When both of my young sons received hard diagnoses, I found myself praying often for their healing, for God to do a miracle in their lives and their bodies. I clung to the Scripture that God was a mountain moving God, and I was ready for that mountain to be moved.
It didn't. So I went searching through Scripture for what God was doing even though He wasn't moving the mountain I was praying for.
So many of our favorite Bible heroes went through their own heartbreaking circumstances. Life didn’t always meet their expectations. Sometimes they had to wait decades to see God’s promises, plan, and purpose shine through. And yet, you see time and time again that these Bible characters remained steadfast in prayer. Abraham and Sarah waited and prayed (and yes even plotted) for decades for their promised baby. Joseph waited in a well and in Potipher’s house and in prison as he persevered in prayer before God used him to save millions during a famine. Moses and the Israelites waited and wandered and prayed for forty years (for what should have been a week's long journey) before they were able to enter the Promised Land. Paul prayed multiple times for a thorn to be removed from his flesh before he realized that God instead wanted to remove a thorn from his heart.
Our Bible heroes many times didn’t see what God was doing until much later. But as they looked back over their lives, they could see God’s fingerprints in their circumstances, providing what was needed for His will to be done.
One of my favorite reminders of the power of persevering in prayer is from the book of Daniel in chapter 10. Daniel begins praying fervently and fasting and it isn’t until twenty-one days later that an angel shows up. The angel tells him, “Do not be afraid Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.” (Daniel 10:12-13, emphasis mine).
The first thing I love about this is we see that Daniel was humble and surrendered to what God wanted as he fasted and prayed. The angel acknowledged that.
But what really encourages me is that God heard Daniel’s prayer from the very first day Daniel prayed. He heard each and every humble and heartfelt prayer.
We may not see Him answering right away, but He is listening. And not out of obligation, but a desire to be close to us. Psalm 116:2 says “He bends down to listen” to us pray. Like a mother or father who bends or kneels down to their child’s level to hear what they have to say, our Father doesn’t want to miss a word, even though He already knows what we're going to say. Psalm 116:2 concludes by saying that since He bends down to listen to us pray, “I will pray as long as I have breath.”
Sometimes God answers our prayers immediately. Many times, He does not. It’s not because He doesn’t care. He sees a bigger picture than we can. He sees all the details. He knows how everybody’s lives fit together and the impact your life has on others. He sees all the spiritual warfare. He knows how many hairs are on your head and how many days you’ve been praying for something and how many days you’ll be here on this planet before He takes you home.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that it’s during the storms of life that we have the greatest opportunity to persevere in prayer and align our heart with the Savior who has power over winds and waves (Mark 4:35-41), or to accuse Him of not caring (Mark 4:38). All too often, I find myself like those disciples, worried about the storm and that God won’t do anything about it, instead of clinging to the promise Jesus made to them just before, “Let us go to the other side,” (Mark 4:35). They could have clung to His words and kept repeating them to Jesus and to each other until Jesus demonstrated His power over the winds and waves and His glorious way of providing for them through the storm.
God hasn't healed my children. But what He did instead was He healed a lot of broken places in my heart. He helped me to be able to embrace the children and the life that I have, and to embrace that God was good and faithful and near us through it all. And that healing in my heart is just as miraculous as it would be if God chose to heal my children.
It is definitely not easy to keep persevering in prayer, but I encourage you to not give up! Keep praying until God moves the mountain you’ve been praying for, or a mountain in your heart. He’s always there, listening, loving, and longing to provide you what you truly need that will display His work in your life and our heart. He is a God who listens to and answers your prayers.