Answered Prayer: God’s Will and Timing
Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. Genesis 25:21
Once, after sharing my story of addiction and recovery to a church high school group, one of the kids made an interesting observation – You make it sound as if all your life problems were fixed instantly. You went to treatment, got sober, and your life turned around. I was shocked to hear this interpretation of my story. That’s not how it happened at all. I spent years begging God to deliver me from my addiction. I went to outpatient treatment twice, relapsing twice. Even after I found authentic recovery, it took a couple more years of prayer and radical obedience to put my marriage and career back together. This process was anything but instant, but in the brief telling of my story, I’d given that impression. You make prayer and transformation sound so easy. I got the feeling that this kid was either going through some struggles himself or was close to someone else who was. It also seemed likely that my instant-fix story frustrated him.
I’ve been there. I’ve heard those stories of instant transformation. I prayed and God healed me. I wanted that. We all do. But God sometimes says no, and often, he doesn’t answer instantly. God’s will is very different than ours and his timing is not our timing.
Today’s passage got me thinking about prayer, God’s will, and his timing. In the story, Isaac and Rebekah got married when Isaac was 40 years old. We’re told he prayed for his wife to become pregnant and that God answered that prayer, all of which happened in one verse, making it sound instant. Later though, we discover that Rebekah didn’t give birth until Isaac was 60 years old. We’re not told what age Isaac was when he first prayed, but I think it’s reasonable to understand that Isaac waited up to 20 years for God to answer his prayer. God’s answer was anything but instant.
This frustrates us. We want God to answer our prayers right now. We’re like children in the back seat on a road trip – How much longer? I want to be there now! We have an expectation that God must answer exactly how and when we see fit. Can you imagine though, a father who gave his children everything they asked for, the instant they asked? That would be a disaster. We can and should take our requests to God. When we pray though, we must also understand that God’s will and timing are very different than ours. We usually pray – God, do what I want right now! Actually though, we should often be praying – God, what do you want me to do here?