Time to stop praying? Is there ever a time to stop praying?
Most of the time we think that God has a couple of options for answering our prayers, not unlike parents might answer their children’s requests:
But when you think about it, that’s not really how God works, is it? Particularly on the “Yes” side of the equation. Let’s delve deeper.
3. Yes, but not now.
4. Yes, but not like you were thinking.
My experience of God’s answers to prayer far more frequently fall into the 3rd and 4th categories. I sometimes wonder if even the 1st option, no, is actually more often a 3 or 4, in disguise.
After 4 Comes 5
And then there’s the 5th option, of which I am very well acquainted. Are you ready for it? Okay, then. Here you go:
What do you think of it?
What do you mean, you don’t know what to think of it? What’s not to understand? Fine. I’ll repeat it:
Oh, I get it. You were expecting to see something written in that space, right? Both times. Well, it is there.
The 5th option God has is silence. The non-answer answer.
When Prayer Takes One For The Team
In Exodus 14, we see at least one clear indication of when God moves from option 5–silence–and tells his people to stop praying. In fact, we see God actually gets tired of the “crying out” by the Israelites, so Moses is instructed to get the folks off of their knees and MOVING. Right after Moses has told everyone to be still.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in there about a heavenly operational procedure: MOVE.
This isn’t to say that prayer, as such, is an unworthy enterprise. Hardly. Scripture is full–FULL–of commendations to prayer.
In The Quiet Hours Of Praying
Nevertheless, for much of my faith journey, God’s principal reply to my prayers has been with the 5th option. In the history of the church, this has not been uncommon. But in the age of cable television and streaming worship services, one could too easily conclude that God is like a cosmic Amazon or eBay, where our prayers work like orders in His cue. We pray; miracles result. God is at work.
But moving forward when the path is unclear and the answers ephemeral, that’s difficult. And sometimes, like with Moses and the Israelites, that’s exactly what’s expected of us. It just doesn’t play well on television.
What’s your story? Have you had periods of silence to your praying? Long periods? What have you learned during these times?