One thing that happens while we are waiting for God to act in a difficult situation is a marked improvement in both the quantity and quality of our prayers! If anything can help to pull us in line with God’s plan for our prayer life, it is time spent in the waiting room.
Think about a hospital waiting room. All of us must have gone through the harrowing experience of waiting for our names to be called. It certainly helps soothe our apprehensions to have someone to talk to, doesn’t it? In the same way, that part of our on-going relationship with God we call prayer becomes the conducive environment for a talk with Him about our fears and phobias. It’s sad, really, that suffering has to pay us a visit before we get around to paying God a visit and getting our prayer life back in shape, but that’s the way it is with many of us.
One of the things I have learned as I’m waiting for it all to be over is to pray in the absence of rewards. As we grow in our relationship to God, we come to realize prayer is a whole lot more than a heavenly shopping list; it is our lifeline to God. We learn to say, “Lord, what will You show me, teach me, or make of me?” rather than, “Lord, what will You give to me or do for me?” So often we feel self-righteous when we pray–as if God owes us something and will reward us as a master rewards his pet dog that begs in the right way for a biscuit. If we pray expecting to be rewarded with a “treat” (the answer to our prayer request), we have not advanced very far in the school of prayer. The problem of praying without rewards, however, is that we can become discouraged. We must exercise perseverance if for no other reason Jesus’ exhortation to pray–even when nothing seems to be happening at all (see Lk. 18:1-8).
I will never forget being in God’s waiting room on one occasion, praying on and on for something important to happen. I expected to see some sign of “God activity” in this serious situation, but I could see nothing to encourage me. Sitting by a still lake early one morning, I asked the Lord why my prayer effort was not being rewarded.
What reward do you want? I seemed to hear Him asking me.
“Well, Lord,” I said, “it’s not as if I’m asking You to wave a magic wand and make this situation disappear–I’d be quite content just to see some small evidence that You are involved in this. Some little sign that You are working some good out of all this trouble.”
As I sat looking at the pretty lake, God put this startling thought into my mind: Jill, do you believe there are fish in this lake?
“Yes, of course.”
Then God’s still, small voice asked me another question. How do you know? You see no evidence. The surface of the water is like glass! Then, Jill, do you have to see a fish jump to believe that they are there?
I knew well enough what the Lord was asking me: Jill, do you have to see a sign to believe I am hearing and answering your prayers? Know only the fish are there. I always hear and always answer. Trust the timing to me! I tried from then on not to schedule His answers on my timetable and to trust God to work out His plan–how, where, and when He would.
Just Between Us Magazine