Allow me to propose a hypothetical situation . . .
Let’s say after church this past Sunday, every man, woman, and child who attended Wildwood Community Church (somewhere between 800-900 people) decided to go to lunch together at a local restaurant. After taking a quick straw poll, we decide to all go to Charleston’s together. When we arrived at the restaurant, I went up to the greeter and asked for a table for 900 . . . non-smoking . . . with a view. Upon taking my request, the greeter handed me a vibrating disk and told me she would buzz me when our table was ready. Unable to all fit in the small waiting area, our group of 900 scattered around the parking lot, side streets and area hotel lobbies and waited for our table to open up. 10 minutes went by. 20 minutes went by. 30 minutes went by. At this point, I felt the need to go and check on our table. From where I sat in the waiting room, I could not see any activity that was moving us closer to a table. I was getting restless and I needed answers
Meanwhile, beyond the waiting room and inside the restaurant, the Charleston’s staff was busy trying to get enough tables ready to house our group. Waiters were dropping off the checks with the dinner salads of people already at their tables, trying to hurry them along. The restaurant manager was on the phone with Crossland’s Rent-All renting a giant outdoor party tent and extra tables and chairs to house our group. The cooks were already grilling more chicken and fish in anticipation of what our group might want to order. From my perspective in the lobby, I thought they were delaying over our request, but in reality, my request brought about swift action that I simply could not see yet.
I tell you this hypothetical situation today because Luke 18:1-8 contains a parable Jesus told to encourage His people to pray and not lose heart. Since there often is a delay between a person’s prayer and that same person seeing that prayer’s answer materialize, Jesus knew that it was possible for God’s people to grow discouraged in prayer . . . and even want to stop praying as a result. In order to encourage His followers to “pray and not lose heart” (18:1b), Jesus tells a parable whose punchline is that God does not delay long over our requests but responds “quickly” (18:8). This is plainly what the text says, but many times, our experience seems to invalidate the truth of this Scripture. Too often Christians have prayed for months (or even years) for something, with no answer in sight. By most any human definition of “quickly,” from our perspective, it appears that God IS delaying long over our requests at times. What are we to do? How can we reconcile our experience with the veracity of God’s Word?
I believe the answer to this predicament is found in our hypothetical experience last Sunday at Charleston’s. When we made our request of the greeter for a table for 900, we did not see quick action, but that did not mean that quick action was not already under way. At the appropriate time, after all necessary preparations had been made, our request would give way to a dinner party . . . we simply needed to have faith in the restaurant staff along the way.
In our prayer life, God’s Word tells us that God responds to our prayers quickly. We simply need to realize that many times we will not see His quick responses translate into something we can perceive for quite some time. It does not mean that God is delaying His response, or that He has rejected our request . . . it simply means that He is preparing the table for us. Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes the answer will be “no,” but always the answer is consistent with God’s good plans for our lives and is set in motion quickly. As we pray we need to keep our faith in God, remembering that He is already at work “inside the restaurant.”
This post was an illustration from a sermon I preached at Wildwood Community Church on November 15 entitled, “Can You Hear Me Now (part 2).” You can listen to the full message in the “Wildwood Community Church Sunday Morning Messages” podcast in the iTunes music store or on Wildwood’s website under the audio archives section.