In seasons of waiting, it can become so difficult to navigate prayer. The longer we wait, the more unsure we can become of what we should be asking God to do. For several months, my husband and I have been in a season of waiting–waiting for Him to provide my husband with a job. This season began several months before we got married, and even now, nearly two months after our wedding, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. After months and months of waiting and closed doors and misplaced hopes, praying for the situation has become increasingly difficult. And not too long ago, it became very clear to me that I was going about prayer in this particular area all wrong.
I was praying and praying and praying for patience. I wanted so badly for God to cultivate in me a peace in His plan and a heart content in waiting for His perfect timing, no matter how long it took. But simultaneously, I was praying for God's provision, and I was placing a time stamp on when I wanted Him to provide. "Lord, please give us a job offer this week." "Lord, please let us hear back from that church today." "Lord, please let us move and start a job by the end of this month." I was praying for patience, but even the requests I was making to God were screaming evidence of my impatient heart.
I wanted to pray boldly, to pray with faith. I wanted to pray knowing that God can do things far beyond what I could ever imagine. But somewhere along the way, my bold and faithful prayers morphed into impatient prayers and me trying to rush God to fit His plan into my timetable. Praying with faith turned into trying to use prayer to somehow manipulate God into doing what I want.
Thankfully, God quickly opened my eyes to the sinful heart behind my supposedly "godly" and "faithful" prayers. One day, as I was praying, I caught myself– "Lord, please give me patience in Your plan and timing. And please provide us with a job by the end of this week." It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was asking for patience, but my requests were motivated by impatience. Praise God for giving us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to things like this! And praise God that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when our prayers do not align with God's will (Romans 8:26).
When I first truly understood the role of the Holy Spirit in my prayers, it relieved such a weight off my shoulders. I may not know God's will, but if I pray in faith and trust His plan, the Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps because He is God and He knows the mind of the Father. I don't have to word my prayers "just right" to make sure God gets the message loud and clear. I don't have to make sure that my requests are clearly stated so God doesn't get confused. And I can't manipulate God by presenting my requests to Him in a certain way. I just need to pray in faith, knowing my God is good and He is able, and letting the Holy Spirit communicate my prayers and requests to the Father according to His will. What a relief!
The balance between patience and provision is a hard one. How do we ask for patience but also make requests for God to act? How do we make bold requests without being impatient? God, through the truth of His Word, graciously showed me the answer: we defer every request to His will and His goodness. Just like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'...Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, 'My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done'.Matthew 26:39, 42
Jesus wasn't trying to manipulate the Father out of sending Him to the cross. He wasn't praying out of frustration with the Father's plan. Jesus was praying in faith that, if the Father could achieve salvation by any other means, He would spare His Son. But Jesus knew, if the Father didn't choose another way, that the cross was the best way. The Father's goodness is not diminished because He did not honor Jesus' request to let the cup pass. His goodness is magnified in that Jesus could trust Him and His plan, even if it meant the loss of His own life.
That is how we balance patience and requests for provision. You follow the example of Jesus. You make the request, but trust that God is still good if He chooses another way, and you ask Him to give you peace in the process. He will answer every request, but some He will say no. That does not make Him any less good! And His goodness is put on display when others see us trusting Him and praising His Name with a thankful heart, even when things don't go our way. Instead of rushing God, we make bold requests, knowing He is able, and we trust He has a better way if the answer is no.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.Ephesians 3:20-21
I used to think this verse meant that God would always go above and beyond what I asked–if I asked him to bring 100 people to an event, He would bring 125; if I asked Him to save 10 people at a camp, He would save 15; if I asked for a job offer, He would give us two. And while this is true in some instances, it isn't always the case. Sometimes the "far more abundantly" is very different from "whatever we ask or think." Sometimes the abundance and provision come in ways we could never have imagined. But when we ask Him boldly and with great expectation of what He will do–even if He does something very different from what we are thinking or asking–we will be amazed at what He does. The abundance may be in our own Christlikeness, or the strength of our faith, but this may have to come through a season of waiting. We just have to trust that He can and will do so much more than what we could ever ask or think because His plan reaches far beyond the here-and-now requests we make. His plan reaches into eternity, and His intent is to purify our souls.