Does God answer our prayers faster when we give Him deadlines?
Once upon a time, I was persuaded that giving God deadlines (not just to answer our prayers, but to do so as envisioned) was an expression of Abrahamic faith. The belief was simple: if we picked any date, prayed hard and held God to it, we would somehow manage to twist the right hand of God to manufacture a God-sized miracle for us before the expiry date. Doing so was a way of “seizing our blessings by faith,” or force?
One day, I was asked to pick a wedding date to accompany my prayers for a spouse. To keep things simple, I considered dates like 11.11.11 at 11 O’clock or 12.12 12 at 12 noon. It sounded pretty dope. Memorable too. With such a wedding date, my husband would hardly forget our wedding anniversary. 😊 (I gathered that men don’t do well with dates?) Plus, the date only came like once in a millennium? How unique could it get?
During a prayer session one February, the preacher led us to pray something like this: “Repeat after me, say Lord Jesus, before the end of March, I will be going on honeymoon; by May, I will be carrying my first child and by this time next year, I will be celebrating my wedding anniversary and dedicating my first child. Go ahead and declare it.” I prophesied upon my life as with a double portion of the combined spirit of Elijah and Elisha. 😊 It seemed so logical, that if I repeated my deadlines a thousand times over, declared it forcefully, shouted and stomped my feet, that God would recognize the immediate urgency and speed up – in case He had any intention of going steadily.
I didn’t realize, but what I was actually saying was “God, I am only willing to trust (and cooperate with) you within this timeframe. My faith can only go so far.” No wonder, going past the deadline felt like crossing a line that almost left my faith dead.
How did I get to such a place?
I am a planner striving to be a doer. With a Bachelor Degree at 19, my life was pretty mapped out – PhD and a good international job by 24, married with twins by 26 and adopt an orphan internationally. By my calculations, this plan maximized my chances of living out the promise in Psalm 128:6 – to see my children’s children. Do the Math.
I set off on a good track, speeding through Masters and PhD with few road bumps and landing a good job. Then, everything paused… as if God went for sabbatical. My marriage, childbearing and adoption plans all stood still. Meanwhile, time flew as though I’d relocated to the hyperbolic time chamber. It felt like going to bed in January and waking up in December – to the same fate. During this season, the dreaded frequently asked question was “what’s new?” lol.
The world preached that I was logging extra time on singlehood and the Church said “Amen.” By some conventional osmosis, I became overly self-conscious about being single. Then, I had this eureka moment and figured I could just wire every marriage deadline to God #Genuis. Soon enough, I began praying like a landlord serving an unconditional notice to a tenant: “God, I don’t know how you’ll do it, but I need to get married by …” My prayers were a hot porridge of warnings to the devil and ultimatums to God.
You would think God would be moved? Not an inch. I’m pretty sure Satan fell like lightening. God just sat on His heavenly throne. His feet stretched across the earth like a footstool. I imagined Him saying “Child, what do you want with me? My time has not yet come.” Still, I lingered, hoping He would then proceed to turn frog into Prince. 😊OOh well! Who can blame me?
I’m guessing by now you’ve already figured that God “missed” my deadlines. At first, I thought maybe He just needed more time. So, I extended my deadline by a year. Nothing! In the meantime though, God did other really cool things in my life. I signed big contracts, got a promotion, gained financial freedom, found favor in high places etc… I figured God must have been busy with these too. So, I renewed my deadline again. You bet, nothing! It took at least three deadline extensions for me to begin grasping part of what it meant to pray amiss and the depleting effect on my faith.
There are three possible outcomes to a timebound prayer approach: God answers before, right on time, or later (even much later). Here are some fundamental questions I have pondered: when God comes through for us within our timeline, is it because we gave Him a deadline or because we were in sync with His time/ to confirm His will about something? Is God more faithful when He’s coherent with our timeline, and less when He isn’t?” If God led someone to pray in sync with His exact timing, does that make it a universal prayer formula? Does God answer our prayers faster when we give Him deadlines? If God created time and fills eternity, is there such a thing as “giving God a fixed time?”
I have since learned, not by divination but experience, that praying for a spouse (or other things) by giving God random deadlines can be a short cut to anxiety, even desperation. We become easily angry at God or inclined to exploring ways to expedite things so that “the name of the Lord will not be put to shame” or perhaps our names? We become self-appointed Defense Attorneys, frantically seeking God’s acquittal from the accusations of all those who know about our missed deadlines, who may ask “where is your God?.”
Deadlines can also lead us to a long, narrow and winding path of doubts. We second guess everything about God – His existence, His Word, His ability to hear and answer our prayers etc.
We question God’s faithfulness because we’d inextricably wrapped His promises in our deadlines. We become blinded to the several other good things that God has/is doing and question His work in and through us. We question God’s love – because we’d mistaken His love language for “doing/acting” according to our dictates. God’s love language is death – even death on the cross. God demonstrates His love for us through the death of His son (Romans 5:8). Trusting God would require dying to ourselves, including to our well-structured plans.
By Giving God deadlines, my self-centeredness was revealed, and it smelled like skunk. All those years, I had just been whining about what I wanted and when. God was a feather on the scale, even though I tried to lure Him by promising to give Him ALL THE GLORY if He did A or B for me. The hierarchy in my relationship with God had been offset. I had assumed the role of a shepherd and was asking God to sheepishly follow my precepts.
I traversed more than a few hills and valleys of resentment for myself, others and God. Once my deadlines passed, shame embraced me like a long-lost friend. Knowing that God is never wrong, I became prone to comparison and self-blame. I wondered why God promptly answered others’ prayers for a spouse (younger ladies and young coverts) but kept me on a long waiting list. My faith deflated like a punctured balloon and commitment shrank to sheer motions. Furthermore, by not aligning my expectations with God’s time, I created a platform for unrealistic and therefore unmet expectations. A simple “thy will be done” would have sufficed. Actually, I did say that. In retrospect though, I think what I really meant was “thy will be done QUICKLY.”
God is not bound by time or our time for that matter. The Bible is abundantly clear that He makes all things beautiful in HIS time, not OUR Time.
Also, “Godspeed” is not abracadabra. Godspeed is just Godspeed. For to God, a thousand years is but a day; and a day like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). We have to be cool with both sides of Godspeed. It’s impossible to walk with God and go ahead of Him at the same time. We cannot fast-track God’s process of stretching our faiths or sanctification. Trusting God’s timing produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.(Galatians 5:22-23)
When I decided to trust God’s timing, I found rest in the realization that I didn’t have to worry about how long it might take. That was God’s business. Okay, I do worry sometimes – like when I wrote another year fades. Each time I take my eyes off God to my calendar, I drown the joy of waiting and the beauty of surprise.
Right now, I have goals for 2019, some of which I wrote about in my last post – to hope or not to hope. However, I’ve made all my goals amendable to the fullness of God’s time. Tell you what? I’m cool with that! #SoHelpMeGod
-The End- 😊
Thank you again for stopping by. Hope it was worth your time. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Let me know if you want to be notified of future posts.
Stay tuned for the next post on February 09, 2019.
God bless you,
The Christian Bachelorette.