Have you noticed that the psalms are full of passages where the psalmist is crying out to the Lord and they are at least as full of passages where the psalmist is waiting for the Lord? From these two ideas, the cry to the Lord and the waiting for the Lord, comes a strategy for prayer that I want to explore.
There are some prayers that need an immediate answer from the Lord. When Peter cried out to the Lord Jesus to save him as he was slipping under the waves, he needed an immediate answer, and the Lord graciously pulled His bold disciple out of the deep and into the boat. But when Job wrestled with his friends and argued with the Lord out of the midst of his misery and pain and confusion, the Lord waited a long time before even entering the conversation. He allowed Job to seek Him and to not find Him. He allowed Job to cry out and to receive no answer for a long time. Why does the Lord do that?
I do not claim to know with certainty the answer of why the Lord allows us to wait and wrestle and continue to cry out while He delays His answers, but I can offer some thoughts. But first, let’s remind ourselves that waiting on the Lord is the normal pattern for the disciple. Think about how much more time is spent in waiting for the Lord in persistent prayer than is spent in rejoicing in thanksgiving. And the psalms are full of waiting.
“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He pulled me up out of the desolate pit, out of the miry clay.” Psalm 40:1-2 “I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than the watchman for the morning; indeed, more than the watchman for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6
The psalmist waits for the LORD because he desires the presence of the LORD. He desires to be in relationship with the LORD. He desires to enjoy the LORD, and for all these pleasures, he is willing to wait. Therefore, one possible reason that the LORD delays His answers and causes us to wait is that He earnestly desires our presence and our attention. He enjoys our company, and to get more of our company, he prolongs our times of earnestly seeking Him.
But there are also many passages where the psalmist is urgently crying out to the LORD for immediate deliverance or relief. Psalm 142:1 says, “I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.” Psalm 86:1 says, “Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy.” There is a demand for an answer that can be made, even between the insignificant creature and the Almighty, because the greater one, who is the Great One, has chosen to enter into intimate relationship with the lowly creature. From the safety and the intimacy of this relationship, the lowly one is allowed to cry out to the Great One with tones that, outside this relationship, would be blasphemous. But because the LORD has drawn us near in Christ and has adopted us as His beloved children, we are allowed to cry out; more than that, we are invited, even commanded to cry out to Him.
Thus our prayer strategy is simple: Cry out to the LORD with reverent urgency, then wait for Him to answer as you persist in prayer. And as you pour out your heart to Him, enjoy Him and enjoy the amazing privilege and pleasure of resting in the Lord our God.
SDG rmb 3/7/2018