In the age of instant gratification we demand immediate answers, even to our prayers to God, who has set a time for everything and we also must thankfully wait for His time.
“At the end of the time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High, I honored and glorified Him who lives forever” (Daniel 4:34). King Nebuchadnezzar while walking on the roof of his palace in Babylon prided himself for having built the great city and his palace by his mighty power for his glory and immediately God’s command to humble him was heard. “You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals, you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass over you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth” (Daniel 4:31-32). God created everything out of nothing and He retains control over His creation, “He changes times and seasons” (Daniel 2:21) for all that exists is because of Him, For Him and from Him (Romans 11:36). He exercises total control over all that is gone by, is happening or will come to pass in future and it is all as per His will and timing. “There is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Sovereignty of God – Greek word ‘basileia’ or Hebrew word ‘mamlakah’ used to describe the sovereign status of God in the New or Old Testament translate to kingship, sovereignty, dominion, reign, rule or authority of God over the world or in the hearts of men. These words depict God’s power, independence in decision making, excellence and authority and as per religious theory God’s will prevails and nothing ever happens without His consent. This would then mean that God in His Omnipotence controls everything in every way leaving little to chance. If this was so then there is no justification for our Lord Jesus to ask us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
(Matthew 6:10). As per this, God’s will is presently being done in totality in heaven but not on earth leaving an option for people not to obey Him. Thus God’s sovereignty is applicable in some things while some are out of its preview. While creating heavens and the earth God established certain basic rules which must prevail for the whole universe to function efficiently while man is given autonomy to choose his own way.
Then why pray? – God is in control being sovereign and nothing can take place without His will and we live only through Him. Since this is the fact and God has destined everything already as per His Divine will, then why should we make an effort or even pray. God in His pre knowledge has already decided the outcome of every situation and whatever effort we may make it is not likely to deter God from doing His will. God created man “in His image and likeness” and created all provisions for their life beforehand. The spirit of man is pure and an exact replica of God while the soul in the same man acquires its values from the worldly knowledge and wisdom. It is like the computer program deciding how it must function. With sin the whole system was distorted and man chose darkness over light and evil over God. But the basic information of God’s image in the spirit remains and leads us to search for Him. The quest finally comes to an end after one leaves the body that is given to the spirit and soul as a temporary dwelling place. After death the body- dust goes to dust while the spirit and soul await final judgement.
Pray for realization – Prayer has generally been associated with asking something from God- for self or for someone else. Prayer actually is to submit to God and His will. It is not to change God to do something for us but to change our attitude to accept what God wants to do for us and wants us to do. It is an act of surrender in humility like Jesus did to the command of God given in Genesis 3:15 to abdicate all power and authority of the Creator to come two rungs lower as man “a little below the angels”. In Gethsemane Park again His prayer was of surrendering to the Divine will against the call of the body to defy that. It is a result of the realization “How abundant are the good things that You have stored up for those who fear You, that You bestow in the sight of those who take refuge in You” (Psalm 31:19). Prayer is an act of taking refuge in God and then to hope for His act of taking us into green pastures and still waters (Psalm 23).
God has set a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1) but He has not bound us by this. God has the authority to choose to do His will and having been made in His image and likeness we are also provided the same authority. He has made everything right and beautiful in its time. “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Job during his suffering at the hands of Satan had desired to ask God about the reason for His suffering but God in turn asked him sixty four questions, all related to His sovereign power and authority. God has put an eternal quest in our heart to seek perfection and earthly pleasures can never fulfill that. He has provided us an image of His nature in His Son and placed an eternal thirst in our hearts that only He can meet by transforming us. Prayer is to seek Him and seek His perfection.
Prayer for God’s plan for us – The all knowing God has known each individual before he was ‘placed in his mother’s womb’ and created a perfect plan for us. The plan probably has two components- one that is guaranteed due to birth place, family etc while the second part is conditional. “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). His Son came and redeemed us from our sinful life and as promised blessed us with the indwelling Holy Spirit to change our attitude towards sin also by gradually transforming us by showing us the right way. The veil is torn and He stands to welcome into the Holiest of all, into God’s presence but the choice is left to us. Apostle John, the disciple most loved by the Lord, expressed Divine will for our lives “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul also prospers” (3 John 2). And this includes all the three aspects of financial, body and soul prosperity. It is available but not forced down anyone’s throat.
God has a perfect plan for us with a future and hope but then He desires “You will call on Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:11-12). The plan is ready and waiting to be activated for those who come and secondly pray to Him. It is like at birth a box full of great bounties is placed in heaven and our prayers help us in taking these out one by one at the designated time. It is for this reason that Apostle Paul clarifies the right time for the blessings to come our way. We are neither privy to the contents of the box of blessings nor the time at which these are to be given to us “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:26). The timing is set by God and our duty is to surrender before the Savior Son and accept His authority. The Lord’s answer to the question about the future plans was clear “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). We are to accept Divine authority and surrender our plans to Him for He alone has control over our times (Psalm 31:15).
Pray for change of times – David was crowned as king of Israel at an expected age of 10 to 15 years while some put it 25 years also. But taking the events of his life into account David was probably fifteen years old and he became king at the age of thirty years and reigned for forty years (2 Samuel 5:4). The interim period of fifteen years was full of turmoil and agony for being hunted by King Saul, losing his friend Jonathan and other such tragic moments. David has been called “a man after God’s heart” (Acts 13:22) for he revealed the secret thoughts of his heart to God in prayer and worship through Psalms. “Fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help” (Psalm 35:1-2). He sought God’s help for change of difficult times and to be saved from his enemies believing that God will rescue him.
Can we change destiny? – Yes and no would be the answer. Yes for those who know God and have a close relationship with Him like Zedekiah prayed to God for extension of his life and before Prophet Isaiah went out of the King’s palace God granted the request by giving him fifteen years more to live (Isaiah 38:1-8). As a proof of confirmation God even allowed the “shadow of the sun go back ten steps”. Healing of people suffering from incurable diseases at that time is a destiny changing event by the Lord Jesus- whether it was the ten lepers; the blind Barthemai; dead Lazarus or the son of widow of Nain raised from the dead. God dwells in us as Holy Spirit and He understands the plan for us and is a witness to our aspirations and prayers. “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above everything that we ask or imagine according to the power that is working in us” (Ephesians 3:20) and this power is operational in and through the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is not mere auto-suggestion or uttering positive words, it is a direct communication with God from who is loved and loves Him. It releases tremendous power and energy that moves the mountains but the power remains under God’s control only. In Islam also prayer is accepted to have power to change the destined unfavorable events “And your Lord said, ‘Invoke Me and I will respond to you. Verily, those who scorn My worship will surely enter hell in humiliation” (Sura Ghaafir 40:60). The promise of assured response in itself guarantees answer to prayer and our Lord Jesus promised as such “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). Fulfillment of joy would amount to changed circumstances from adverse to blessings.
What should we do till the right time comes? – Moses was in line to be next ruler, the Pharaoh, of Egypt when he realized his origins being from Jews and he rejected that to help an Israelite in trouble. Looking to avoid any witness, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. Later he found two Israelites and his attempt to stop them from fighting each other rather than their enemy was met by rejection. “Who made you a ruler and judge over us” was the response (Exodus 2:11-15). Moses attempted to do in his own power an impossible task and failed since neither was it the right time, nor were the affected parties ready including he himself. He had to flee Egypt to live in Midian in the wilderness for forty years meditating on the ways of God and realized his frailty to humbly express his inability to do the same task of rescuing his people when asked by God.
God puts a dream in our hearts not to test our ability but our faithfulness to Him. The dream being beyond our own capability requires our submission “to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly’” more than our dreams. We are not to start till the right time and resources are made available by Him and the resources may not be material but spiritual for when we undertake a task that is likely to impact many lives “principalities and powers” of the evil one will place all types of hurdles in our way. In the meanwhile persevere in earnest prayer seeking Divine guidance and help believing in faith that “He who has promised will answer”. Many a times the hurdles that we face are placed by God to keep us from making the mistake of attempting the impossible in our own power and capacity like Moses did.
Following Christ is not all joy and laughter but a path of numerous sufferings for the ‘prince of the world’ will oppose us in our endeavors. While there is a set time for everything coming our way, we must “count it as pure joy when we meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2) and seek the Lord while humbly surrendering our will to His will. He is able and He will answer and if there is delay it is to our good for Moses waited forty years and David ten to become king. The bigger the dream the longer it may take God to prepare us lest we receive and go astray like Saul did on becoming king of Israel.
Ask to receive while thankfully placing all at His Altar waiting for the right time and “He always answers those who love Him”!!