As most parents do, Pat and I pray regularly for our children and family. Over the last year or so, we've found ourselves seeking the Lord for wisdom and answers, for one of our kids, in particular. Just when we thought we had an answer, or direction, even a little hint of wisdom on the matter, there would be a set back of one kind or another. The answers, and the wisdom, seemed very slow in coming, almost to the point of feeling as though God had shut His ears to our prayers. Pat and I found ourselves losing heart and becoming weary, not understanding what God was doing, or how we should pray anymore. I’ve shed tears, lost sleep and had to fight the temptation to throw up my hands in defeat. And then the Lord spoke to me, through my Hibiscus plant. He made me realize that I had expectations that were not being met according to my timetable. The prayers weren’t answered quick enough for me and I found that frustrating. I hadn’t expected our prayers to go unanswered for such an extended period of time and I began to grow weary and impatient. I didn’t understand the wait and I also did not like the wait because I was growing anxious in the wait.
I’m sure Mary and Martha didn’t understand the wait either, when they sent word to Jesus that Lazarus, “the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). I’m sure when the sisters called out to Jesus, they might have been in a state of panic, after-all, their brother was critically ill. I believe they had no doubt in their minds that Jesus would drop everything and come, quickly. It seemed the most logical thing to do, didn’t it? Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, they were friends, and they needed Him to get back to them. But Jesus had other ideas. I found His statement shocking and one that only God knows the reason for. “So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea” (John 11: 6,7). Wait. Did you see it? Read that verse again. “When he heard Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then…” I’m sure Mary and Martha had expected Jesus to pack up His things and leave immediately upon hearing the news of Lazarus’ illness. They knew He was the One able to fix the problem and heal their brother. When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had died. I wonder if they felt crushed…. or betrayed. When Jesus walked into town, He knew the plan was for “the Son of God to be glorified through it” (John 11:4). He only needed Mary and Martha to trust Him while they waited. I am like Martha, a fixer, a doer. I can imagine her saying, “Just call for Jesus, He will come and know just what to do and He will git’er done.” That’s me. Call on Jesus, He can fix anything. But please don’t make me wait.
I had an “a-ha” moment when I realized my prayers have been somewhat like my hibiscus plant. I expected my hibiscus to bloom at the same time it always had. I didn’t understand why it hadn’t. I didn’t understand the wait. I thought something must have killed my beautiful plant. Eventually, it bloomed though and when it did, it was just as perfect as always. Proverbs 3:5 says we are to, “Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding.” My cry to the Lord has been, “I don’t understand.” Well, I am not supposed to lean on my own understanding and I can see now I was. There are many factors that might affect plants and in the same way, there are many different factors that affect our prayers.
I do know this, God is in the business of answering prayers, on His terms, in His time and in ways we may never understand. Isaiah 55:9 is proof of that, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” When I grow weary in the wait and feel as though the answer is a long time in coming, I must remember my timetable is far different than Gods. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8,9).
What are you praying for? I recently heard this quote on the radio, “the tragedy is not in unanswered prayers, the tragedy is in unasked prayers.” Ask. Seek. Knock. The door will open.