I’d like to start by asking you a question. This is more to assure myself that I’m not alone in the pursuit of a picture-perfect prayer life. So here it is…
Do you ever wonder if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling? Or maybe God’s wearing ‘prayer cancelling headphones’ and isn’t tuning into your petitions? I’m hopeful that your head is bobbing up and down right now, not because I’m happy you might also periodically struggle with your prayer life, but because as a believer in Jesus Christ, I’m comforted by the fact I’m not alone!
I believe unwavering faith is an attribute we all crave. That when we pray, it’s a done deal! When I pray, I envision myself placing burdens down at the foot of the cross and then backing away to leave God to handle the mess. I hunger for the unwavering certainty that He hears everything, and according to His purpose and plan for my life, He will act upon those requests. So if God’s ears are tuned in as the bible assures us… “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14 NIV) …why does it sometimes feel like the ceiling blocks any outgoing transmissions?
Here’s my theory; Prayer can be both gratifying and exhausting, and when God takes His time to respond to our troubled hearts or things escalate beyond our comfort zone, the air in our tire of faith can rapidly deflate and we’re left feeling empty and discouraged. Prayers that go unanswered can be a tough pill to swallow.
I’ll toss you an example from my personal prayer crisis memoirs: One evening when things seemed rather bleak, I dropped to my knees and asked God to intervene on several fronts, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” (1 Timothy 2:8 NIV)
Looking back, I realize I was honoring the first part of this verse, but in all honesty, my heart wasn’t without anger or dispute! It felt more and more like my prayers were ricocheting off the ceiling and going no further. God was being silent and I felt very alone in my escalating tribulations. Have you ever felt that way? I sense more nods.
My wife was dealing with significant health issues and I had just discovered my employer was shutting down operations. My job ended. So as I often do when the trouble ensues, my knees hit the carpet and my hands lift up to appease my angst. It was then I felt water absorbing into the fabric of my jeans! I froze, my immediate thought being that God was anointing my knees with holy water because of my faithfulness to pray! That was wishful thinking!
I knew right then our water lines had sprung a leak somewhere behind the walls and that my prayer time was over. “How could you do this to me God?” I asked. “I was being faithful in prayer. I was looking for divine intervention and all I ended up with was another massive headache and untimely renovation bill!” Feeling sorry for me yet?
Despite a failed attempt at successfully leaving my troubles at the Lord’s feet, my wife gently reminded me that had I not knelt in prayer, I might well have missed the soggy carpet underlay in the first place and things could have been worse. I gather you’ve heard the expression, God moves in mysterious ways? Seems that might have been case here. God reminds us, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8 NIV) Point for you Lord!
When I thought my prayers were going only as far as the stipple on the ceiling, God had something else to show me. That’s how it is sometimes. When you’re in the midst of crisis and God appears un-involved, I can assure you He’s working in the background and will turn everything for good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
As I look back upon my life, there have been times when it felt as though my prayers were ineffectual. That what I specifically prayed for resulted in the exact opposite. But in time, I realize God was there all along. He loves me enough to turn all my worries, heartaches and disappointments into something good, something useful for His purposes. Our job is to keep at prayer and abide in patience.
Though it may not always seem this way, our faith grows as we flounder amidst sunless valleys. And it’s then God says to us, “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV) Amen to that!
I assure you God hears prayers beyond the confines of a ceiling. It may take some time before you see His master plan, but we can say in confidence, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NIV)
As a final word, I’ll offer you this reminder. God loves you and is interested in everything that concerns you. But the next time you drop to your knees in prayer, be sure to check for water first!