By Faith Cho —
Today is National Day of Prayer! How can we curate sustaining a healthy prayer life in light of past disappointments? When I was a little girl, I sought after God in the quietness of my room. I would bundle up in a blanket, stare into the darkness and whisper, “ God, if you’re there, please show me something.” I would lie there for about five minutes, fully attentive for any sort of light show or grandiose response. After about ten minutes of uneventful silence, I would usually drift asleep. After a few months, I stopped asking. I guess I began to feel that if God truly were out there, He did not seem to care to respond to the likes of me.
I never really resolved the disappointment of my childhood prayers being unanswered. In my reasoning, I wondered why an almighty and powerful God would not find it worth His while to answer the prayers of a young child right in that instance. In due time, the Lord did make Himself known to me in very obvious ways. However, it took a while for me to take hold of the discipline of prayer.
When our prayers are met with silence, it’s discouraging. Sometimes, the opposite of your prayers can happen, and boy, does that make you feel rejected by God.
The revelation of what had happened actually came to me as I became a parent. I realized that God does answer all prayers. But, He has a deeper purpose to His answers. He does not answer to merely give us what we want in that moment. He answers to give us what we desire in our lifetime.
It is the same as when my children ask for sugary cereal or another episode of television. As a parent, I care about their everyday wants. However, even more than that, I care about their lifetime desires. I know they would want to grow up to be healthy, powerful adults. I keep these deeper, greater wants in my heart as I decide how to cater to their immediate requests.
The same is also witnessed in history. Hannah wanted a son. Every year, she went to worship God with her husband and his other wife’s family (1 Samuel 1). Year after year, she stood in front of His presence with no child by her side. I can imagine how much it hurt to wait, especially as the other wife provoked her. In those moments, you may wonder if God even hears your prayers. Is He some sort of sadistic teacher that is hoping that you learn something good from the torture you feel?
God’s silence was not a sign of rejection. It was a sign of a deeper preparation at work – a deeper preparation to fulfill a greater purpose.
One day, the time was right, and Hannah’s heart exploded with a new level of surrender (1 Samuel 1:9-14). She asked again for a son, and she dedicated this son unto Him. The fruit of this moment was a boy named Samuel, a prophet that changed the spiritual atmosphere of Israel.
God wanted to give Hannah what she wanted in that moment. However, He waited so that He could give her what she desired in her lifetime, which was to be a part of Redemption History.
The prophet Samuel would later anoint King David, who was the predecessor to Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. We can know for sure that God had this in mind, because at the end of it all, Hannah prayed with her own lips, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed,” — a direct reference to the coming Messiah. It is also the first mention of the Messiah as king in the Bible. It was the most unique and powerful revelation of its time, a time when the Hebrew people did not have a king.
I have watched jobless people remain jobless for longer they would have wanted. I have contended for cancer patients who have remained sick. Sometimes people pray for peace within the home, and things get worse for a time. But, now I know. I know…that I know… that I know – God is always answering. He cares about the desires that are behind my prayers. In fact, He cares about them so much, that He answers in His way and by His time. Therefore, I give Him praise — always.
And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:15)