Friday, September 16, 2011

Keep Praying

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 16 Sep 2011

Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17)

Have you ever prayed but felt that God is slow in answering your prayers? Have you ever prayed for a loved one to come to Jesus, but to no avail? Have you ever fasted and interceded for someone in your family to get right with God, but nothing seems to be happening?

You are not alone. This is one of the biggest mysteries surrounding prayer. Does prayer work? Is prayer hallucination? For all the questions and all the uncertainties, all it takes is one clear answer, and like smoke evaporating into the sky, the doubts will clear up. In the meantime, we need to learn to pray. We need to cultivate holy waiting. We need to practice spiritual mindfulness that God will work according to His good time. One of the most intriguing verses in the Bible is the one on prayer, where Peter writes about the Lord’s patient work.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

I like to draw attention to three things in this passage. Firstly, it is not our time but God's time. The Scripture tells us that time is determined by the Lord. We can plan our ways, but it is the Lord who directs. We can structure our time schedules, but it is the Lord who decides. We can try to move things along, but it is the Lord who dictates. We can move bodies, but it is the Lord who moves hearts. The Lord moves by His Spirit. We need to move in step with the Spirit, primarily in prayer.

Secondly, what is slow to man is not slow to God. If we acknowledge that time is in God's hands, our definition of 'slowness' takes on a whole new meaning. Think about how our impatience has brought more trouble. Think about how foolish it is to overtake the car in front of us, only to be stopped at the next traffic junction a block away. Think about the frustrations inside us, when our version of fast, is not fast enough for our bosses. It is not slow or fast but timely that matters. A friend of mine said this to me many years ago that has stayed with me.

"God is seldom early, never late, but always on time."

Thirdly, God wants the maximum number of people to come to repentance. He does not pick and choose. He pleads and waits for people to choose him. Now, I am not talking about any doctrine of predestination which teaches about God pre-determining who will be saved or not saved. That doctrine can be dealt with at another time, and another place. What it means here is that God loved the world so much, that He gives ample opportunities, fairly, and openly to all to choose Him.

Let me close with a story.

Lee Strobel shares about one of his amazing experiences of the movement of God. One beautiful day, he was performing a baptism for one of his faithful members of the church. In the midst of baptizing a 60-year old woman, he saw a man seated next to her, about a number of years older. The man looked tough and hard.

Looking at the old woman, Strobel asked the formal question whether she wanted to be baptized. She said yes, joyfully. Brimming with joy, she said yes to receiving Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. She said yes to receiving Jesus with her whole heart. She said yes to following Jesus the rest of her life. All of a sudden, something moved Strobel to turn his eyes on the old man.

“Have you given your life to Jesus?”

Stunned with the sudden attention on him, the old man softened his stance. He paused a moment before bursting out, “No, I haven’t, but I want to right now.

Strobel later reflected on the experience, and found out that the old man is the brother of the a female church member. This member had been praying for nine years. Strobel thought to himself:

Nine years. … Here is a woman who is glad she didn’t stop praying in year eight.” (Lee Strobel, The Unexpected Adventure, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, p149)

We all want results. We like control. Yet, spiritual work cannot be controlled by our own worldly plans or fleshly desires. Spiritual work needs to be done in God’s way according to God’s perfect timing. When we pray, we are participating in the spiritual work of God. When we pray, God tills the soil in the hearts of men. When we pray, God waters the seed of faith. When we pray, God fertilizes the growth of heart’s openness. When we pray, God enables trust to increase, and doubts to surrender to faith.

Never give up on others, for God never gives up on us. Keep praying.


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