At times the frustration of praying the same prayer repeatedly grows to the point where I’m ready to stop praying. Have you ever been there? Maybe you feel like you live there, seemingly stuck in an endless cycle of praying, asking, seeking, knocking, listening, waiting, wondering, working, etc… Put that cycle on repeat for several weeks, months or even years and the process can be frustrating to say the least.
I get it now more than ever before. At times, our season of transition seems to be going nowhere much faster than somewhere. Am I stuck in weird, spiritual version of Groundhog Day?
I stumbled upon some thoughts about prayer and waiting that I had preached at the close of a weekend retreat called Road Trip a little over a year ago. I hope these thoughts help you in the same way they are once again helping me.
Why do I pray it again?
1. When I pray it again it focuses my attention on the Who more than the what.
Let’s be honest, most of our praying has much more focus and time spent on what we’re praying for rather than who we are praying to. Not a good habit to say the least, but we’ve all found ourselves there.
When we pray for the same request over and over we do so not because God has forgotten, thus our need to remind him.
We’re not reminding God of our need as much as He is reminding us of the one who meets the need!
That’s the difference between Jesus being the vine that He refers to Himself as in John 15 vs. us treating Him like a cosmic vending machine where we deposit our prayer tokens in exchange for today’s snack in the form of an answered prayer.
Consider the consequences if it were true that prayer was more like a vending machine:
- Prayer would become a weapon we selfishly yield to get our way whenever, wherever and whatever. We can all agree that’s pretty dangerous.
- We would never think about God. We would only think about what we want from God on any given day. Knowing God personally would be of less importance than knowing that God answers prayer.
I’m starting to learn that the purpose of prayer is prayer itself. It’s being with God. It’s becoming more like God because I’m with him more.
That’s what Jesus is saying in John 15 when he encourages us to simply abide in the vine, to remain in Him. Jesus doesn’t just want to be a source for answers to our prayers, but He most importantly wants to be the source, the vine that produces a continuous flow of life and sustenance to our souls.
2. When I pray it again it focuses my request on what is really most important.
I’ve lost track of how many times in life I was beyond certain that I knew exactly what I wanted or needed. How many times have we all declared with great confidence that we know for certain how things should work?
My current season of praying for direction for our future has surprised me more than once on this front. I have been certain so many times only to become very uncertain just days or even hours later. That means either I’m indecisive or that God actually uses these seasons in our lives help us filter our deep longings and true callings from our whims and shallow emotions.
What a gift! God is helping us to not give up what we want most for our lives, for what we what now.
John 15 speaks of a pruning process that takes place in all our lives. Both the dead branch and the fruitful branch get pruned. Pruning is not limited just to those who are dead and no longer produce fruit. Even healthy and fruitful branches experience the pain of pruning. It hurts even though it’s ultimately meant to help.
Praying over and over is simply one of the pruning processes that God takes us through. He is pruning our priorities as we pray. He is cutting us back so that we focus on what’s really important. The very thing we should have been praying about to begin with.
No one really enjoys being cut back. It makes sense that someone not producing fruit at any level would be pruned, but not me God. I’m not dead. I’m producing. Why would you cut me back? Why would you hurt me? Why would you make me wait?
Remember this truth: If God cut you back, then you’re coming back!
The dead branches aren’t just cut off, they are also burned and destroyed. If you’re in a season of pruning it might hurt, but it’s just a sign that God intends to use your life to produce something more substantial in your future than what your present life can sustain. Thus the pruning, He’s preparing you as you pray.
Ultimately God wants our lives to produce more fruit than we are currently producing. That involves God the gardener sharpening the sheers and making some cuts. In those moments you and I would rather have God the vending machine kicking out all sorts of goodies and treats.
Remember that the pruning process, although painful, brings about what we ultimately have dreamed our lives would become. You’ve always longed for your life to make a difference, to have significance and to have a purpose far beyond the simple pleasures of this world. That will involve some pruning.
He is enlarging your branches so they can produce and bear more fruit. He’s making you wait, but he’s working on you in the process. And He’s only holding back from you just long enough to help you do and become what has always been most important to both you and Him.
3. When I pray it again it tests my faith to simply abide and wait.
I think we all wish that answers to prayer requests were a much more timely process. Let’s put it simply – we want answers NOW! My life is just too busy to be weighed down by having to wait. Who likes waiting anyways?
I’m learning how to wait in a way I’ve never learned before. I’m sure there will be many lessons still to come from my current season of waiting, but here’s my list for the time being:
- Waiting reminds me that God is in charge of my life. That means He gets to determine when it’s time to wait and when it’s time to get to work.
- Waiting, more than many other challenge in life, really focuses me to “pray in the spirit on all occasions” as Paul instructs in Ephesians 6:18.
- Waiting reminds me that I don’t know what I don’t know. How much of life would I miss out on if I rushed through it going from one quick answer to another?
- Waiting in my current season is ultimately a test of my faithfulness for the future season. What good is the faith to step out without the faithfulness to stick it out? Waiting teaches me faithfulness.
- Waiting causes me to believe for something bigger and greater than what I had hoped for in the first place. It makes me dream a little bigger, hope for something higher and hold out something huge.
- Waiting teaches me to trust that God is working on my behalf as I wait.
Romans 8:28 reminds me “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”
Translation: If it’s not good yet, then God’s not done yet!
Second translation: God will make it worth the wait!