Don’t you hate it when God doesn’t answer our prayers with miracles? When He asks us instead to do the hard work? Take small steps in obedience? Work the plan that He gives us?
I’ve been praying a lot over a particular issue. Praying for God to fix the problem. Only He’s not answering that prayer the way I want. I really just want Him to make the issue disappear and everything be normal and perfect.
Instead when I pray, I’m hearing things like, “You have a phone number in your wallet for someone who can help. Just call”. “The papers you need are on your desk, RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR COMPUTER! Just fill them out!” “I’ve given you a plan of next steps. Work the plan.”
But, that’s not the answer I wanted; the miracle. Instead, those are the steps which require work. The steps which call me to admit my brokenness. The steps which insist I ask for help. The steps which demand I step out in obedience and trust God.
When I do begin to work the plan and take steps, I start to see the small ways God is at work answering my prayer. Like finding myself seated between two women at dinner who are discussing similar issues and are able to share support and encouragement from their journey. Like finding the right people who can help and guide me. Like seeing incremental progress and improvement along the way.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” ~Hebrews 10:23
Abraham and Sarah give us a good example of trusting God’s faithfulness. Sarah prayed to have children for many years. God even told Abraham they’d give birth to nations. Yet can you imagine Sarah’s frustration as she approached her 90th birthday and was still without a child? Probably thought God had forgotten her. Where was this miracle God promised?
But, Abraham and Sarah kept taking steps forward in obedience. Taking steps to follow God’s plan. Doing the hard work God put before them.
25 years after God called Abraham to leave his home in Haran and follow where God would lead him, God finally answered this prayer. After the hard work of walking into the unknown in obedience. After learning to rely on God time and time again. 25 years is a long time to wait for something – and I bet Sarah had been praying for a baby for even longer! But, what a miracle God worked in the end! A baby for Sarah at the age of 90. And Sarah didn’t even get to see the biggest parts of the miracle – the nation of Israel which was born from Isaac’s line. Jesus born to one of her descendants!
So, how will God answer our prayers? Will we listen to the steps and follow the plan – or hold out for a miracle and miss the miracle-in-action?
I know someday, after I’ve followed the steps and done the work, I’ll look back and see the miracle that God has worked in our lives. I’ll see that He really did answer my prayer with a miracle.
Sometimes the miracles are hard to see as they’re unfolding. Sometimes they’re not instantaneous. Miracles are the result of obedience and faith; doing the hard work of following God’s plan.
“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
I love the idea that I’m surrounded by this “cloud of witnesses”, all the strong and faithful people who have come before me, to cheer me on and encourage me. So, let’s be encouraged that someone else has already walked the same path we’re on. We’re not alone.
Then, let’s start to view the answer to our prayer as a marathon, not a sprint. God is marking out the race for us, so we need to run that race with perseverance. Lean on Jesus who felt our pain, lived our struggles, and died on the cross for us. Take heart that he overcame it all – and so can we!
I still believe in miracles, but I also acknowledge that I can’t just sit back and wait for one. I need to listen for God’s direction and take the steps He sets out before me. I need to participate in the miracle-in-action. Hold onto HOPE, believe that God is FAITHFUL, and run the race with PERSEVERANCE!
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