I arose one morning to my early prayer time with crowds of questions and requests on my mind for the Lord. After greeting Him with a few perfunctory praises and thanksgivings (although I was sincere, I rushed through them in order to get to the items on my agenda), I began to unleash my arsenal upon God, increasingly frustrated because as I prayed I could not discern any particular leading in regard to my queries nor even much encouragement for simply persevering.
I hate to admit that I left that time more or less annoyed with the Lord, feeling bereft of wisdom and empowerment that I felt I needed to face the issues that I had presented Him.
After breakfast I completed a few tasks that required attention, but then hastened back to some more time with God in prayer and His Word so I could renew my imploring. I was identifying with Habakkuk a little bit as I felt sorry for myself.
“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You ‘Violence!’ and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2 ESV).
But as I finally began to settle down and be quiet in that time, letting the noisy and clamorous thoughts fade away, I was struck by the realization that far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me. Instances from the Bible in which the Lord asked questions of His child came to me and reminded me that my worrying and struggling (evidenced in my ongoing pleas to God to “work in this situation” and “move in that situation”) were the discordant notes of a fellowship with God that still needed much fine tuning.
“Son of man, can these bones live?” (from Ezekiel 37:3); “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (from Isaiah 6:8); “What are you doing here?” (from 1 Kings 19:8); “What is that in your hand?” (from Exodus 3:2); “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (from Genesis 18:14); “Where is your brother?” (from Genesis 4:9); and “Where are you?” (from Genesis 3:9). These and countless other passages chronicle the Holy One’s engagement of someone nearly lost in his or her circumstances and/or guilt, working to overcome each one’s near-sighted sensibilities so that he or she could walk in harmony with His love and will.
Thus I am reminded that the point of my quiet time with Him in prayer and mediation of His Word is not so much about struggling with Him in the tempests of doubt that are my questions and anxieties, but is rather about listening heartily to Him so that He can shape and direct my will according to His own.
“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (from John 6:5); “Does this offend you?” (from John 6:61); “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (from John 6:67); “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” (from John 6:70); and “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (from John 8:10) are all questions that the Lord Jesus asked of those whose lives He had drawn into relationship with Himself. And in each case, the question was asked, not because Jesus did not know the answer, but to redirect the spiritual eyes of His child.
The better thing to do then in our prayer time is to discard our habit of volleying question after question and request after request to the Lord. Petitions and intercessions have their place, but let them come after we have given God His time, and the opportunity of speaking first to us. As we learn to listen for His voice we will discover that many of our own questions will be answered, or perhaps that they were non-issues to begin with.
“Why are you worried, my child?” He may say to one. “What need have I revealed to you do I now wish to answer through you?” He may say to another. “I have been faithful to death for you; will you now be faithful to Me in front of your friends?” He might ask of another. What question might He be asking of you even now in your life? Is He asking something of you? Sometimes He awaits a direct response of obedience from us.
But the questions that God asks are sometimes unanswerable (at least by us – as attested to in many that He asked Job), but they still have a point and a valuable treasure within them if we will patiently trust the One Who asked them. Rest assured: what we do not know, He knows; what we cannot see, He sees; where we are weak and afraid, His strength is more than enough to sustain us and grant us victory in all that He has asked of us.
Seek now to turn a listening ear to God and learn the joy of trusting and obeying Him! Let Him speak and lead you through what would otherwise be an overpowering jungle out there! Let your strength be renewed by the confidence that God is Master of all creation and that His agenda is to draw you deeply into His love!
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at [email protected].)