Every follower of Christ often has a series of prayers they hope God will answer. Prayers for a new job, better house, and nicer car are quite common. As important as these needs are, there is another level of prayers that go a bit deeper than mere material possessions. They are what I call BHAPs — Big Hairy Audacious Prayers. They are prayers so big that they do not merely WELCOME God’s help, they REQUIRE it.
They are the prayers for a health complication when the doctors say there is nothing more that can be done, the pleas for divine intervention when a family member has given up on God, and the cries for supernatural direction when we are at a crossroads in making a life-changing decision.
Full disclosure here. I have been a follower of Christ for a couple decades now but still feel like such a rookie in what Andrew Murray calls, “The School of Prayer.” Personally, I have discovered that trying to understand why God chooses to answer some prayers and not others is a fruitless pursuit. There have been many times when under my breath I have muttered what I call the Martha Prayer, “Lord, if you had been here, this would or wouldn’t have happened!”
Take for example the recent passing of Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi. Here was a young man, not much older than myself, in the prime of his life, doing an extremely important mission that few could do. Yet, God in his sovereign will determined it was time that he come home to be with him. All of this despite thousands, probably millions, of prayers on his behalf.
Last night Janan and I were talking with one of the great couples in our congregation. Currently, our church is doing a four week series on prayer and they shared some of the emotional ups and downs of challenges and answers to prayer they have experienced in their life. They told about how they had been praying for several years that one of their close family members would accept Christ. And this last week their prayer was answered. Pretty awesome!
Big answers to prayer to BHAPs are amazing and often extremely emotional moments. They are times when God breaks through the clouds of our souls and sovereignly chooses to move. As much as I sometimes wish the Christian journey was filled with an endless string of mountaintop experiences, every true believer knows this is simply not the case.
The question becomes, what is God doing in the waiting moments when our prayers go unanswered? Only he fully knows but here are a couple of thoughts as to why waiting is so important.
1) Waiting Builds Our Character
I love a line that I heard one of my former professors, Dr. Philip Brown, state some time ago. He said, “God is more interested in developing our character than he is in teaching us a lesson.” This is true. He is more interested in developing our dependence on him through the waiting process than he is in giving us an immediate answer.
2) Waiting Teaches Us The Value Of Crying Out To Him
My wife Janan has taught me so much in this area. Some of the greatest answers to prayer we have received as a couple have come directly following times when she has spent specific times crying out to God and pleading with him for a breakthrough. Am I suggesting that her tears magically triggered some release point that forced God to answer our requests? Of course not. But over and over again Scripture is replete with themes of persistence and passion in prayer. Sometimes, it is not enough to mutter to God before bedtime, “Now Lord, you see all of the needs and concerns on our hearts and I ask you to answer them.”
Unfortunately, sometimes our prayers are so general and vague that if God were to answer what we have asked we would not even know that he had! But when we truly cry out to him, there is no mistaking his answer. We know and have no doubt that not only does he exists, but that he cares!
3) Waiting Forces Our Prayers To Die So That God Can Receive More Glory
Like the story of Lazarus, virtually every BHAP I have prayed has gone through a season of death before it is answered in life. Sometimes I will pray…and pray…pray some more…and then usually hand God a deadline. “Lord, you see that you need to answer this prayer in this amount of time, or else this is going to happen.”
The frustrating realization I have come to witness all too often is that God just doesn’t feel obligated to meet the deadlines I impose on him! Some prayers are answered instantaneously, but often the greatest answers to prayer I have received have come six months or even a year or two after I thought they should have been answered. As a result, when they are answered there is no mistaking who gets the glory because by that point there was nothing I could have done!
4) Waiting Is A Birthing Process That Gives Us A Lasting Sense Of Joy
Okay, so maybe I do not have much authority to speak in this area given my gender but sometimes it feels like big answers to prayer go through a time of extended labor (Blame the Apostle Paul for this comparison in Gal. 4:19). While labor is certainly anything but enjoyable, as Jim Cymbala often notes, “It produces some good results!”
There is something about the nine long months of expectation for a child that is similar to the expectation that grows in our hearts when our prayers are yet to be answered. The last month is even a bit miserable…okay, a lot miserable (or so I am told!).
But when our prayers are finally answered, there is such a deeper sense of joy in our hearts than there would have been had our prayers been answered instantaneously the moment we first prayed. And like the proud parent who cannot wait to tell others about their child, great answers to prayer build joy in the heart of the believer that they cannot help but express to others.
Maybe you are going through an extended dry season of prayer in your life. You have a Big Hairy Audacious Prayer and you are thinking, “God, why don’t you just answer?” Let me just encourage you today that God hears your prayer. He is closer than you feel. An answer may be right around the corner…or it might not come for quite a while. That’s up to him.