Sometimes prayers don’t get answered. Psalm 116:1-2 tells us the Lord bends down to hear our prayers and communicate with us. It is believed that David wrote that, but he also wrote Psalm 13, which begins, How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
There is no one whose prayers are answered every single time. Not even Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He cried out to the Father, asking that His assignment of torture and death be lifted, but it was not. He said, “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine” Luke 22:42 NLT.
It’s satisfying when our words are indeed “heard” in conversation. Still, most of us have been on the disappointing end of a conversation where the hearer’s eyes glaze over, and he stares into space, completely bored and uninterested. I wonder if the Lord’s eyes ever glaze over as we come boldly before His throne with our concerns and requests.
“Boldly” isn’t always appropriate when interacting with the Creator of the Universe. During my prayer time with the Lord, I can envision the Court of Heaven (a real place) as I meditate on Him. With all my authority as a believer, I can barge into the Court of Heaven and proclaim that Jehovah Jireh will release His riches in glory so that I can do great and glorious things for my family (and His Kingdom, of course). I’ve made a complete fool of myself in less than two seconds and am more a court jester than an intercessor or prayer warrior. There’s a difference between proclaiming the Word of God and demanding it. The Lord can readily detect the difference in our approach.
What could we say that might bore the Lord or cause Him to attend to matters elsewhere? Much of the effectiveness of prayer deals with the attitude of the heart. When we have wrong motives for wanting something from the Lord, He will resist us, and answers may not come as we’d hoped. James 4:3 says, you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19 (NLT), “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” The operative word is needs, not wants. Jesus did not die on the cross so we could pad our lives with wealth and material things, building a palatial kingdom unto ourselves and our families. He listens attentively to our prayers when we voice concern for the needs of others, especially, not just our own. After all, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:8 (NLT), “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
Notice the exclamation mark at the end of that quote. He emphatically told us that God the Father gets it. He really does know what we need, so our response is to trust that. Period. Our prayers should be increasingly more for others than ourselves, trusting God to provide for our personal needs.
Beyond the wrong motive of asking the Lord for excessive wants is the improper motive of asking, or perhaps a better word might be nagging the Lord to make our plans work, regardless of what His plans might be. Enter manipulation and control. When we force our plans into existence and pressure others to do what we want, regardless of what the Lord might say, we engage in a dangerous arena that flirts with witchcraft. How devastating the marriage that started with a gorgeous girl beguiling her handsome Romeo at the altar. His heart told him she might not be the girl for him, but her charming manipulation and enticing words spoke louder than his heart, and he was trapped. According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, love does not insist on its own way.
When we try to manipulate and control people and circumstances, we are entertaining witchcraft because we put ourselves and our plans above the Lord’s and often assume control that is not ours. Essentially, we are saying, “Sorry, God, but I know what is best in this situation.” Beware of such thinking! Instead, let this be the wisdom that guides your life: A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them (Proverbs 16:9 Amplified Bible).
The challenge is to be ready to do things God’s way, not ours. It often requires patience because the Lord is not on the same schedule as we are. He thinks in terms of eternity; we think in regimented, minute-by-minute blocks of time that fill a twenty-four-hour day, a seven-day week, a three-hundred-sixty-five-day year—Man-time, not God-time. If the Lord knows that something we desire is not the best option for us, He will resist it, and our plan will likely be met with confusion and tension--anything but a smooth path. That should be our first clue that His eyes have glazed over, and He is not interested in helping our plan succeed—time to switch from Man-time to God-time.
Should we never ask the Lord for personal things and stuff? Of course not. He cares about everything that concerns us. Our Father is so intimately aware of each of us, knowing exactly how we think, what we like and don’t like, where we live and work, and what our hearts’ desires are. What matters to us matters to Him. However, a pivotal change occurs in our prayer life when we come to the place where what matters to Him matters to us. When we begin praying as Jesus did, “Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine,” boulders move in heaven! Answers are released. Healing happens. Mountains move.
How-long-O-Lord prayers can turn around by a few simple tips given to us in the Bible. In addition to having the right motives and accepting a God-time schedule of answering, an attitude of gratitude goes a long way with the Lord. Philippians 4:6-7 reads, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
When was the last time you showed appreciation and thanked someone for a specific act of kindness, and his eyes glazed over while he yawned and looked away? Case closed. The Lord loves our words of thanks. In Psalm 50:23, He says, “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me.”
His eyes won’t glaze over. They will be fixed on you and the words you say. He will help you wait for the God-time answer. He will bend down and listen to you.
© 2023, Chris Werre