We know, as believers, that prayer is our lifeline to God. We have been taught prayers around the dinner table and in Sunday school classes, we say them at church and we say them before we go to bed. We pray when loved ones are battling diseases, we pray when children go astray, we pray when the path before us seems unclear, we pray when we are at the end of our rope. We cry out to God for answers, for direction, for healing, for hope...but what do we do when God feel distant?
What do we do when we are in the thick of a season of waiting, when God seems to be silent despite all of our anxious and earnest prayers to Him?
Rebecca Rene Jones gives these five ways we can wait well:
- Know that what you’re experiencing is normal. Jones shares that “C.S. Lewis actually said our fluctuating feelings about God were perhaps the only constant of our faith,” something he referred to as “undulation.” We can choose to still believe that God is good despite our lives being hard, and we can take comfort in knowing that every Christian struggles with changing feelings and emotions in their faith.
- Embrace boring things. In a world where most of us have a glowing screen within arm’s length at all times, boredom is rare. We can quickly start scrolling social media or playing a mindless game the second we find ourselves with nothing to do, and in doing so, we are forgetting what it’s like to wait on God. Jones says, “God dares us to do something different: To stay expectant. To stay hungry. To practice hope, as Paul says, by patiently and confidently fixing our attention on the promises we don’t yet possess (Romans 8:24-25). Creating intentional time and space to be silent and still before the Lord gives Him room to move in your heart and speak to you-- things you might miss if you’re always filling your mind and your life with other distractions.
- Tell God what you think. While it’s often easier and more comfortable to say a rote, memorized prayer to God, He invites us to be honest about the things going on in our hearts. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Jones shares an example of how “the great prophet Elijah even died to pray. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said (1 Kings 19:4).” We can come to Him with the things we are wrestling with, no matter how messy or confusing they might be. He desires to know our hearts.
- Don’t demand burning bushes. “God honors and uplifts the quietly faithful, and what’s more: He often comes in the quiet,” Jones says. She continues the story of Elijah, telling of when God came to him not in the storm or the earthquake or the fire, but instead in a gentle whisper. “What if God intends to meet us precisely in the places we’d least imagine?”
- Keep moving. Don’t let the distance you feel from God keep you from living a life of active faith. We often want to just give up until God gives us a roadmap of what’s next or answers the questions we’ve been asking Him, but we can rest assured that He has always been faithful and always will be faithful to those who follow Him. “His word, but poetically, is already a lamp for our feet (Psalm 119:105),” Jones says. Let the words of Scripture give you the encouragement to carry on, whether you feel like God is near or not.
Crosswalk.com contributing writer Janet Eckles shares another list of action steps when you’re wondering when God will answer your prayers, and she adds this: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15). While we pray, we’re certain that in His timing and ways, we have what we ask. We receive what He offers. We expect what He promises. And while we wait, we frame our patience with joy, confidence and peace.”
Prayer is still our lifeline to God, even when God feels far away or silent. We can take comfort that we are not alone and that God hears us when we come before Him. We can rest assured that all He has promised will come true, even if we first must wait. Let’s wait well as we trust fully in the Lord!
Publication date: April 7, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com