If you’re like me, every time I post something to social media I get an instant shot of adrenaline as I watch the likes and comments roll through. They come in almost instantaneously, and Instagram has actually rewired its algorithm so that likes and comments come in one at a time, which gives us a rush of dopamine every time we see someone new has interacted with our post.
When we send a Snapchat or a text, more often than not we get an immediate reply—instant feedback on what we just sent. As a teacher, I’ve seen this bleed over into my classroom. When students turn in a paper or a test, they instantly want to know their grade.
Think about our dining habits as a society. More and more Americans rely on fast food for their meals, and waiting more than a few minutes for food or a coffee can put us into a fit of misery.
Much of this is entirely superficial, and I’m not exactly thrilled that my brain—and likely yours too —is wired this way. But as humans, we are now conditioned to want instant gratification. We want instant answers. It’s a product of the fast-paced social media world we live in. Waiting on anything can be incredibly difficult, and at times it can even cause a bit of anxiety.
For the most part, we are no longer comfortable with waiting.
If you’re like me, this bleeds over into prayer. Waiting on answers from God can be a challenge. At times it can feel almost impossible, and we get angry when God doesn’t grant our requests right when we ask.
I’ve found myself working to change the posture of my heart in prayer.
How often have you treated prayer like asking a genie to grant your wishes? I know I’m guilty of that. We minimize God to this figure in another dimension that can just give us what we want when we want it.
We don’t treat prayer as if it’s an invitation or an opportunity to come in front of the Creator of the universe with our most intimate desires and requests, which it is. We treat it like a Christmas list, expecting our request to be neatly presented to us, wrapped nicely in a bow.
I’ve found myself guilty of approaching prayer like this, selfishly thinking I’ve “earned” the right for God to answer my prayer how I see fit and when I see fit.
Lately, I’ve been hearing God telling me to wait.
My wife Emily and I have been in a season where we’ve had to wait on the Lord for several major things going on in our lives. It’s been incredibly challenging, no doubt. While the world would tell us that we need to have everything figured out right away, I keep hearing the Lord telling me to wait. Every time I check my email for an important update I’m expecting, I hear God telling me to wait.
What I’ve had to do is find contentment in the waiting and rest in the assurance that God tells us there’s beauty in waiting. He says so in Genesis 8:22:While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
Just as a seed is planted and needs time to grow into a harvest, we must view our prayers as a seed that God can harvest. No beautiful garden or bountiful field grows overnight. Likewise, if we view our requests to the Lord as important as a gardener views the beauty of their garden or a farmer views the quality of their crops, we cannot expect the Lord to give us an answer instantaneously, nor should we desire it.
We need to allow time for the harvest.
Just as flowers and crops are nurtured and grow at their appropriate times, we need to trust that God is nurturing and answering our requests at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way. Genesis 8:22 exemplifies the assurance that all things happen according to God’s will and on God’s time.
Rather than dwell on our impatience, we should position our hearts to hear what God is teaching us during our waiting. This alone is a practice in faith.
You learn about the Lord, and patience, while you are waiting. Prayer is the lifeblood of faith, and patience is the lifeblood of prayer. We might not appreciate or learn what God is trying to teach us if we get our prayers answered right away.
One of the most beautiful expressions of this idea is in the song “New Wine” by Hillsong Worship. The lyricist beautifully uses the process of making wine to illustrate the trust and faith we must have in the Lord.
While the song is mostly conveying the idea of being renewed in Christ, there are elements in this song that perfectly illustrate how we must treat our faith and, thus, prayer. Think about the time it takes and the process involved to make wine. You have to plant the seeds, allow the vines to grow, prune the vines, and allow it to harvest. Then the wine has to ferment.
One of my favorite lines from this song is when it says, “In the crushing, In the pressing, You are making new wine.” Beautiful, tasty wine comes from crushing and pressure. Ultimately it takes time for the wine to harvest and ferment. You have to wait a while until the wine is ready to be consumed.
How comfortable are you in welcoming the “crushing” and “pressure” that may come in your life in order to reap the reward of new wine? How comfortable are you in waiting for the Lord?
Let’s unpack what “waiting” really means. When we wait for something, we are anticipating something. We’re expecting something.
A farmer plants the seed and waits in expectation for the harvest because he knows it will come. Likewise, God promises us that he will answer our prayers. We can wait in hopeful expectation and contentment knowing that God will answer our prayers.
The harvest will come.
In John 15:7 he tells us: If you abide in me, and my words in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
This does not always remove the anxiety and uncomfortable feelings of impatience, but in those moments we can rest in the assurance that our prayers are not falling on deaf ears. They are not being ignored.
Still, how often have you felt like your prayers were ignored or unanswered? We may not always understand what God is doing, and that can frustrate us. I don’t like uncertainty, as I’ve written about before. I don’t like not knowing what’s coming. I will try my hardest to find out an answer or resolve a situation as quickly as possible so that I don’t have to sit in an anxious state not knowing.
Ross Langston, the high school youth pastor at Crossroads Christian Church, phrased this idea beautifully. Faith—and by extension, prayer—is not something we can explain. It’s something that needs to be experienced. “How many times have we missed out on an experience with God simply because we couldn’t explain it?” he asked.
Put another way, how many times have we allowed ourselves to be mad at God or even turn away from God simply because He didn’t answer our prayer when we wanted it or how we wanted it?
Here’s the thing: God knows us better than we know ourselves. That can be a hard concept for us to grasp, especially those outside of the faith, but if we start to think we know what’s best for us more than God does, that’s only going to lead to problems.
What if we stopped thinking that God leaves prayers unanswered, but instead answers every prayer according to His will? Put another way, there’s no such thing as an unanswered prayer. If we pray for something, and it doesn’t happen according to our desires, calling it an unanswered prayer is an insult to God.
How can we know what we need better than our Creator? If we ask for something that is not God’s best plan for us and it doesn’t happen, is that not an answered prayer in itself?
There will be times that God will say no to our prayers because what we want is not what’s best for us and it’s not God’s will for our lives. As humans, that can obviously be frustrating.
That’s where faith has to come in and we have to simply trust God. There’s no playbook for that. We have to just do it. To steal another line from “New Wine,” the lyrics state, “When I trust you, I don’t need to understand.”
Prayer has the power to bring us to our knees, to a position where we are in desperate need for God.
The ultimate power, however, is not in prayer itself but in the one who hears our prayers. We are promised that when we approach God in total surrender, He hears our prayer and grants us what we ask.
Isaiah 40:31 states: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not lose faith.
If you’re struggling with this and you’re finding yourself angry at God because of circumstances in your life or you’re feeling impatient, this is my prayer for you—that you will find contentment in waiting on the Lord. It’s the same prayer I’m praying for myself. Welcome the idea that you don’t need to have every answer. You don’t need to understand everything.
Lastly, never stop praying. The Lord tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 to “always be joyful” and “pray without ceasing.”
Philippians 4:6 tells us: Don’t worry about anything: Instead, pray about everything.
When you feel impatient, frustrated, confused, or angry, or even in times of joy and happiness, never stop praying. Bring your requests to God and trust that He will always answer them on His time according to His will.
Wait on the Lord. The harvest will come.
After a career in journalism and education, Cole lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky where he hosts the In No Hurry Podcast and is writing his first book. His work has been featured by RELEVANT, Sports Spectrum, USA Today, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Sacramento Bee, Bleacher Report and other outlets.