I know I haven’t posted in awhile, folks, and I promise to do so soon. However, I’m excited today to announce the debut of our new sister site, WoundedButterflies.com.
As JC explains in her introductory post, “Wounded Butterflies is focused on how we can navigate the ups and downs of life with a focus on Jesus. Life is tough. Jesus promised us trials (Romans 5:3), but, most importantly, He promised us His peace (Philippians 4:7).”
There are times in our lives when we have been praying and/or fasting for something for a long time. For me, I have had some prayers going for over a decade. I could say they remain unanswered. But can I say that God is not working?
The other day, I was spending time with God, and He reminded me that He is at work even when we cannot see Him moving. Each time you pray, something moves in the heavenly realm. There are several reasons we know this.
Our prayers are incense to the God of all creation:
“The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
from Revelation 5:8
“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3-4
Even if we think our prayers are going unanswered, at the very least, shouldn’t we offer incense to our Lord in the form of our prayers?
Jesus prayed – a lot. There are over two dozen verses capturing Jesus praying to God, many times in private. Here is just one example:
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
This is where Christians have the example of our personal “quiet time” each day. Yes, we should pray with others and study with others, but we are to have a personal, daily-growing relationship with Jesus. If the Son of God needs to pray, clearly we need to pray.
I want to focus on Daniel. In the book of Daniel, we read that Daniel has been fasting and praying, apparently to no avail. Until we read in Chapter 10:
“Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.’ When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.'” Daniel 10:10-14
We see several things in these verses. Daniel is told not to be afraid, and he is called “precious to God.” You are precious to God, too, and should not be afraid. God sent His Son to die for you. There are many verses to support that you are precious to God (e.g., John 3:16). The man also notes that since the first day you prayed and humbled yourself, your request was heard in heaven. We know that the moment we begin to pray, our request is heard in heaven. Something occurs in the heavenly realm, which will eventually impact the physical realm where we live. Even when we cannot see God moving or see the answers to our prayers, believe that each time you pray, something moves in the heavenly realm.
It is important to realize that Daniel humbled himself before the Lord. Fully submitting to His will, whatever that may be, is the proper posture for a Christian. The answer He sends to our prayers may not be the answer we want.
We also see in these verses that the possibility exists of our answers to prayers being delayed in reaching the physical realm. We must remember, even if the answers to our prayers are delayed, God is still in control. His timing is perfect, when the answer arrives is when the answer was supposed to arrive.
Another point I want to highlight in these verses is that the answer to Daniel’s prayer was a vision about the future. This was not a “small” answer to prayer. The Lord of all creation was about to reveal a prophecy with exquisite details and many facts that we still covet and read to this day. The remaining chapters of Daniel lay out the future, revealing Daniel’s answer to his prayers. Thus, when the answer is delayed in the spiritual realm, there is quite an answer on the way, or why would Satan’s minions try to block the answer from being revealed?
The answer to prayer that Daniel receives is probably not what he was hoping for. This is the last item to note, that when God answers our prayers, He may not answer them the way we wanted. However, we must recall that God is sovereign, and His plan for us is perfect.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.'” Jeremiah 29:11-13
Take heart if you have been waiting for an answer to prayer. He is listening, your prayers are incense to the Lord, you are precious to Him, your prayer has been heard, things are moving in the heavenly realm, and an answer is on the way.
Father in heaven,
We lift up all the prayers of those who read these words. We know You hear them all. We bind anything at all inhibiting these prayers from being answered. May the answers become clear, and may all experience the joy and peace of knowing You and Your Son. Thy will be done.
“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
from Matthew 8:26
I feel like I am in the boat alone on rough waters. Health, job, marriage, finances, family, future and so on. Everything is unstable and has been for months. And, of course, the global pandemic and, as of late, riots all over the country I live in.
I was asking Jesus, “Where are You?” As I focused on that question, I thought about the disciples in the boat during the storm. They thought they were going to die.
“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'” Matthew 8:25
With all that is going on right now, it is not so far fetched to feel that death is a possibility. If we go back a few verses to Matthew 8:22, “Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now.'” He was addressing a disciple that asked to go bury his father before committing to following Jesus. Most Bibles label this set of verses “The Cost of Following Jesus.”
The very next verse, 8:23, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” We move from Jesus telling us the cost to follow Him to getting into the boat with Him.
There are two things to highlight. One, He just told us there is a cost to following Him, so why are we surprised when storms arrive?
Two, Jesus is IN the boat with us. He’s right here – do not feel the need to ask, “Where are You, Lord?” He is right here in the boat with us.
“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
from Matthew 14:22-23
Jesus “insisted” the disciples get in the boat while He went by Himself to pray. Keep in mind this encounter with the boat is not too long after the verses above that we just read in Matthew 8. The disciples had recently witnessed Jesus calm the storm when He was IN the boat.
While Jesus was praying by Himself, a storm came up, and “the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (from Matthew 14:24). The disciples cried out and Jesus came to where they were on the water.
In verse 27, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Take courage. I am here!” Jesus was not physically in the boat with them this time, but He was there. He knew where they were and how to get to them and, of course, had the power to once again calm the storm.
Jesus said to Peter in verse 31, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” In Matthew 8:26, Jesus had said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”
This is a message for us today. Jesus asks why are we afraid, why do we doubt Him? We must have faith. He has saved us every single time throughout our lives, for you and I have not drowned yet.
We cannot doubt Jesus is with us. He is right here – in the boat in the storm. He is stretching our faith.
The first time, He was in the boat, right there. The second time, we cannot see Him in the boat. So, we have to use our faith and not our sight. Ride out the storms knowing He is right there. Hand over everything to Him – your faith, your life, your today, and your tomorrow.
Don’t be someone to whom Jesus would say, “You have so little faith!” When fear creeps in, take it captive by praising Him. If doubt enters, pray. If loneliness clouds your mind, read Matthew chapters 8 and 14. Let the Word of God remind you that you are never alone. And there is a cost to following Him – complete and total faith.