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Nurturing Life – A Journey of Faith

Waiting Patiently On God

Waiting Patiently On God

by Duane C. Rollins

Who hasn’t had the experience of wondering whether God heard a single word of a terribly important petition made to Him? A petition made multiple times? Who hasn’t had the same experience about a more personal petition, though it might not be so important, but a heartfelt desire, nonetheless? Didn’t God instruct us to ask for anything in His name, and it would be granted? “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22 NIV)

I have a vivid recollection of my mother saying many times, “God surely answered my prayer; just not in the way I wanted to hear!” That is one way of relating to “unanswered” prayers—undoubtedly correct in some instances. But it doesn’t fit every answer by a pretty wide margin.

We hardly need to remind one another of the many and varied types of prayers, or the equally many circumstances in which our requests of God are made or answered. To shine a light on this, I’ll share a few examples from my own experience.

As a young boy, and into young adulthood, I had a deeply felt desire to live in the western United States. I knew where that desire came from and was unabashed in dreaming about it, though I don’t recall expressing it audibly to any extent. Upon reflection, I don’t even recall making it a subject of prayer. Was that a prayer needing an answer, or was it simply a prayerful desire of my heart? Whichever it was, it got answered graphically, but more about that later.

Since I disclosed a place to live as an illustration on one end of the spectrum of waiting for God’s answer, here is one on the other end. For years, I talked rather openly to family and close friends about welcoming an opportunity to live in Alaska, and I must admit I brought it up more than once in my private conversations with God. Bringing it up wasn’t with a heavy demand of Him, but I made sure He knew.

In the context of this article in its published form, you know that I work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That came about almost against my wishes. I resisted the Spirit’s impressions about it for more than two years until there was really no misunderstanding about what was being brought to my attention. I continued to resist using every reasonable excuse, one of which was a conclusion I had drawn that I did not want to live in New York City, as I had been there multiple times. There was a rather weak-but-identifiable reason why I thought I might be asked to work in New York City if I said, “Yes” to God.

When, finally, I said “Yes,” God let His sense of humor play for a time while I waited—for what, I knew not, but if it was New York, then it was New York. When a specific job in a specific location opened, I was profoundly moved and had absolutely no doubt God had known all along that His answer was northern Wyoming, just a few miles from Montana. No one, but no one, knew my quiet, personal nuance for living in the western United States was specific enough to be described as living in Wyoming with a possibility of Montana.

An unspoken prayer, if you will, was answered in such a way that it changed the course of my life. Do you notice how much patience there was in that process? How much development of trust there was? How much faith came out of it? So many life lessons were learned, and all were based upon only a heartfelt, prayerful desire.

And the Alaska case? Indeed, the phone rang with an inquiry asking if I would consider going to Alaska to work. Absolutely I would consider it! Interviews, followed by a visit, laid out the proposal and the job description. I was even feeling as if all those steps were unnecessary, because God had surely heard my prayers. All that it seemed was necessary was to say “Yes,” because God was in it. But, the job didn’t really fit my strengths. When I suggested some adjustments which I felt could be made rather easily, the answer was “No.” You guessed it—a few days of serious prayer had me being the one to say “No” to the offer.

So what was God doing? Was He answering my petitions? Why did He even bother to let me look at it? And how would He react if or when I said “No” to the very thing I had been asking for? One of the most satisfying answers came out of that experience when I recognized that God was saying He knew where I was, what I was, and, if I insisted, He could and would grant my petition, but He really had something else in mind. What a God! How instructive to my understanding of how He works in our lives. These were two very unhurried, but specific, answers from God that might have been quite different had I demanded more immediate answers.

Now, let’s consider an entirely different view of unhurried time with God. Every individual has his or her own tempo in all areas of life, including individual time and methods with God. For an interesting read, spend a little time researching what psychologists tell us about how different personality types relate to God and to worship.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13 NIV) The point is, God communes with us at our own pace and in the mode most comfortable to us, because He knows us so intimately that not a single shade of expression is missed by Him. Actually, we are told that one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to form our communication to God most perfectly as we would want it. Remember, the Spirit is one of the Godhead. How much closer do we need to be to communicate?

So, even our silence, if we are as much as dimly aware of God’s unseen presence, is translated in an unhurried manner right to the heart of God Himself. I am unable to find expression to put that on the page. How does it work? I don’t know. But I do know this, because it is mine: my unspoken thoughts and dreams of young life were so completely translated into action in time and space in that experience of living in the western United States that only One who knew my most private and intimate thoughts could have put it together. Since then, there have been numerous less dramatic occasions when God’s response was unquestionably manifested to me.

What is in your unhurried time with God? You hardly need to speak it to Him, but quietly speaking it opens life-changing vistas simply because He is God and there is none other. Patience, trust, and a walk of faith not only play a role in the beginning of such experience, but it becomes who you are as a result of such experience. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)