Prayer changes things. I’ve heard this my whole life and I have seen the faithfulness of God to answer prayers more times than I can count. If we know God hears our prayers, and we’ve seen Him answer before, how is it that we can get stuck over prayers that we have prayed for so long with no discernible answer? How do we somehow arrive at the conclusion that God may leave us hanging this time?
There are prayers I have prayed that have been answered in a moment without any effort on my part. There are prayers I have prayed that took me digging into the Bible before I discovered the answer. There are also prayers that I prayed fervently for over a decade, began to lose hope in, and then suddenly God answered and made it evident that He indeed had been working on the answer during the entire decade I prayed.
Then we come to another category of prayers: the ones I have sought the Lord about for 20 years or more and some even for as long as I can remember. These are the kind we put on the shelf because so much time has passed, relegating them to the “God may not be listening” pile, and go on about our business. Every now and then we may pray again out of desperation but wonder the whole time if God ever intends on answering. We’ve done all we know to do and still no answer. Or so we think.
There’s a story in the Bible about Jehoshaphat, one of the kings of Judah. A fierce army, much larger and stronger than his, came against Judah and provoked great fear in them. The odds were definitely against them. As soon as the news was delivered, Jehoshaphat did a very crucial thing that I believe is a key to every problem we face. He said, “Lord, we know not what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Then he and the people of Israel began to praise the Lord.
The next morning Jehoshaphat encouraged his people to trust in the Lord and what he did next was mind-boggling. He appointed the singers, those that would praise the name of the Lord, to go out in front of the army. When most people would put their toughest men at the front of the line, he chose to put singers and commanded them to lead the march while they sang praises to the Lord. Why? Because he had a choice: he could either magnify the Lord, exalt God’s goodness and ignite faith in his own heart and the heart of his people, or he could magnify the size of the problem and perpetuate fear.
Amazingly, as they praised . . .
the impossible happened . . .
prayers were answered . . .
although probably not in a way Jehoshaphat would have ever envisioned.
“Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:22
Something wonderful happens when we take our eyes off the problem and begin to praise the Lord in spite of the problem. A shift in our focus occurs and suddenly we see with new eyes. When we focus on the problems they become magnified. When we choose instead to “magnify” the Lord with our praise then HE becomes bigger in our sight than the problem and we are more empowered to trust Him. Just as a magnifying glass makes things appear larger depending on what we focus it on, we have the ability to make things in our life appear larger depending on what we focus our thoughts and words on. King David tells us in Psalm 34, “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
You see, what we so often fail to realize is that our mouth is the magnifying glass. With our words we can magnify problems or we can magnify the Solution-giver. Many times we are incapable of seeing a solution because we’ve spent so much time magnifying our fears. The solution could be right in front of us but we go around thinking our prayers aren’t answered because we are unable to see what needs to be done first. Gratitude, praise, and the turning of our affection toward the Lord all have a way of pulling back the veil from the eyes of our heart.
Hundreds of times in the Bible we see examples of praise given to God or we are encouraged directly to praise the Lord. It’s not that the Lord needs our praise. Rather, He knows that WE need to praise Him because of what it does for US. It reminds us of how big our God really is and that “greater is He who is in us, than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He knows that our fears will begin to melt away in the presence of His love (1 John 4:18). Nowhere do I feel His love more than when I am praising and worshipping Him out loud. My mouth speaks in agreement with His Word (whether I feel like it or not), my heart begins to listen, and the fearful whispers of doubt and unbelief begin to fade away. Trust blossoms once again and the pathway to an answer becomes more clear.
So what about those prayers that have been put on autopilot and we are no longer able to pray in faith? Perhaps some prayers aren’t answered right away because we haven’t yet become the person who can handle the answer. God alone knows the priority and timetable of what needs to be done concerning His work in our heart. There may be things that must be corrected or developed, whether inside of us or inside of another, in order for the situation to be resolved. Those things take time: time for hearts to be softened and repentance to occur, time for understanding to come, time for a resolve to trust the Lord in all circumstances to take root in the heart. This is what a willingness to praise in the midst of the storm does for us! It speeds up that process in our heart when all of our focus is on Him.
Bottom line is this: sometimes what we think is our most urgent need is actually only a symptom of an underlying issue that we have yet to see. Instead of wondering why our prayers aren’t answered yet, what if we prayed a prayer something like this: “Lord, show me what You want to work out of me and help me to cooperate with You in that process no matter how long it takes. In the mean time, by your grace, help me to choose to put my eyes on You and praise You as if the answer is already here.”
The answers to our prayers might just come quicker than we think with that approach. More often than not, I think it may be God waiting on us to yield rather than us waiting on Him to answer. At some point we’ve got to stop being obsessed with the size of our problem and become obsessed with who God wants to be for us. This was a light bulb moment for me. You can know something in your head, but it’s a totally different scenario when you believe it so much in your heart that it becomes a conscious choice and eventually your default response.
I want the Jehoshaphat approach to be my default response to everything: total dependence and trust on the God who is bigger than anything I could ever face. No longer will I listen to the lies of the enemy that try to get me to lose hope in unanswered prayers. Instead I choose to find out who God says He is for me in His Word and begin to magnify that aspect of Him with my praise. I choose to recall times of God’s faithfulness in the past. I will magnify His goodness, His love and His character until the inhibitors to answered prayers – fear, doubt and unbelief – melt away. Besides, what is there to lose? The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people, and so when I praise Him I have the very real possibility of experiencing His manifested presence. When He walks into the room everything changes and nothing else seems to matter but just being with Him. If you’d like to join me in this pursuit, then check out the video below of Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s song, “When You Walk Into The Room.” There’s no better time than the present to praise and worship the Lord – HIS PRESENCE is the greatest answer of all!
Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
By Melinda Ward