But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16
I rarely go to the theater, but back in the fall, my husband and some friends drug me to see the War Room. Recently, I re-watched the movie as our church played it during an evening worship service (don’t worry, they paid the license fees).
In the movie, Priscilla Shirer’s character, Elizabeth, is faced with a failing marriage. She then meets up with an older woman, Clara, who takes Elizabeth under her wing and teaches her about specific, strategic prayer. Although Elizabeth is reluctant at first, she begins to fight the battle for her marriage on her knees in her prayer closet (the War Room). Of course, in true Hollywood fashion, the ending was positive and the marriage was saved.
Both times, as I watched, I thought of the hundreds of women at Picket Fences whose prayers to save their marriages were not answered in the way they would have liked. I am pretty sure that my reaction to this movie would have been way different many years ago, as I was going through my divorce. In 1999, when my X husband gave me the I-don’t-love-you-I-never-have-I-want-out-of-the-marriage speech, I can assure you that I prayed fervently for months on end that my marriage would be saved; however, obviously my prayers were not answered in the way I wanted at the time.
Did I have faith? I would like to think so.
Was I sincere? Oh, man, oh, man, oh man….YES!
Did I pray the right way? I don’t know. I’m sure I made mistakes, but I would like to think that I was praying for God’s will to be done. I had been under solid biblical teachings all of my life and I had married a missionary/pastor…I have a degree from a Christian university. I would like to think that, during all of that ‘schooling’, I had learned ‘proper prayer techniques’.
Did God answer my prayers? Yes. In His time.
So, what do we do when our prayers are not answered? (the way we want them to be answered) Well, first, we must remember that God hears the cries of His children. Yes, God is listening and He does hear us. When I was abandoned by my X and cried out in the middle of the night with pangs of suffering that were deeper than I had ever known, God was there. He saw each tear (and there were plenty).
Having a prayer room is not a magic pill. We have to remember that God is not a genie in a bottle. It is not His job to sit up there and just grant us everything we request.
We must remember that God knows the whole picture. We are only viewing our circumstances from our limited viewpoint.
We must also realize that Time spent in prayer is to change us, not to change others. I was so glad that this movie also brought out this point because we KNOW that just because someone PRAYS HARDER doesn’t mean they will be granted their request. I mean, if that were true, then would there ever be a winner between two Christian school sports teams? Obviously, both are praying….but God isn’t up there going, Oh, yes, that team is praying HARDER, so I’ll let them win! No. It doesn’t work like that.
Time in prayer is time with God. It is not just asking the same thing over and over…it is spending time….meditating in His Word, praising Him, confession, worship, supplication….AND listening. In the movie, Elizabeth came to a point where she realized that her JOY came from The Lord, regardless of the outcome of her marriage. She learned where her strength was and she knew where it was NOT: her man, career, money or daughter. Her joy was in The Lord. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In the movie, Elizabeth’s marriage was saved, but remember that her husband, Tony, had to make that deliberate choice to follow The Lord. Reconciliation takes two. I would like to think that, with her new-found joy, Elizabeth would have been OK if Tony had made different choices. Many times, a fervently praying spouse is faced with the reality that their marriage is going to end.
A little over four years ago, I met with several other ladies as we labored in prayer in an effort to save our church. I mean: we honking PRAYED like we had never done before. We did not want to see our church die. Unfortunately, in the end this did not happen, God did not come in and save our church, and several hundred of us were scattered around to various other church bodies in the community. Could we have prayer harder? Well, I’m sure we could have, but I know that I prayed as I had never prayed before. Even though that church, as we knew it, essentially died, my relationship with The Lord was awesome. I got to know Him better than I had ever known Him before. That, friends, is what helped me during my transition to the new church, which is more than I had ever imagined. Prayer changes us. As we become more intimate with The Father, the more we learn to see things through His eyes and look at our circumstances with a heavenly viewpoint.
The Apostle Paul prayed many times for God to remove his thorn in the flesh (probably some physical ailment). King David fasted and prayed for God to spare the life of his infant son born to him and Bathsheba. Jesus prayed that if it were His Father’s will that the cup (of death) be taken from Him. In all of these instances, God did not grant their request. In all of these instances, though, these guys (well, especially Jesus because He is God) realized that God was in control and they were not and that God knew what He was doing, and they totally an completely trusted Him.
In regard to our prayers, I’ve been taught that they are always answered with the following: yes, no, and WAIT. The “wait” is the toughest.
These things we KNOW:
God is always here.
God is always in control
God is always at work.
God’s love never fails.