THERE WAS A TIME WHEN I HATED THE CLICHÉS that came with being single—indeed, I also richly remember a friend in a similar situation being equally annoyed. What exactly does it mean when Bible verses are taken out of context and given as glib “encouragements” to hold out hope for impending romance? It’s funny though, I distinctly recall dishing out these plastic platitudes more than once myself!
More to the point, just how are we to be patient—hoping the desires of our hearts will be heard or even answered; in sum, our prayers?
This is not an easy question to answer. Cliché responses just don’t cut it as we pretend that we know the answers and we can dispense them as a pharmacy doles out medications.
Trouble is we get the answer or advice dead wrong 99 percent of the time. We aren’t God and never will be.
I don’t know about you but it seems life is full of hard questions that are near-on impossible to answer (and this, if nothing else, demands faith of us). And I genuinely think being patient with our prayers is one of these. Most people, most of the time will not have their prayers answered the way they’d like, period.
So, ‘What good is God if he doesn’t answer my prayers?’ I hear some of you ask.
We’re getting the cart before the horse for starters. God’s not some wishing tree. Answering prayers is not his ‘core business.’ Sure, we’re to pray and seek him on the things we want, but prayer is more fundamental than that. Prayer, for me, is about fitting my expectations to the reality I find myself in—it’s an inside-out job indirectly to joy and therefore peace.
The hardest bit about these issues is our concept of God is ripped up and destroyed as we recognise that God doesn’t exist simply to please us. If everyone got what they wanted what sort of world would we live in? Hardly anyone would work for starters and our societies as we know them would crumble as a result.
We find, however, that when we finally put God’s will first in our lives, finally our prayers are being answered because God’s conformed our thinking to his—at last, joy!
Praying for Patience
The less we think of ourselves in life the more happiness we get. This is a basic premise that works all the time. Self-pity is the first way to drudgery of the heart, helplessness and hopelessness. Not a place anyone wants to visit for any length of time!
If we desire more patience—and therefore, more peace—we should desire opportunities to practice patience i.e. being patient. Patience, like all virtue, is therefore a habit.
Praying for patience is something that is a healthy and holy desire that, when we do it often enough, can’t help but filter through us. This is how prayer works most often.
Sure, there are prayers that work in the miraculous realm, but by far the most common of our prayers should be about our own characters and responses to situations.
Prayer (in this context): it’s an inside-out job.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.