I don’t particularly like persevering in prayer. Honestly, I often wish God didn’t take so long to answer my prayers. But the longer I live, the more I see that He seems most often to work in slow-and-steady mode. And I’m also seeing that He does good work. Very good work.
A wise person once said, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” In general, I’m on board with that idea. The things I value most—close relationships, fine-tuned skills, hard-earned accomplishments, a good reputation—these don’t happen overnight. They take time. But they also are built to last—so it makes sense that there would be considerable time required for their development.
Over the past three or four months, the Lord has allowed me to see some very cool ways He has been answering some long-term prayers. Many of these have involved prayers my prayer partners and I have prayed for years. Most of them involve spiritual transformation, character development, or relational or emotional healing—for ourselves and people we care about. And most of the answers we’ve seen are the kinds of things only God could do. These are no flash-in-the pan types of changes. These are the kinds of deep transformation that come from God’s steady work on hearts.
I was thanking God for one of these very encouraging answered prayers the other morning. Then I opened my Bible and read a familiar verse, but from a less familiar translation: “Be patient, therefore … See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient (James 5:7-8, ESV, emphasis mine).
The Holy Spirit made the words “precious fruit” come alive for me. I could almost see the vibrant color, smell the sweet fragrance, and touch the tender ripeness of that precious fruit. My mouth was nearly watering, it looked so delicious. I thought of the man I met in Hawaii a couple of years ago who grew papaya trees from tiny saplings—patiently nurturing them along with the expectant hope that one day he would harvest precious fruit from them.
You don’t plant papaya seeds one day and harvest juicy fruits a couple of days later. But if you know—as the Hawaiian man knew—that those little saplings would eventually produce precious fruit, you would keep watering and fertilizing them. You would know that fruit will come—and so you would be patient as you waited.
Isn’t that like prayer? If I know that I am praying for the things God wants (like character growth, spiritual transformation, and the other things I mentioned above) then I know that He hears and will answer. That’s the way God is. That’s what He promises (1 John 5:14-15). So I can know that precious fruit is coming. How long will it take? I don’t know. Only He does. But it is easier for me to persevere because I know the fruit will come.
Sometimes I get discouraged. I get tempted to stop watering and fertilizing those prayer seeds. But having seen some precious fruit recently, my faith is renewed. With God’s help, I will be patient, knowing that a harvest of precious fruit will come.