“When prayer goes unanswered,… You will find there is a reason which is a deep instruction to you.” – Oswald Chambers
Unanswered prayer is frequently a precious gift in disguise. God’s vision is always greater than our own. If He has shared part of that vision with you it is almost a certainty that you will experience many unanswered prayers in the days, months, and years ahead.
Called to Serve God’s Purpose or Ministry
Has God shared His vision for you in a particular purpose or ministry? Have you been called to serve? Is your path today the one you expected to walk when you first saw the vision? If so, you are in a very exclusive group. No one I’ve ever spoken with or read had such an experience. From Elijah to the Apostle Paul, serving the Lord is a task marked by obedience, inquiry, and times of unanswered prayer.
Imagine that God has shown you a Flag atop a distant mountain. He asks if you will climb the mountain to claim the Flag in His Name and for His glory. You obediently reply, “Yes Lord, I will go.” You see the goal and set out to achieve it. How hard could it be? God gave you a specific goal; surely He will make the way clear for you to accomplish it.
Not so fast.
God Asks for Obedience Presently and for a Lifetime
Abraham received the promise of a son of his own. That promise was not fulfilled for thirteen years. The span of time between God’s promise and the birth of Isaac was one of daily obedience, testing, education, and relationship between Abraham and His God.
Whether tasked with a present purpose or one visible only on the horizon, God will lead you to the goal one step at a time. Just because God gave you the vision doesn’t mean He will supernaturally clear the path ahead as He parted the Red Sea for Moses.
Encountering Obstacles on the Path to God’s Service
Using the goal of capturing the Flag for God as an example, what challenges (lessons) might a servant expect to encounter? Your prayer for instant deliverance from each obstacle will probably go unanswered until you master the deeper lesson attached.
- Breathing problems. The air is thin atop the mountain. You must be prepared physically as well as spiritually. Health issues often beset those called to serve.
- Communication lessons. The people on the side of the mountain may not speak your language. Capturing the Flag may only be the catalyst needed to gather a curious audience. God true purpose for your journey may be as a messenger to that people. If you don’t speak their language your efforts will be in vain.
- Fighting skills. Whether battles will be fought with weaponry, rhetoric, or through relationship building, people who live along the path to the Flag may not want you to trespass on their ground.
- Delay. Your journey may stall for days, months, or even years. Sometimes that time is given for rest, to master unlearned lessons, or to wait for a fellow-worker who has yet to arrive. God may intend for your journey to proceed more quickly, but you have been set back by distraction or confusion. Once you’re ready the path will open again.
Don’t Rent a Helicopter Yet
Unless God has specified that the Flag must be in your possession today, don’t rent a helicopter to speed you to the top of the mountain. If God didn’t tell you to get that Flag today and there’s no helicopter sitting in the lot across the street from your home – don’t rush right out and rent one. The Flag itself isn’t the prize.
The Flag isn’t the goal; The Flag is God’s Standard. The Flag is relationship, obedience, and purpose. Moses was tapped for decades of service, not one speech. None of Jesus’ disciples worked one day then retired. Most who are called by the Lord to ministry and purpose receive a call that lasts a lifetime. Can you find the word “retirement” anywhere in the Bible?
Pursue the Flag,
- One day at a time.
- One lesson at a time.
- One step at a time.
- One prayer at a time.
Unanswered prayers indicate you are on the right path and a new lesson has been presented. Master it and the road ahead will become clear again.
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Scriptures to consider: John 16: 4, 12
Christian Horse Training Note:
The path to the Flag is similar to the training process for a horse. Each day we seek small consistent improvements. When a lesson is particularly difficult our forward momentum will stall until the horse has mastered the skill. Every worthy leader gives rest when needed, review when needed, support when needed, and takes smaller steps when necessary.
Answered prayer to a horse is getting freedom from pressure before discovering the release-point through trial and error. Nothing is learned and further skills will be built on a weak foundation. Eventually the hole in training will come back to cause a bigger problem down the road. The best trainers let such “prayers” go unanswered.
Some training goals may be attached to a specific date. But when the standard we pursue is right relationship, the journey is one of blessings received day by day, step by step, and lesson by lesson.
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