The location was an undisclosed country in the Middle East. The time was in my early college years (also sensitive information, though for a different reason). The goal was to experience another culture while assisting longer term workers in their ministry on college campuses. It was half way through our trip and it was time to travel to another city to do a little reconnaissance work. Our mission was to “decode” a new campus. In other words we needed to figure out where the campus was (the team before us never found it), how people got in (it was told that foreigners are typically not allowed on campus), if students were living on campus, what subjects were studied there, how big the campus was, and how many students studied there. We also needed to find out the religious climate of the campus, talk to students, find out if there were English speakers there, and try to gauge the overall feel of the campus. At all times we were to pray for God to break through and shine His light in a dark land.
This could be one coincidence after another. Our success could be the result of being in a country with friendly people who wanted to welcome us warmly. It could be, but it wasn’t. Our team had been praying about this for days. The team before us had been praying. The long term workers had been praying for breakthrough in this new location. God had a plan and I was blessed and honored to be a small part of it. Our prayers were small potatoes compared to what God did. We never imagined such openness and favor, yet that’s what we found. Ephesians 3:20-21 were very special verses to me before this experience and in the years since have become even more special as I continue to see God work in amazing ways. The ESV reads, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” The Message puts it this way, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us (3:20).”
Our prayers are so small. God’s plans are big; His plan is for the redemption of His creation. He desires for all to come to know Him. When we are asking for something that we know God desires, something that is already part of His plan, why do we use words that are feeble? Sometimes we pray in a way that allows us to not be disappointed if God doesn’t answer. We pray in a way that will give God an “out” if He doesn’t answer the way we think He should. God doesn’t need an “out” and He doesn’t play games.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” We can approach God with boldness, especially when we are asking Him for things that are in accordance with His will. God hears our prayers and He can do far more than we could ever request, even in our wildest dreams! He does this through His power that is at work within us. God doesn’t do this to appease our every whim. He does it for His glory; His glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations – that’s us!
There are a few things that we need to remember as we boldly approach the throne of God. We must remember that God’s ways are usually not the way we would do things. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” We can, and should, boldly approach God with the things that are on our heart. That being said, we also need to let God answer the way that He knows is best. God alone sees the big picture. He knows what needs to be done to accomplish His plans on earth and how we fit into those plans. We need to trust God and His love for us.
We must also remember that God’s timetable is much different than ours. 2 Peter 3:8-9 reminds us to “…not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
I know that each of us would love to wake up tomorrow morning and find that our body has been healed; no more pain, no more fatigue, no more tears, no more doctors, no more tests. For some of us that may happen and if it does Praise the Lord! For most of us, that won’t happen, but you know what? We still need to praise the Lord! We praise God with the knowledge that He hears our prayers and is answering them in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. He’s answering them in ways that bring glory and honor to His Name. He’s answering them in ways that fit beautifully into His plan for the world.
My challenge to you is to pray boldly, expect big things, and look for the ways God is working. It may be as obvious as a secret mission accomplished with ease, or it may be more difficult to discern, such as a softer heart, a greater love for others, and a deeper relationship with your Creator.
(c) December 18, 2012