I’ve Prayed So Long!
It sounds like a complaint – even an accusation – when people sigh, “I’ve prayed for so long already! So long, for a…” and the sentence is finished off with the object of their desire. Those who have struggled a good deal may have an entire list of things they have prayed for.
Does God hear?
This is the fearful complaint of many who do not receive the answer to prayer for which they long so deeply. They have prayed for such a long time, with such intensity – but it seems to be fruitless. No change comes. Everything remains the same. And they become anxious.
There are also those who all too quickly insist that God does not hear prayer, and so they don’t even consider asking for anything else. They are of the opinion that prayer makes no difference. Whatever happens, happens. And God, if He even exists, does not interfere with anything. It’s up to people to try to make the best of life. It’s up to them to live responsibly. They would rather work hard than pray senselessly. Prayer is a waste of time.
Not everyone speaks in such a way. In the church community you can come across serious people who have experienced much difficulty with prayer. Not with prayer as such, but with the question as to whether God hears prayer. They, too, wonder why nothing seems to change, especially when they have prayed at great length for something or someone.
Surely it is okay to pray for the conversion of your child. For godly fruit in your husband. For spiritual renewal within the church. For the spiritual growth of the congregation. For all such things! Then why don’t these things happen?
Has God forsaken us?
When all your prayers make no difference, can you conclude that God doesn’t hear? That He has forsaken us? This question isn’t even needed if you keep in mind that God has promised never to fail or abandon His church. But is this the right train of thought? In the Old Testament you see more than once that it does speak of abandonment by God, because the people abandoned Him first. You can even read about the dissatisfaction and wrath of God. You cannot continue to live in sin and then think that God will still hear your prayers. God is a holy God who doesn’t let people pray to him “just like that.” The LORD sometimes calls out, “Let us first speak together about justice. There must be repentance before I will hear your prayer.”
In our personal lives, but also in congregational life, we may certainly ask ourselves whether the LORD has abandoned us, and for what reasons. Self-examination can in this way lead to sanctification.
As churches we can end up in such impossible situations that it feels as though the LORD has indeed forsaken us. Do we ever ponder where this feeling may come from?
In the letter to the Corinthians we read about terrible things, for it was not going well in this church. We should ask ourselves if we are really on the right path. For the LORD goes through level fields!
Does God test us?
It is not a simple thing to answer the question as to whether God hears our prayers, when we consider that God may in fact be testing us. He does put us to the test. Sometimes the church has to write an entire ‘exam’, and comes out of the experience stronger than before.
So it is a period of persisting in prayer, as He reminds us to do more than once in His Word. Satan wants us to believe that God doesn’t hear us, and he goes on to persuade us that prayer has no function and is useless. But that is the very time it is so important to pray without ceasing – to wait upon the LORD – even when everything remains dark and we see no path, no way out.
Didn’t Augustine’s mother pray for her son for many years? And she isn’t the only one who has continuously called out to the LORD. There are parents who have spent a lifetime praying for their unrepentant children, and they died before knowing the results of these prayers.
So it is a real test to continue in prayer. Not only when it’s about your children or grandchildren. There are many and various times of testing, to the point that, if God had not held on to you, you would have collapsed. If I had not believed….
What God promises
We may call upon the LORD on the basis of His once-given Word. We may, with all that is within us, pray for the fulfillment of God’s promises. If that were not the case, you wouldn’t know what to pray for. And you wouldn’t know that God hears prayer. God hears our prayers in His time and in His own manner. God owes us nothing, but He cannot deny His Word. He is true and that gives us courage to pray. It gives great boldness, so that Moses could pray, “LORD, what else would you do with your Name!”
With God’s trustworthiness before our eyes, we may boldly pray for the fulfillment of God’s promises, for each of us and for His entire church.
Before we pray we can lay God’s promises before our eyes and so we may also remind God of them.
In short, we may pray for the fulfillment of His promises, which He has sealed for us at our baptism. We may pray with all urgency for Him to be our Father and care for us, as He has promised. On the basis of what the Son promised, we may pray with all that is within us for Him to cover our sins with His blood. We may plead with the Holy Spirit to live and work in us, just as He promised at our baptism. So we may flee to the Three-in-One God for the fulfillment of His promises for our (grand)children.
He will remember and uphold His covenant made in days of old!
This article was translated by Angela Blok.