in the waiting room of unanswered prayer

prayer

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

June 18, 2013

prayer

The hurt’s so heavy, but the waiting room’s so full. There’s not a chair in sight. So many needs.

And so you slide down the wall to the floor, and hug your chin to your knees, and the nurse calls another, and someone else takes their seat.

It happens over and over, and you watch as each leaves in laughter.

And you’ve been here forever, and you’re sure you’ve been skipped over, forgotten. So you step to the window, but the staff shake their heads. Not yet. And the doctor, you see him over there by the scales, and your eyes meet, but he turns his head away and toward another.

He knows you. But He ignores you.

And you weep bitter tears. Your prayers clatter to the floor and lie there in pieces. Silence hisses from every corner, and it seems like all his promises are peeling away.

I’ve been reading in Matthew 15 about the Canaanite woman who cries for mercy because her daughter is so ill. But Jesus doesn’t respond at all. It’s like he doesn’t even hear. But she keeps on keeping on until his disciples beg him to send her away because she won’t shut up.

Finally Jesus answers that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. But she doesn’t give up and throws herself at his feet and begs him for help.

It’s not right, he tells her, to snatch the children’s bread from their mouths and throw it to the dogs.

But, she presses, even beggar dogs get table scraps.

Astonished at her stick-to-itiveness, at her relentless faith, Jesus heals her daughter right then and there.

Her persistence pays off.

Paul Miller in A Praying Life comments on this story.

If Jesus were a magic prayer machine, he’d have healed this woman’s daughter instantly, and we would not have discovered her feisty, creative spirit. Likewise, Jesus’ ambiguity with us creates the space not only for him to emerge but us as well. If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for relationship. With both this woman and us, Jesus is engaged in a divine romance, wooing us to himself.

The waiting that is the essence of faith provides the context for relationship. Faith and relationship are interwoven in dance. Everyone talks now about how prayer is relationship, but often what people mean is having warm fuzzies with God. Nothing wrong with warm fuzzies, but relationships are far richer and more complex.

He goes on to say that God permitted a difficult situation and then lingered at the edge of the story, not at the center. It’s hard, he says, to relate to pure light.

Maybe it’s that love grows deeper in the lingering and faith grows wider in the waiting.

And real relationship requires a little confusion and a lot of time.

When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story–to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships.

Are you now or have you been in God’s waiting room of unanswered prayer? How can we at BibleDude wait with you or pray for you?

 

24 Comments

  1. Patricia W Hunter

    Powerful, beautiful post, Sandra. I remember the years I waited for God to answer my prayers for my husband to stop running from God. It seemed impossible. A friend from the recovery program we were working through once told me, “As hard as Louis is rebelling against God is as mighty a man of God he’ll someday be.” I wasn’t sure I believed her, but I kept praying and waiting and crying and begging. Seven years later, almost 30 years ago, Louis began his walk with Christ and has been growing ever since – leading small groups, assuming many positions of leadership at home and in the body of Christ.

    Sometimes I forget the “pit” from where we came. Thank you, Sandy, for stirring that memory. What grace He gives. Bless the Lord, o my soul.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      “As hard as Louis is rebelling against God is as mighty a man of God he’ll someday be.”

      That gives me such hope!

      Reply
  2. HisFireFly

    So much time in the “waiting room”
    He teaches me hunger, desperation
    and smiles “it is good”

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Sometimes those answers taste sweeter the hungrier we are.

      Reply
  3. SimplyDarlene

    BeautyFull.

    Thank you for making the scripture sing in a modern-day way.

    Blessings.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      It’s hard for me to grasp sometimes that though many circumstances 2000 years ago were often so different, people and their pain of then and now are so similar.

      Reply
  4. soulstops

    Yes…your words ring true…yes, faith and intimacy with God grows in the waiting…your post reminded me of Ben Patterson’s book, Waiting…Thank you, Sandra 🙂

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m not familiar with that one, Dolly. I’ll be checking it out. Thanks.

      Reply
  5. Lane Arnold

    “Your prayers clatter to the floor and lie there in pieces. Silence hisses from every corner, and it seems like all his promises are peeling away.” My tears fill the waiting room as I read this. I’m the persistent feisty one who like the Psalmist says, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord; for I will call DAILY upon Thee.” Psalm 86:3 His eyes behold my tearful ones. I know He hears. I know He’ll act. I just don’t know when or how.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      And His timing is perfect–and the hard thing is… it might not even be in our lifetime. Still we persist…

      Reply
  6. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Sandy, I like most about this post the line about relationships that require ‘a little confusion and a lot of time.’ Argh. That is true of life relationships and my relationship with the Father. I didn’t quite realize it ’til I read this that God’s point is for me to pursue him out of love and desperation–perhaps my answered prayers are just an added bonus.
    Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      And maybe in the waiting, we learn to bend our prayers to better meet His best.

      Reply
  7. Barbara Isaac Croce

    How sensitive and so right on, Sandra. Thank you so much. God is building us into a holy temple for Himself, isn’t He?

    Reply
  8. marthaorlando

    Yes, I have been in God’s waiting room of unanswered prayer. The wait taught me that only God’s timing matters. We are to have faith and trust and hope. And, wait . . .
    Blessings, Sandy!

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      And His timing is perfect. I keep reminding myself of that–though sometimes I just wish He’d hurry up. 😉

      Reply
  9. Rick Dawson

    Relationships *always* take time. Relationships, whether with the Lord, my wife, my sons, my friends – even my enemies – are formed over time. Acquaintance? That can happen in an instant – for better or ill.

    Prayer takes time – Jesus always took the time to do it.

    Great post 🙂

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I don’t think I’d ever thought of the difference between relationships and acquaintances that way, Rick. Thanks for that.

      Reply
  10. Pam

    I heard a teaching on this passage recently that really struck me with God’s heart. The minister spoke of how this woman was not part of the Israelites, but she knew their customs so intimately, that they often fed their dogs scraps at the table(the bread of the children)… and she spoke to Jesus in the words that would relate. Also that Jesus was not ignoring her, though he seemed to, but that he knew her faith, was waiting all along to release in response to that faith that even someone who did not truly know Him would pour out to Him… I am deeply moved by how our Lord is moving on our behalf even when it seems like He has not done so, or may be ignoring us. That He is moving in ways we do not yet see… Like the woman who comments here about how God brought her husband to Himself after so many years of prayer when it seemed like He was not answering. God has spoken that to me in over 40 years of prayer for someone (someone I prayed for since childhood, who recently passed away) – that he was moving in so many ways that I could not see all these years, from the very first prayer… O that we could see how our prayers move His heart, how He moves in them… I know we will someday, and stand in holy awe.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I love that you shared this, Pam. This woman was bold. And oh, that I would remember this–that He’s moving in ways we can’t see. Always. Always.

      Reply
  11. Nannette Elkins

    I am amazed at how closely related our two posts are this past week! Mine was titled The Waiting Room and was more about our reaction to our waiting…others are watching in the waiting room….what are you reading in the waiting room? Who are you talking to? What are you listening to? How are you handling the waiting time? Are you impatient, demanding, have all the answers? Your post was so wonderful, added so many more good points! So glad I found it! Blessings!

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Yes. How we behave in the waiting can be such a witness. Now I’ll be heading to your house Nannette. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Deborah

    I needed to hear this today. Thinking how unanswered prayers can either make you want to give up, or they can make you starved for more of Him. The latter seems to be where I am.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m glad you’re living in the latter, Deborah! Lifting a prayer right now that your hunger will increase–but that you will be satisfied as well. But then… it seems we’re always in waiting for something, doesn’t it?

      Reply

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in the waiting room of unanswered prayer

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min
25