Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. –Proverbs 13:12
California is having its driest winter in the state’s 164-year history. While I know this is bad news for our water supply, I must admit I’m enjoying the dry days, warm weather and clear blue skies. I can’t make it rain, so I might as well enjoy the sunshine. Who could blame me?
Recently our family took advantage of a warm and sunny Saturday to go mountain biking together. My younger son had been asking to ride on a specific trail that he spied a while back, so we thought it was the perfect day to try it. He knew that getting to the fun downhill part would require quite a bit of hill climbing first. I was pretty impressed he wanted to do such a challenging ride. At first the promise of that grand finale on the second half buoyed his spirits as we started our ascent. Pretty soon, however, he started falling behind the rest of us. The excitement for the descent evaporated as his muscles burned and his lungs gasped for air. When he finally reached the top, he’d lost all desire to finish the ride and wanted to turn around and go back the way we came.
I cheered for him as he walked his bike up to where we were waiting and reminded him of his goal. “You can’t stop now, buddy! The trail you’ve been waiting for is coming soon. Just two more small hills and we’ll be on the fun part. You can do it!” I was trying hard to sound positive and encouraging, but he wasn’t buying it.
“This ride is stupid and I don’t want to do it anymore,” he grumbled as he dropped his bike to the ground and sat hunched at a picnic table nearby.
He’d been waiting expectantly for what he thought would be a fun ride, but the journey there was harder than he anticipated. Maybe you can relate. We all have those times when our enthusiasm begins to wear thin the longer our expectations go unmet. I couldn’t help thinking about this as I did the lesson for Week 4, Day 4 of Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still. I love that Priscilla Shirer is encouraging believers to pray big prayers. She says “Knowing God and the resources He’s made available to you … changes not only how you pray but what you feel free to ask God for. You will begin to realize that you don’t have to pray small or with reservation. You can ask the Lord for exactly what you desire no matter how outlandish or impossible it may appear to be” (p.92).
I wholeheartedly believe Priscilla’s words to be true. God can do anything we ask. However, I also know firsthand that “whether God moves is a question of His sovereignty, not His ability. What He does is His business. Believing that He can is our business” (p.94). Sometimes praying expectantly gets tiring, maybe even a little discouraging. Waiting with no clear sense of when a prayer might be answered is hard work when we try to do it on our own strength. Over the years of waiting for different prayers to be answered, I’ve learned some things that have helped me not to lose hope. Below are a few thoughts and verses on how to keep your focus wear it needs to be as you pray expectantly and wait for God to reveal His plans to you.
-Keep Your Eyes On God Instead of on the Answer You Seek
It can be easy to fixate on the answer we’re looking for instead of on God. Praising God for who He is and reminding yourself of all Jesus did for you can bring you a peace that is not dependent upon your circumstances or a particular answer you’re seeking.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. –Hebrews 12:1-3
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. –Isaiah 26:3-4
-Maintain An Eternal Perspective
Sometimes we get so consumed with the thing we’re praying for that we forget this world is not our permanent home. It’s helpful to take a step back sometimes and see your situation from a different perspective. We are just passing through this world on our way to our home in heaven. A good question we can ask ourselves to keep in check is: “In the light of eternity, how much does this really matter?”
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
-Remember that God Does Things His Way, Not Yours
It’s easy to focus so much on the outcome we’re expecting that we miss the ways God is already at work in our lives (or even in a particular situation we’re praying for). When we pray expectantly, it’s helpful to take God’s sovereignty into consideration. We need to give Him room to move and work in the way He sees best instead of expecting Him to do things according to the expectations we have.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:8-9
-Focus on Gratitude
When we are praying expectantly about a specific situation, it might be easy to forget all the things God has done or is doing in our lives. It builds our faith and our trust in God when we take time to list the specific things we can already be thankful for in our lives. We can even thank God for how He is working behind the scenes while we wait. In all circumstances, there is something for which we can thank God.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
-Pray for Strength and Confidence in God as You Wait Expectantly
It is okay to admit to God that we are growing weary or that our confidence in Him is waning. We can ask Him to restore our strength, confidence and hope as we wait. We can ask Him to show us what we can be learning as we trust Him for the answers to our prayers. It helps to be honest and admit when we’re struggling and need help adjusting our attitudes.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. –Psalm 27:13-14
Search me, 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. –Psalm 139:23-4
-Let Others Encourage You
It’s always easier to wait for something when we have company. Enlisting a trusted friend to pray with us and to encourage us as we wait for God helps us to stay hopeful. It also keeps us from getting bitter or disillusioned if the answer is taking longer than we think it should.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:23-25
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. –Hebrews 3:12-14
You may be wondering how things turned out for my son on our bike ride. After he regained his strength and listened to our encouraging words, he was willing to get on his bike and continue. At first, he was sullen as he trudged up the next hill pushing his bike, but he was definitely trying harder. Not surprisingly, all of his grumpiness disappeared when we finally reached the trail that wound back down the mountain. When we stopped to enjoy the sweeping views part way down, he was back to his old enthusiastic self and couldn’t wait to keep riding. He led the way down the hill and was thrilled with what he’d accomplished at the end.
I pray that you’ll find hope and courage as you pray expectantly. There can even be joy in the waiting if you’re open to seeing it. God has great things in store, there is no doubt about that.
Click on the song “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller for some further encouragement as you wait.