I have often struggled with the question, “How hard should I be working to make my prayers come true, should I be working toward them at all or simply pray and let God open and close the door?” Many of the prayers we pray are for things that we have at least some level of control over. Whether we are praying for a financial need, a new job opportunity, a purchase, even whether or not we should enter into the dating scene, there is always the question of, how hard should I be working to make my prayer a reality? When should I move on that new job opportunity? When should I act on that desire to go back to school? When should I say yes to the date request from the person at school or at work? Is it enough to simply “let go and let God” or should I be a little more proactive and involved in God’s leading and direction?
While I’m not sure I have the definitive answer on this complicated issue, I do believe there at least three basic questions we need to ask ourselves before we dive in and attempt to impact whatever opportunity, challenge, or impasse life has thrust upon us.
Am I working for an answer God has already given me?
Every now and then my 11 year old son will ask me for something that he has clearly been told he cannot have. Questions like, “Dad, can I borrow your chainsaw, I am making something for mom in the garage!”, make me slap myself in the forehead and wonder if this child will ever live to see adulthood! In the same way I can envision God having those same moments with me. I wonder how painful it is for God when we ask him over and over for answers that he has already given. God’s word, the Bible, is full of direct answers to life’s questions. If we are leaving the study of His word out of our lives, the answers we seek may be hidden in a bed stand drawer within our own reach. The writer of many of the Psalms, David, reminds us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalms 119:105 NIV) Before we dive in to bring about whatever opportunity lies before us let’s be sure to ask ourselves, has God already answered this prayer.
Would my taking action contradict God’s values in any way?
If what I am asking for contradicts the character of God or the lifestyle He has called me to live as His follower, then the answer to that prayer will likely remain frustratingly absent and our efforts to bring about our desired answer can only lead to heartache . If there was ever a place that we are likely to “pitch in” and give God a hand getting our prayer answered, it is in these requests, we get tired of waiting for His reply so we take things into our own hands, determined to see our own payers become a reality. It is even possible to achieve some level of results from our efforts but, when we act on our own will apart from God’s commands and guardrails for our life, we build our future on a foundation of sand. Solomon, in all of his God given wisdom reminds us of this simple precept when he wrote, “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 NLT)
Have I spent time listening as well as asking?
I can remember some time ago being late for a meeting and naturally I could not find my keys, I scrambled around the house rummaging through pillows (I will address the overwhelming number of decorative pillows in my house in another blog) and drawers while accusing everyone in sight of moving them. In the meantime my daughter was patiently trying to inform me that they were in fact right where they belonged, on the hook inside the door.Now like a good father, I scolded her for not speaking louder and getting my attention in such a dire situation. In the end it was apparent that dad needed to stop communicating and start listening!
Now if I can be honest, the art of listening during my times of prayer has been a difficult habit to master, it seems as soon as I stop talking my brain moves on to whatever the next item is on the day’s agenda. I can move from prayers for a sick friend to reminding myself to check the night before’s football score, then back to a pressing financial need in an instant, and all the time having my eyes closed and the same spiritual look on my face! However, if a relationship with God is just that, a relationship, then communication must be in two directions. God reveals a beautiful promise to us through the great prophet Jeremiah, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 3:33 NIV) In the end, I must take time to listen as well as ask, it is possible that God has been trying to communicate His plan for our lives and we have not stopped working and speaking long enough to get the direction we desperately need.
There is a time to act!
If we clear these three hurdles then it may be time act, to use the wisdom, talents, and energy God has supplied you with to bring about His plan for your life! The Bible is full of stories that reveal men and women who launched out boldly and confidently even though they by all accounts were unqualified and underequipped. When we we align our efforts to God’s Will, God’s Ways, and God’s Word, we can work with confidence knowing that our steps, like the steps of a child following his father’s footprints in the snow, will lead him exactly where he needs to be.
More On: Listening to God https://urbana.org/blog/listening-god