To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time of war, and a time of peace. — Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7, 8
“Well, if God really said it, it will just happen.”
There are two positions people tend to take on obtaining the promises of God. One is that we must war and strain every prayer muscle to receive our answer. The other is that, because God is faithful to do whatever He speaks, we can just sit back and wait without putting any effort into receiving.
Dedicated contenders, when the desired result does not arrive within the expected window of time, tend to blame themselves: “I didn’t pray enough.” “I didn’t have enough faith.” “I must not have prayed exactly right.” “God isn’t hearing me because I am not perfect.” “I must have spoken a wrong confession at some point.”
Those who think the promise should happen because of God’s sovereignty, without their intercession, may rationalize their disappointment with, “I must not have heard God right.” Maybe God changed His mind and has something else for me now.”
Each extreme has its problems. Constant contenders often end up making a god out of what they are praying for. Their focus becomes fastened on the promise, rather than on Jesus, the Promise Giver. They find it very hard to cast their cares upon the Lord, as 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to do. Not only is the longed-for result a god, but they end up making a god of self, subconsciously believing that it is solely upon their shoulders to bring the solution through their prayers.
On the other hand, those who don’t think they need to pray into their promises tend not to value very highly what God has spoken to them. They may even forget what the Lord has said. This can be due to laziness, or it can be a defense mechanism against hidden fear that God will not hear them anyway.
Truth usually resides somewhere between two extremes, and that is certainly the case when it comes to contending for, versus resting in, our promises. Truly, there is a time to contend, and a time to refrain from contending, a time to hug a promise tightly, and a time to let it rest in your bosom. The challenge is in knowing which we should be doing at any given time.
Whenever the Lord gives us a personal word or enlivens a Scripture promise to us, part of the process of seeing that word through to fulfillment is praying back to Him what He has revealed to us. We partner with God through prayer to bring His will into our earthly realm, just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). There will come a day when the Kingdom will come and God’s perfect will will be fully done on earth, but in the meantime, we have the honor of establishing a measure of God’s will on earth through prayer — whether it be for our own lives, for the lives of our family and friends, or even for an entire region or nation.
In the early stages of understanding what the will of God is in a particular matter, we’re going to contend a lot. When the revelation is fresh, when God has just begun to speak to us about His plans for our life, or when a desperate need has newly come to our attention, the ardor with which we pray for the fulfillment can be tremendous. This is as it should be. We kick-start the prayer assault with lots of fire-power. We leverage the Word of God against the obstacles which stand in the way. But what about when the battle drags on, through years perhaps, and the fulfillment that you long for is still nowhere to be seen?
It is in the lengthy prayer battle that we have the tendency to become discouraged. Some have lost their hope and faith, because they have worn themselves out contending nonstop for their answers. This is why we must learn when to shift from the season of contending into the season of rest. We will talk about the specifics of how to do that in our next post.