We all have times when we feel like our prayers are just bouncing around somewhere up in the atmosphere, just not hitting the mark of God's listening ear. It isn't uncommon to interpret God's delay in "answering" our prayer as him not listening. In fact, if we were honest, we probably could admit to our having just gone ahead in our own plans simply because we thought the heavens were "brass" and we were left all on our own to figure things out. We don't realize a delay in answering is also God's way of answering! In the delay, there is something of trust built - something most of us don't want to learn because we have to step out of our comfort zone a little when we have to wait upon God's timing. When his timing isn't ours, or the answer isn't even remotely close to what we "want", we often think God just plain is not there to help us in the matter. David has much to teach us about prayer - his heart continually crying out to God for some manner of intervention. Even when he did wrong, he cried out - unafraid of facing God despite his bad behavior. Why? He had learned to trust God with the care of his life - something each of us could stand to take a lesson in!
Please listen, Lord, and answer my prayer! I am poor and helpless. Protect me and save me because you are my God. I am your faithful servant, and I trust you. Be kind to me! I pray to you all day. Make my heart glad! I serve you, and my prayer is sincere. You willingly forgive, and your love is always there for those who pray to you. Please listen, Lord! Answer my prayer for help. When I am in trouble, I pray, knowing you will listen. (Psalm 86:1-7 CEV)
David isn't without a little conflict in his prayers, though. There are clearly times when we almost pleads with God to listen to him - not because he thinks God has turned on the "off-duty" sign - but because he is probably having a hard time hearing what God wants him to do. This is most often the cause of our frustration in prayer - we just don't "hear"! It always amazes me how loudly we cry out for God to "listen" when all along he is simply saying we need to "hear". Even in the unspoken, there is a message! He isn't any less our protector or Savior. He isn't any less our hope or shield. He remains all he is despite our seeming inability to hear what he is saying.
David's prayer tells us much about our own attitude and posture in prayer. Let's look a little deeper:
- Please listen and answer. A repeated plea for God to listen - but how is it evident that God "listened" - in his answering the prayer. In human communication, when we ask someone something, what do we expect? Answers, right? If they just sat there and stared at us, or looked off into the distance with seeming indifference to us, we'd be put off by their lack of engagement in the conversation. We want to know the one we are speaking with is engaged in our lives. We "gauge" involvement or engagement by how they respond. Similarly, we approach God in the same manner - if he is engaged, he will answer - a delayed answer suggests to us he is not engaged! Silly us - it is impossible for God to not be attentive to our requests - he just may allow some time between the request and the answer to help us to see where our hearts are in the matter!
- I am poor, helpless, needing your protection and forgiveness, and I get into trouble. Honestly, can you ever hear yourself saying these exact same things? I do! I often remind not only God, but myself, about my need for his protection and certainly I cry out often enough for his forgiveness. I definitely recognize when I lack whatever I need for the situation (a state of being poor), and that I manage to get myself into some pretty smelly pickles at times! David isn't just telling God what he needs or desires, he is using his prayers as a way of exposing his own heart in the matter. It often happens in prayer - we set out to lay out our concern to God and in the course of our prayer, something within our hearts gets "exposed". It might be a little hint at some area where we need to have a little work done or an area where we honestly have to admit we are not trusting God, but our own ability.
- Be kind to me, make my heart glad, and let me experience your love. In every prayer, we count on God's grace to be extended. We look to him for kindness - graciousness. We expect him to lift our hearts out of the mully-grubs. We want to experience the depths of his love - knowing the comfort of his arms and the protection of his presence. We expect "action" on God's part, don't we? After all, "be", "make", and "let" are all action words! As David, we want God to "be" all he is in our lives. We expect God to "make" things as they should be and in turn, we expect our hearts will be lifted into gladness at the outcome. We long for the God to touch our emotions - so we will not only "believe" in his love, but luxuriate in the experience of it.
- My prayer is sincere. Does it catch you by surprise that David would remind God he is being "serious" in prayer? This is just part of us dealing with God's silence - we want him to know we aren't messing around when we are bringing our needs to him and we "need" him to listen. Somehow we think if we remind God about how sincere or serious we are being, this will give a little more "umph" to the prayer! Interestingly enough, God isn't put off by us having to convince him of our sincerity - but I think he may just delay the answer sometimes to help us become a little more "sincere" in our walk! Just sayin!