It’s relatively easy for me to begin praying with faith and gusto for something huge, even something “impossible.” It’s not so easy for me, however, to maintain that faith and gusto when God doesn’t seem to be doing anything in response to my prayers.
I have several requests that have been on my prayer list for years. Rather, I should say they have been on and off my prayer list for years because, honestly, my enthusiasm for praying about them ebbs and flows.
A month ago, God challenged me about that. I started what I thought would be a friendly, innocuous little conversation with Him. I asked Him if there was anything “fresh” He wanted to share with me concerning our relationship. I heard His reply right away. He wanted me to “test Him.”
In what? I asked. I was curious, but not real thrilled about the idea of “testing” God. I knew it was okay to test Him about tithing (see Malachi 3:10). But other kinds of “tests” made me nervous.
“Test Me in intercession” I seemed to hear Him say. We talked about that for a bit, Him and I. I told Him about the top four “impossibles” on my heart and why they seemed impossible. They all involved imperfect people with free wills who, because He set it up this way, had the liberty to choose something other than God’s will—and who often did. I know lots of you will want to challenge my theology on this, and I welcome you to—but for me, some of the hardest situations for me to pray about are ones where people seem blind or resistant to God’s plans for them. Because sometimes even God won’t interfere with free will, right?
Well, God gently reminded me of Saul on his way to Damascus. He’d interfered with his free will. He reminded me of Nebuchadnezzar whom he had turned mad for seven years until he finally acknowledged the God of heaven. And I remembered other situations, biblical and contemporary, where God had mercifully, miraculously, opened eyes, ears, and hearts that had previously been closed.
Okay, I get it, I said. You want me to ask You to do what seems to me to be the most impossible thing of all: You want me to ask you to change hearts that seem oblivious, self-reliant, or obstinate. Okay, I will. But You know how easily I give up when I don’t see anything happening.
God didn’t give me any promises about time tables, but He asked me to pray every day for four specific situations that I care very much about and have cared about for a long time. He told me that He likes it when I ask Him to do things that only He can do. And when He said that, I actually felt relief because in some of the situations I have felt like maybe there was something I could or should do. I felt responsibility for “helping God” to work in these situations. When I realized that all God was asking me to do was to pray with hope, I felt a complete release from pressure. It felt good.
It’s been a month now. All of the situations I have been praying for still seem a long way from resolution. But to my amazement, in three of these four “impossibles” I have seen undeniable signs of God at work and concrete reasons to be encouraged. Meaningful conversations, unexpected blessings, attitudes softening, situations being clarified—all of which could only happen because of God and that make me think He truly is at work.
I have to be honest, however: the fourth situation only seemed to get worse. I actually did give up praying about it for a few days—not intentionally, it just kind of melted away in the puddle of my discouragement. But when I noticed that I wasn’t doing the “test” I’d agreed to, I asked God for new hope. And He reminded me of the things I had been noticing Him doing in the other situations. And my hope did recharge and I began praying for the really tough situation again.
I’m not sure what specific point I want you to take away from my story, but here are some possibilities:
- God really does move hearts and wills. Free will? Yes. But winsome, persuasive God? Yes!
- Looking for signs of God at work—even tiny forward movement—can really encourage faith
- Persevering prayer makes God happy.
- God loves to do the impossible. If there’s nothing we can do to help make the situation “happen,” He’s fine with that. Sometimes He even seems to especially like it.
- If you don’t see God working in one area you’ve been praying about, boost your hope and faith by noticing and praising Him for what He is doing in another.
- Have fun with God. He likes it when we experiment with Him in prayer and faith.
As for my “test,” it’s officially over now. The month is up. But God has encouraged my faith so much that I think I’ll keep going for another month.
Do you ever do prayer experiments with God? I’d love to hear about it!