It’s easy to pray when God answers our prayers the way we want Him to.
I prayed for a spouse for a long time, and after a 3-year drought, I met a woman I really liked. But as I prayed, I sensed the Lord told me to wait. I didn’t understand, but within a few weeks, both of us literally moved in different directions with new jobs, new places to live on opposite sides of the world.
Praying became more difficult. Why would God say “wait” and then seem to say “no?”
Was God even answering this prayer?
Sometimes my prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and God is silent. For example, I having been praying for friends and family to know Jesus for decades, but nothing seems to be happening.
Recently I was reminded, “God's Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). God directs my path. He lights my way. His ways are clear and purposeful. The devil’s ways are confusing and purposeless. When I am frustrated in my prayer life, I can be encouraged by how God answered prayer in the Bible.
In Chapter 16 of Acts, God said “No” to Paul and Silas when they wanted to go to Asia to preach the gospel. But He said, Yes to them going to Macedonia.
“They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.
A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10).
Sometimes we pray for something to happen and God answers our request immediately, yet we have a hard time believing it. That’s what happened in Acts 12. It describes how the Christians were praying for Peter’s release from prison, but when it happened they didn’t believe it.
“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5).
“When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.
When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison” (Acts 12:11-17).
Do you get discouraged when God says “Wait” or “No?” Remember that He knows what He is doing. Remember that the most important thing is that God values us having a conversation with Him. Cornelius’ interaction with an angel explains how God views prayer.
“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:1-4).
For me, the season of “No” and “Wait” felt hard and confusing. But soon God said, “Go,” and 2 years later, I was marrying my wife.
Has your view of prayer changed after reading more about prayer in Acts?
Consider creating a prayer journal to record the date you started praying a certain petition, how God answered and when. Even when God says, No, may you be encouraged because He knows what is best.
Rich began his journalism career as a newspaper correspondent for his local paper in Ohio. He covered city council meetings, wrote features and took photos. Rich served with Worldwide Challenge magazine from 2008-2016. Now, he writes field reports for another Cru ministry. Contact Rich at Rich.Atkinson@isponline.org.
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