“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
We expect a lot in life, don’t we? We expect that when we order our Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato, we will receive a Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato. We expect that when we place our Amazon Prime Order for a purple journal to arrive by five o’clock the next day, we’ll receive that purple journal by five o’clock the next day. We expect that when we make a lunch reservation at the local bistro with a friend, we’ll show up to that bistro and our table will be waiting for us. And not only that – we’ll expect good service and good food out of that experience. So why is it, when we pray for our trials, our hopes, our transgressions, we follow that with worry, strife, and fear? Add to that a little dose of “what else can I do because praying is simply not enough”. Where’s the expectation? Why is it lost here?
I am completely guilty of this. There are many times I find myself wondering if God is really, I mean really, hearing my prayer and then following it with an answer. I think things like, Maybe it’s not as important as the other prayers He’s listening to. How will I know if he answers? If I don’t get the answer I want, then does God truly care about my ‘ask’? And the dialogue goes on and on and on.
Expect that He will hear.
A few years ago, a trial in which I was walking alongside a close friend* presented a major shift in prayer to me. We sat for weeks in the PICU of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after what was supposed to be a very standard, simple procedure. My friend’s son had complications shortly following, and that standard procedure turned life-threatening. We almost lost this sweet boy a couple of times. Amidst the ‘whys’ and ‘how will this end’ and lots and lots of tears, was unceasing prayer. I vividly recall praying non-stop during this time – everywhere I could, with every ounce of energy I had, in any space I found. I prayed for God to be present, to save this sweet boy of ours, and to restore his health. After several days of praying and pleading with God, something hit me. Sitting under the warmth of the sun as I was praying on a bench outside of my office building, I received a nudge from God, reminding me of His power. I shifted from praying about restoring little Jacob to health, to literally praising God for the work He was doing and the health that was to be restored. I prayed with expectancy. I prayed with the confidence that God was going to deliver precisely what we were pleading. Did I still have a nagging fear that possibly the prayer wouldn’t be answered in the way I wanted? Of course. But I had a great peace – peace that surpassed understanding – in knowing and expecting that God was in the driver’s seat and would navigate us through this trial with an outcome we could handle. And God assured me in that moment that outcome was one we all wanted.
I read recently that God would not give us the means (i.e. prayer) to receive blessings if there were no blessings to receive. 1 John 5:14-15 assures us “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (Emphasis mine.)
Expect that we will receive.
In Acts 12, we find Peter sitting in prison and undoubtedly nervous while awaiting his execution by King Herod. Verse 5 tells us that the church was “earnestly praying to God for him”, but imagine how many of them must have felt. They had just witnessed James’ execution, so one could easily conclude Peter had an inevitable fate. Nonetheless, they prayed because they expected that God would hear their prayers. Not only did God make it apparent that he heard those prayers and indeed delivered Peter, he did so in a miraculous and extraordinary way. He sent an angel to wake Peter in the night and lead him out of the prison. Peter himself could not believe what was happening. He thought it was all a dream. And he couldn’t wait to share the news of the miracle with his friends.
I love how the church’s immediate response when they knew Peter was captured and was to be executed, was to pray that God would deliver him, even when it seemed inevitable. God wants us to seek Him and he wants us to expect he will be there for us, even when it seems inevitable. With MORE expectancy than you have walking into a restaurant expecting good food and good service. After all, he is our Heavenly Father and loves us more than we can fathom.
Expect that He will be suffient.
But what happens when God doesn’t give us the answer we want?
God also wants us to find him sufficient. We shouldn’t always expect we will get the answer we want, but we should expect he will be sufficient. When Paul begged the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh, he shared, Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 8-10)
In her Desiring God blog, Vaneetha Rendall Risner shared “God wanted me to find him sufficient in the midst of trouble rather than just demanding that he deliver me from it. And I found God more than sufficient as I met with him daily in Scripture and in prayer. His word became exceedingly precious to me. It brought light to my darkness. It became life to me.”
“Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in the hard times; pray all the harder.” (Romans 12:12)
Rendell trusts and expects that God is preparing her for something greater.
Expect that He will answer.
God hears us and wants us to have the confidence and expectation that He listens to and will answer our prayers. There are countless verses where we are assured of this (Mark 11:23-24, John 15:7, John 14:13-14, Romans 4:20-21, Psalm 34:15).
After spending weeks upon weeks in the PICU at Children’s, Jacob was finally discharged and today is a thriving, healthy, nine-year-old. That time will forever be marked by the presence and grace of God and His miraculous healing hands. And as life continues to hand us trials, I am expectant that God will be sufficient, he will hear, and he will answer my prayers. And I’m human, so I too often need to be reminded of this! Please join me in prayer for just that:
Lord, I thank you that even as we come to you in prayer, you already know exactly what we need, and you will be sufficient for us in our times of need. Father, I’m sorry that I often find myself trying to be sufficient on my own, and putting myself on the throne instead of you. I’m grateful knowing that I can lean into you to guide me as I navigate the twists and turns of life – the exciting highs and the dreadful lows – and I pray that you make your presence known throughout it all. I pray that I can come to you with more expectancy, and that I can feel confidence and peace in knowing that you are indeed sufficient. In your glorious Son’s name I pray. Amen.