That’s right, pray. Then wait. Then pray some more.
All too often our pragmatic “can-do” cultural attitude says get off your butt, wipe those tears and show them who’s boss by making lemonade out of a painful or disappointing situation. The problem is, on the surface it appears the making lemonade approach seems to work. After all, who really likes to wait for an answered prayer? I hate waiting. I once waited in line for a ride at an amusement park for over 2 hours, only for the ride to break down when I was steps away from getting on. What a waste of my life, I thought!
Our approach to prayer is much of the same. Why spend this time asking God for his will in the situation when I can muster up all the will-power, good vibes, and happy thoughts under the sun, all the while cranking my favorite playlist through my earbuds as I drown out the depressive thoughts? Clearly I can move forward in my life faster by making lemonade rather than by praying. But that’s the first lie we believe. We believe that by our doing, acting and will-power, we can overcome anything that comes our way. And just because we seemingly appear to have overcome it, then we assume it’s the best and healthiest means of achieving success over our misfortunes. The truth is, we are emotional beings who are designed to mourn, suffer and reflect, just as much as we are made to create and thrive.
In Acts 1:12-23, we encounter the eleven remaining Apostles who are mourning the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. How did they mourn? By praying while waiting. They were waiting for God’s next big move. Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5), “the helper” as he referred to it in the gospels. But who really want’s to wait for this so-called “helper” when I can simply help myself? The Apostles knew they were unable to help themselves. The threat of crucifixion for being associated with Jesus was a real possibility, but they also knew what they had witnessed and experienced over the last three years could not be hidden or forgotten about. They were given a mission and a purpose, even if it would cost them their life. Clearly, they needed a supernatural helper.
Waiting is a natural part of life. We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait in the doctor’s office, and we wait for our food to be cooked and prepared before eating (that is assuming you’re not eating at Chipotle). But in contrast, our consumerist western society has made billions of dollars in profits by telling us that fast, instant, no-waiting service and access to virtually anything we want at any time is the better way to a successful and happy existence. The claim is that the more we wait, the less productive we are. This is the second lie.
The truth is just the opposite – we are far more productive when we pray and when we wait. In the case of the Apostles, they gathered together and “were constantly united in prayer” (Acts 1:14). During their waiting period, with the Lord’s help, they chose a replacement for Judas as the twelfth Apostle with unanimous consensuses. They also didn’t miss the miraculous event when the Holy Spirit was given to them collectively at one place and time (Acts 2:1-12). Imagine the blessings and opportunities that are missed when we choose not to pray and wait on the Lord, instead exchanging them for cheap, easy-street counterfeits of success and joy.
Our actions reveal the true nature of our heart. When we choose to spend more time before the Creator in the midst of our pains, struggles and difficult decisions, we reveal that we trust the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including our humble circumstances.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7)