I never prayed sincerely and earnestly for anything but it came; at some time–no matter how distant the day–somehow, in some shape, probably the last I should have devised, it came.
I have come to realize that if that’s not my experience, it is either because I have prayed without real faith, or I haven’t waited with real faith. As a consequence, when the answer has come, I haven’t recognized it as such.
God does not necessarily answer prayer in the way we expect when we pray. Sometimes he gives us more than we ask, more than we could have conceived.
Some who waited faithfully
Abram was 75–and childless–when God promised a blessed posterity. Ten years later, when God repeated the promise, he had to remind God that he had no son. Abram’s wife Sarai decided to help God out a little by offering her handmaid.
God repeated his initial promise 24 years after the first one. Abram was 99, and still believed God. Renamed Abraham, he received not only a son, but a posterity that God has used to redeem the whole world from sin.
During a time of famine, God sent Elijah out of the country to stay with a widow. Her son died, and Elijah prayed for his life.
No one had ever been raised from the dead before. How was Elijah supposed to know God would do any such thing? He waited. Not as long as Abraham waited, to be sure. But he prayed and stretched himself out on the little corpse again. And again.
The third time, the boy’s life returned to him.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus became deathly sick, his sisters Mary and Martha sent urgent word to him. They expected that he would come immediately to Bethany to heal him. Jesus deliberately stayed where he was for two days before setting out. By the time he got to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.
The grieving sisters reproached Jesus for his delay, but they did not turn against him. They had asked for Lazarus’ life. Jesus’ delay meant that they received not only Lazarus’ life, but a revelation of eternal life.
Some who neglected to wait
In 1 Samuel 13, Saul’s troops faced an army of 6,000 Philistine charioteers and unnumbered foot soldiers. Saul later became a great military leader, but at this time, he had no battle-hardened soldiers. They all cowered in caves near Gilgal. Samuel had told Saul to wait for him in Gilgal for seven days (1 Samuel 10:8)
On the seventh day, Saul got tired of waiting. He ordered the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings brought to him, and he offered them himself. Then Samuel arrived. He had to tell Saul that his disobedience and lack of faith meant that his kingdom would not endure.
In the days of Elisha, the king of Israel suffered a siege at the hands of the king of Syria. The story is told in 2 Kings 6:24-7:20.
A siege was a way to starve rivals into submission. It worked. When one of the king’s subjects came to him with a story of cannibalism, he tore his robes. Then people could see he was wearing sackcloth, a sign of mourning and penitence, underneath. It must have been emotionally genuine, but he had no faith.
Elisha had probably told him to wait for God, that he could outlast the siege. Hearing the woman’s anguished story about her son, the king lost whatever patience he may have had. To his mind, Elisha’s God had failed him, so he vowed to behead Elisha.
Elisha told him that the next day, food would be plentiful and cheap. An official implied that even God couldn’t accomplish that. So Elisha told him he would see those prices, but not eat any of the food.
Sure enough, some lepers told the gatekeeper the next morning that the enemy had deserted their camp and left everything. The king put this same official in charge of directing traffic, but the hungry populace trampled him to death in their haste to get to the food.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Wait can mean two different things here. It can mean serve, like a waiter in a restaurant. And it can mean exercising patience. Patience means not rushing ahead to help God or to do what he appears to have neglected to do. How can anyone truly wait in the first sense without waiting in the second?
Do you want a testimony like Judson’s? So do I. We’ll have to learn to wait.