Like you, I have unanswered prayers. And it is from a place of deep longing to see those prayers answered that I write this post. Waiting on God is just plain hard. And sometimes we wonder why it takes so long to see the hand of God move in our circumstances or in people’s lives. I’ve been a Christian for forty years now, but twenty-eight of those years there’s been one prayer request in particular that I’ve been waiting for God to answer. Sometimes the waiting just overwhelms me. My heart is torn and I’ve written in my journal the words, “How long, O Lord? How long before You answer?” (Taken from Psalm 13:1) (nrsv) It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer my prayer request, but there may be some serious behind the scenes work that must take place first. And it seems like it takes longer for people to change then it does for circumstances.
Do you have a prayer request that has gone unanswered for many years? Are you praying that your next PCS move will be to the place you want or need? Are you a military spouse who is praying for a certain job to come through? Are you praying that a possible deployment won’t take place so your husband or wife can be home during a critical time in one of your children’s lives? Do you or a loved one need a healing? When praying, do you wonder what He wants you to be doing while waiting? I’ve asked myself that question, too. Here are 5 habits worthy of doing while God is working on your requests:
1). Recollect God’s Faithfulness. When we become restless over unanswered prayer it has the potential to turn our attention inward and to focus on ourselves. This mindset might even lead us to accentuate other things we perceive to be wrong in our life. As soon as you notice you are doing this, turn your heart and mind back on God. Focus on what remarkable things God has done for you in the past. I often start my journal with a psalm that reminds me of God’s faithfulness. For example, Psalm 40:5:
“O Lord my God, many and many a time you have done great miracles for us, and we are ever in your thoughts. Who else can do such glorious things? No one else can be compared with you. There isn’t time to tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
All through the Old Testament are accounts of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites. So often they were the targets of oppression and persecution by their enemies, but many times over God intervened on their behalf. God was for the ancient Israelites, and He is still for us today.
Remember, if God could be trusted in the past, He can be trusted also for our tomorrows. We have hope as the anchor for our souls. Since God’s Word is unfailing, it’s also true that God does not fail either. He will answer your prayer requests, but it may not be exactly as you expect.
If you keep a journal, record those times where God came through for you. That way when you grow weary in waiting, go back and read those accounts when He proved His faithfulness. It will refresh your soul and restore your confidence in God.
2). Allow God to Do a Character Make-Over. One of the truths about God is that He doesn’t want to leave us in our current spiritual state. His goal is to mold our character and grow us into the mind of Christ. But, for this to happen, we have to allow God’s Word to do a make-over in our minds. As this process takes place, we become more Christ-like. His character is manifested in our life. What I’ve also found to be true is that while I waited for God to answer a prayer request, He was also working on some aspect of my own character. Instead of resenting this process, take God up on the challenge and ask Him, “What aspects of my character do you want to change?” Ask Him to show you, then when He does record it in your journal. You’ll discover new ways to react to circumstances.
3). Safeguard your heart from A Complaining Spirit. If like me, you’ve been waiting for many years for God to answer a prayer request, the years of longing can take their toll. It’s easy to grow impatient. When we become impatient we tend to complain. Complaining comes out of a sense of dissatisfaction. The Israelites found themselves in the complaint department while on their journey to the Promised Land. They had become dissatisfied and stopped trusting God. In doing so, they became rebellious (Numbers 14). Their rebellion led them to complain about their present circumstances. What’s worse, when they succumbed to the emotion of the people, they lost their perspective on God’s nature. They forgot about God’s faithfulness.
While waiting for God to answer our prayers, reframe from complaining, verbally or in our thought life. Instead, cultivate a habit of thankfulness. It will safeguard your heart from becoming rebellious which leads to stepping away from the Lord. Psalm 37:34 gives us clear instruction:
“Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing…” And God’s blessings are worth the wait.
4). Seek Godly Discernment. Sometimes God’s answers don’t come in the way or in the time we expect. Then there are times when we don’t even understand what He’s doing at all. It just doesn’t make sense or we can’t figure out the reason why a situation went this way or that way. While waiting for God to answer, seek His face for understanding. He is a generous God and wants us to know we can come to Him for clarity on our prayer requests.
Psalm 119:27 says, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (nrsv) When we make seeking His face for understanding a habit, it helps us to assess what course of action is needed. It will give us insight into people and circumstances that we might not otherwise have. Discernment is one of those habits that will serve us well all our lives.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…” (nrsv).
Did you catch that last part? God stores up wisdom and understanding for those whose hearts are His. How marvelous is that! Our job is to ask Him for it, and He will gladly supply it. This will help us to know how to pray for a situation or person. At the same time, be still and wait. This is called, “active waiting.” We are not throwing up our hands and saying, “oh well, I’ll just let the chips fall where they may.” Instead, we pray for discernment, so that when God supplies it, we will know how and for what to pray for.
Psalm 119:169, “Let my cry come before you, O lord; give me understanding according to your word” (nrsv).
5). Praise and Honor Belongs to Him – The Book of Psalms is a treasure trove for how to praise God. One of my favorites is Psalm 118. Praise is acknowledging God’s greatness, His power, His forgiveness, His authority, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, and other attributes. When we feel powerless to change our circumstances or people’s hearts, our praise catches God’s attention. Authentic praise helps to drive out doubt, and in particular, discouragement over unanswered prayer.
When I take the time to write out a psalm of praise in my prayer journal my hope in God is restored. Complaining focuses on the problem, but praise focuses on God who has the solution. Praise changes my outlook and I can trust God with my personal concerns and requests. And praise quiets my restless heart. And this gives me the endurance to keep praying for that one prayer request I still desire to see to fruition. If what you’re praying for is in alignment to His will, You can be confident God will answer. You have His Word on that.
Delight in the Lord today,