At the start of this year I tried to take some time to sit down and figure out what my goals would be for this year. The idea of New Years resolutions are nothing new. They seem to take control of everything the week or two before the numbers at the end of the date change. And for most they seem to last a week or two after. As I sat down to go over what I hoped that this year would look like I began to divide these things into two different categories. My goals and my prayer. Not saying that the first category would be a prayer less one, only that they were the things which I believe could happen. Things that I could work for and see come to pass. And the second category were things which I have no control over, other than to pray that they come to pass.
But while I was doing this I began to see something that connected a number of those things which I listed under the heading of ‘prayers’ in my journal that first evening of the year. Many of these prayers had been rolled over from the year before. And a few of those had been taken from the year before that.
I have often found my head wandering when I take the time to pray for these things. And more often than not they wander to a parable that Jesus told. In it, Jesus says that prayer is like a widow who goes, and then goes again and again, to a judge and asks for justice. And eventually this judge gives her what she asks for. The whole point of this was that those of us who follow Jesus “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Or where right after teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus relates prayer to knocking on a neighbors door until they get up and let you borrow some bread. (Luke 11:5-13)
Maybe you aren’t like me, maybe all of your prayers have been answered according to the timeline that you have handed over to God. But I’m going to assume that isn’t the case. I’m going to assume that you, like me, have prayers that you have borrowed from days, weeks, months, or even years past. And if that is the case, then I’m going to assume that you, like me, have wondered how many times that you have to keep knocking on this damn door before it’ll open up.
For me, I have often found myself asking God to grant these desires of my heart, or change what my heart desires. Because, after all, Abba has promised to do this (Psalm 37:4). Honestly I would be fine with either one. But, for many of these things, I have received neither a change in heart or an answer given.
Often we can read through the Scriptures and see the story of God answering prayers and delivering on promises. And sometimes this can lead to us losing heart. We often wonder what it was about these people that made God come through. What did they have that we don’t which caused God to come through?
But when we do this it is often because we forget that though God can come through in an instant, often He takes His time. I was reminded of this this morning as I read.
I began reading in Genesis 21, and in the first verse it’s stated that God came through on His promise to give Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age. A promise that was given a mere 7 pages ago in the Bible I have. Within 10 minuets of reading we can go from the promise made to the promise fulfilled. And I don’t know about you, but some of the things I’m praying for have taken longer than that.
But what is easily missed here is what is often missed when we read through Scripture. Though it might only take a few minuets to read from promise made to promise delivered, it took a lot longer than that to live it.
It was when Abraham was a score and five years younger that this promise was made. And in that time we can see that he began to doubt that God was going to make good on this promise, as we all have. All we need to do is read Genesis 16 where Abraham has sex with Hagar to know this to be true.
He got to the place where it looked like God wasn’t going to come through, so why not help God out a bit..? I can read this and wonder how he could have done this. And I have heard enough sermons on the same subject. But I only need to look at my own life to see that I do the same for more often than Abraham.
But God did come through. Abraham did have a son with his wife, Sarah.
So often we can become discouraged because we feel that God should act quicker. Or we look to other people who have the things which we are praying for and become bitter that God would give to them and withhold from us. We wonder why He does this. And when we allow ourselves into this head space we often begin to forget how God has been faithful to us in the past.
And when this happens are prayers often change from asking God to answer to accusing Him for not doing so.
Psalm 13 starts this way. “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me?” (v1) But even through this short psalm we see a transition by the end. A few short verses later we read “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” (v5)
And this is the key to those recycled prayer. When we are able to focus on the times, ways, and places where God has been faithful and come through we are able to hope. For when we focus on those things yet to be had we can easily begin to see everything that we don’t have. We can begin to compare our lives to the lives of others, and as we all know well…comparison is the thief of joy.
So no matter what your recycled prayers are, or how long you have recycled them, take heart. Remember that, as the old spiritual says, ‘God may not come when you want Him, He’s an on-time God.” So pray one more time. Knock on the door once again.
Who knows, maybe this shall be the time the door opens. And if not, remember all the times that the door has opened in the past so that you may be given hope that it shall open again.