There was a time I prayed for four years for something. Life got even harder as I prayed. The odds stacked up against me and I never thought that what I prayed for would ever come to fruition. I went through periods of intrepid hope, deep despair, and overwhelming desperation. I would cry so hard I’d silently scream. I asked God why. I was angry. I was hurt. But it hurts to be shaped, molded. It hurts to shed the skin of your former self and become who you were destined to be. It hurts to die to self. It hurts to give up control. It hurts our flesh, and it should and it needs to. God taught me more about prayer and a relationship with Him through this season and I’m so grateful. I am just as grateful for the shaping and the waiting period as I am for the answer that did eventually come.
I learned to pray. I studied the Lord’s Prayer hard, and although it hurt my flesh, I prayed every day that God’s will be done, and not my own. I learned to be in constant conversation with the Lord. Every year on my birthday I make a list of lessons I learned and goals I’ve set for the next year. I do this to make sure I’m stewarding this wonderful gift of life well and to check my heart because although I’ve grown in age and wisdom, I still have much to learn and far to go on my journey. I remember one of the things on my list being: “learn to be in constant conversation with the Lord.” I wanted to be aware of His constant nearness, I wanted to be in tune with His heart, and I wanted to learn to listen. I wanted my prayers and my relationship with Him to stop being a monologue and start being a dialogue.
In the waiting He was doing something even more valuable and precious than I thought the thing I was praying for was - a strengthened relationship with Him. A crucial way to strengthening your relationship with and faith in the Lord is to listen. You can’t know someone truly until you listen to them. We can’t know the Lord’s heart fully unless we listen to Him through His word.
Sometimes we can fall into a dangerous habit of treating God like a genie - we make our requests known, but we don’t seek His heart to find His plan for us. We don’t listen. If my walk with the Lord doesn’t feel like it’s satisfying my soul, I have to step back and ask myself if I’ve allowed it to become a monologue. Am I spending time in His presence? Am I making reading His word a priority? Am I seeking out His will over my wants?
Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.” Other versions interpret the last line as, “to meditate in His temple” or “to study at His feet”. I cannot stress enough the importance of studying the word of God. I cannot stress enough how much learning His heart and His character and “gazing on the beauty of the Lord” is not just a joy to discover, but also shows us how deeply we are loved and we have no other choice but to fall more deeply in love with Him. When I seek Him first, the desperation for things in this life is replaced with peace and trust in His wisdom and provision and plan for my life.
The desires of our hearts are so important to the heart of the Father. Jesus says in Matthew: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV). But please don’t seek your desires harder and more passionately than you seek Him yourself. David puts it perfectly in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”