This week I have been thinking a lot about unanswered prayer. For the past 14 years, I have prayed for something that remains unanswered and it’s a real bummer. Month after month, it gets more and more difficult to stay positive about getting the answer I hoped to get. Not only have I been thinking about unanswered prayer but more especially how I have reacted over the years to those answered prayers.
As I get older, I have discovered that people disappoint and its easier to not trust people than to be disappointed. Unfortunately, I have also taken the same posture with God when it comes to certain areas of my life. This week I caught myself saying out loud about something I have been praying for: “well, if it happens, it happens. If not then I have nothing to lose!” This was not an affirmation of God’s sovereignty over my life. It was more of an “I don’t want to get too excited only to be disappointed….again” speech. Today I want to explore my posture when it seems like God has not and maybe will not show up. Particularly I want to examine my attitudes and self-talk.
Zacharias and Elizabeth are a perfect demonstration of attitude.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7 NIV
In modern-day parlance, we can say Zacharias and Elizabeth were PKs just like me! I am sure they had prayed for years for a child and God did not show up! And now their infertility had been compounded by the fact that they were too old and the plumbing had probably stopped working. But see their attitude: Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. They never stopped being godly, obeying God to the letter, or serving God with the same gusto as they did probably the first time they prayed for kids. Were they ever disappointed? Very likely! Did they ever doubt that God will come through? Maybe (we know that Zacharias ended up unable to speak for 9 months because he doubted the angel’s good tidings that he will have a son in his old age)! The lesson here is that their situation never changed how they felt about God: who He was and what He was capable of. That is why their attitude towards God never changed. Has unanswered prayer changed how you feel about what God is capable of doing in your life? Has your attitude towards God’s abilities shifted ever so slightly because you have had a very long disappointment or a series of disappointments in receiving answers to prayer?
My encouragement to you is to go back to God and get an attitude adjustment. God always shows up. He is never late! He is always on time. Sounds cliche…I know but think about it… God was preparing Zacharias and Elizabeth to be the parents of the one who was to baptize the Christ! the one who was to prepare the way for the revolution that Jesus was about to bring. John the Baptist was the bridge between the old and the new dispensations. This means he had to be born at a specific time… not a moment too early or a moment too late. What seemed like God not showing up was in hindsight a case of perfect timing!
In the meanwhile, what if Zacharias and Elizabeth had compromised on their love for God just a little? What if they had decided to be spiteful and stop serving? What if their attitude changed ever so slightly? I doubt the outcome of their story would have been the same!
I know years of disappointment have made me jaded and I don’t pray with the same level of expectation and faith anymore! I still pray for that one thing I have been hoping for for years but I just pray out of habit not because I am expectant. I make statements like God knows I need it and when he’s ready he’ll do it! And although that statement is fundamentally true it is said with major attitude! Only you know if you need an attitude adjustment. I know I desperately need one.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-3 NIV
Stay tuned for my reflections on self-talk.