When God Says: “First, You Need To ….”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, over half of Americans (55%) say they pray daily. Women respond as more likely to pray daily than men do (64% versus 46%). With the majority of us women praying, we can logically conclude that there are many different types of answers we receive to our prayers. A Pearl of Great Value will be exploring a few of these in a seven-part series on prayer entitled, “When God Says ….”

Part 3 of 7

You’re praying, but you’re not sensing quite the response you desire. Rather than receiving the direct answer you’re chasing after, the Lord takes your attention elsewhere. Back to you and to where your heart is and to what He wants from you. You perceive that still, small voice saying, “Perhaps, but first you need to ….” You wonder, “First what?” What in the world does this mean when God says, “Perhaps or maybe?”

Often we need to prepare and practice before God answers our specific prayer.

Our Lord may desire a preparatory season from us—a time seeking Him and delving deeper in the Word. A period before He will entrust (fill in the blank) to you. We see in Acts 9:19-29, following the Apostle Paul’s conversion to Christianity, he immediately began preaching in the synagogues and spending time with the disciples. However, Galatians 1:15-2:2 informs us that soon after this, Paul went into Arabia for 3 years and then into Syria and Cilicia for possibly 14 years. There is disagreement among scholars about the exact dates for these years, referred to as the “intermediate years” or the “hidden years,” and we certainly don’t know all Paul was doing then. However, we do know God used those days, months, and years as a time of preparation for Paul and the missionary journeys God would later commission him to take. These were years devoted to study, to prayer, and perhaps to solitude. Years that provided a maturation of his faith and relationship with the Lord. If Paul needed years of preparation, it certainly stands that we will too.

To excel at any sport it requires practice, practice, and even more practice. How much more so will we need to practice when the Lord is preparing us? The gospels give an account of Jesus sending the twelve disciples out to preach the good news of salvation, to heal disease and sickness, and to drive out evil spirits. Dispatched out two by two, He gave them authority, power, and specific instructions (Matthew 10, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6). For the disciples this would become a time of practice—for soon Jesus would no longer be with them physically and they would be on their own (but certainly with the power of the Holy Spirit). By going in pairs, I envision the disciples muttering statements such as, “Well, that didn’t work so well, so next time let’s do it this way ….” This period was like a practice round before the main event. God may want to see us faithful in the small things and following His directions before He entrusts the larger “project” to us.

Sometimes God intends our “maybe” or “perhaps” answers to prayer to lead us deeper. He has a work He wants to do in and through us, but first it will require preparation and practice. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Father God, I’m stumbling in my prayer life because I really want something. Help me to turn this around, and enable me to discern first what You want from me. I confidently ask You to prepare me and give me practice for the work you want accomplished in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Matthew 23:3 (NIV): “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

James 1:22 (NIV): “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

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