while trusting the Holy Spirit to blow upon the embers?
First we can ask others to pray for us. Enlisting the help of others to pray for us taps into a level of faith that can make up for our lack. One of the liabilities of prolonged prayer is a battle weary faith. Reinforcements fresh to the front lines always bring with them invigorating faith and hope. All of us at times are like Moses, who need an Aaron and a Hur to hold up our drooping arms as we persist in prayer. (Exodus 17:12) The added benefit is the potential to release the power of the prayer of agreement when two or more agree. (Matthew 18:19) And “one shall put a thousand to flight and two ten thousand.” (Deuteronomy 32:30)
Another big help is using crafted prayers. A secret to sustaining persistent prayer for something is to write out or craft a prayer based on scriptural promises that are meaningful to you and relevant to your situation. It is not unusual to become so dispirited after praying for something for a long time that one no longer has even enough energy to form the word’s in ones mouth to pray. At such times a well-crafted prayer, as it is read, has the power to ignite faith and fire the imagination once again to believe God for a breakthrough. (Click here for more on writing and using Crafted Prayers)
Third, pray for the needs of others. When we intentionally focus our attention on praying for the needs of others it helps to divert the emphasis off of ourselves and our problems. Also, praying for others is like giving, the sowing and reaping principle sets in and releases an added measure God’s blessing in return upon our lives. Parenthetically, I have found that expanding my prayer purview to include such prayer burdens as our government, the nations, Israel, the persecuted church and so on, renews my stamina in praying for my own needs.
2. Keep Praising – It might be said that one of the most powerful prayers we can pray is in giving praise and thanks to God for unanswered prayer. That in essence is what Paul writes when he says “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS) There is power in praise. Praise leads us into God’s presence and in His presence we gain His perspective and His perspective releases His power. (Psalm 100, 149 and 2 Chronicles 20) The psalmist David who knew tons about waiting on the Lord wrote “Praise waits for you, O God in Zion.” (Psalm 65:1) So it might be said that praise invites God into our waiting time. And a wonderful by product is that it renews our strength to continue waiting without fainting. (Isaiah 40:31)
3. Keep Pressing On to Know the Lord – God’s ultimate purpose in the prayer process is to reveal Himself in an intimate relationship in which He makes us more Christ-like and centers our lives in His will to accomplish His purposes. In Philippians 3:10-14, written by the Apostle Paul, we find one of the most powerful crafted prayers ever written. In it Paul puts knowing Christ as the preeminent, overarching purpose of life. His prayer commitment to press on to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of” him and to press on “toward the goal to win the prize” provide us a critical example of the real intention behind every prayer we pray.
The abiding joy of the waiting process is experienced when like Abraham, we discover the most fulfilling answer to our prayer is that God is our “shield and exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) When that happens all other desires, hopes and dreams pale in comparison and we find contentment fully and wholly in Him apart from obtaining the answers for which we pray.
I pray these simple “helps” will strengthen and undergird your waiting. May God reveal Himself to you as you wait patiently for the promises for which you are believing. In so doing your roots will grow down deep into Him and His love for you. (Colossians 2:27)
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