Welcome to our annual prayer series! We’ll have a new blog post on prayer each day this week. Today, we thought it would be fun to share a snippet of the book Val is currently writing on prayer. In this section, she addresses God’s will and timing, two things that can be hard to reconcile as we pray. We hope it encourages you whatever you might be waiting on! Sign up to be notified when the book launches here.
As we address how this idea of control and God’s will can weigh us down in prayer, I think it’s vital we really understand God’s will.
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11 is a stark reminder that our timing is not God’s timing. As Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, try to reach Jesus when Lazarus is sick asking Him to heal him, instead of hurrying, like our limited brains would expect Jesus to do, He waits a few days. And by the time He arrives, Lazarus is already dead.
Jesus is too late.
Actually, Jesus is never too late. What looks late to man is right on time. This was true for Lazarus and it’s true for us too.
Goodness, that’s hard for me to wrap my head around when I’m waiting and praying and waiting some more. Have you ever felt like God showed up late in your life? Are you currently sitting around wondering where He is but knowing full well this must be a mistake?
Was it traffic? Did He just get started late? Preoccupied with someone else’s needs? Did He forget He had a prior engagement to show up when you asked Him to?
Selah. Hit pause. Lift up those things in prayer and ask God to speak to you as you keep reading. We’re all waiting on something. Voice it to the one who has ultimate control.
I have to imagine Lazarus’ sisters felt the same disappointment and even betrayal we can feel in the unclear moments.
Here’s one reason I love this story though. The purpose is so clear. There’s no doubt that God’s timing was as He planned because we get to hear it over and over in the passage.
- But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4
- Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” – John 11:14-15
- Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:40
- Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him… – John 10:45
And guess what? Even the opposers caught on to God’s purpose! In John 11:48, they said “For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him….”
As a believer reading these words that the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered for council and uttered in fear are words that leave me thinking “Yes! Can we keep this going?”
Yes! Whatever it takes for more to believe!
The seemingly late arrival of Jesus meant the faith of many. Our greatest commission here on earth is to point others to God. Creation does it and we’re called to do it too. It was all for the glory of God! The late arrival of Jesus in your life and the future answered prayer may mean discovering the living God for many, or maybe even just one.
What they feared happening is our pursuit. That people would know and believe God. If the result of miracles and answered prayers is that others will know and believe, let us not give up praying for big things and let us absolutely give Him the glory when big things happen. These are no small potatoes. Our prayers are part of a bigger story. And as I read the Bible, I see this often clearer than I can in my own life.
You see, just prior to Lazarus being healed, Jesus was confronted at the Feast of Dedication when He said that He and the Father were one (John 10:22-38). They of course thought this was blasphemy and wanted to stone Him.
Right before Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb (and be raised) He says these words: “Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
So essentially, on the heels of Jesus saying He and the Father are one, He performs a miracle showing people how truth what He says was. Mary and Martha likely had no idea of this. They were lamenting a sick brother wrapped up in their own four walls and wondering how a loving God could do such a thing to them.
As I see the fullness of this story, I’m overwhelmed by the bigger picture that I so easily forget as I plot what I think is the best plan. I’m desperate to have my personal problem fixed today, completely forgetting that the goal of earth is not a comfortable life but to go and make disciples.
If there’s one big thing I’ve learned about prayer from the Bible (which let’s be honest, it teaches me a lot about prayer) it’s that my answered prayers and the miracles in my life are not just for me. We’ll get to that more later on, but as we talk about control, know that the loving God who seems to be late has the full picture of humanity and the momentary pain may mean eternal redemption for someone who is witness to it. I’m grateful God didn’t just worry about Mary and Martha’s temporary tears at the cost of others getting to know the one true God. If I were them, I fear I may have been the one who would jokingly bump Jesus after He raised Lazarus saying, “How could you put us through that!”, completely focused on the temporary rollercoaster of emotions. (*Right here is where I remind us that not all stories end with a raising of the dead and, technically, all our earthly life is temporary).
I also believe that’s why this miracle took place in the life of one of Jesus’ own friends. Jesus felt the emotional rollercoaster too. John 11:35 says “Jesus wept.” He felt the pain of the wait too in witnessing His friend dead. Yet, He knew the purpose and He waited those two days still.
Friends, may we wait with hope of the greater story that is happening. It doesn’t wipe away our tears, like it didn’t take away Jesus’, but gives us endurance to wait with hope and to keep praying.
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Praying in Community