I’ve often heard it said that there are three basic ways God answers prayer: “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” What most people mean by that, I believe, is that if you get what you prayed for, that’s God’s “Yes.” If you don’t, then you must interpret His seeming non-response as either a “No” or a “Wait.” In all three cases, however, no dialogue with God is required. You simply enter your request and watch for what happens.
I think there’s more to it than that. Prayer is a two-way conversation based on a loving, reciprocating relationship. God is a Person—a Father, a Friend, and as such, He is not silent, withdrawn, or distant. When we call to Him, He answers (Jeremiah 33:3).
Imagine if your child were to ask you about something important. Would you listen to her request and then, without comment decide what to do—or not to do—and just carry out your plan without any further communication? Of course you wouldn’t! And God is a better parent than any of us ever can hope to be (see Luke 11:13).
So what is the alternative? I believe it is to keep the conversation going. When we bring our needs and desires to God, He wants to do a lot more than simply dispense or withhold the things we need. He sees our request as an invitation to conversation and deeper relationship. But many of us don’t expect Him to converse with us, so we register our request and then walk away without giving Him time to respond.
The Bible is full of stories of people who made their request of God and then kept the conversation going when they didn’t get the answer they hoped for or in the timetable they’d expected. Take Habakkuk, for example. He didn’t passively take God’s lack of action as a “no” or a “wait.” Instead, he carried on the dialogue.
“How long, O Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen?” he asked of God. “Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice?” (And he continues with more questions and complaints) (1:2-4).
And what we read next is The Lord’s answer. When Habakkuk engaged with God, God responded. “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (and God continues, getting pretty specific about His plans) (1:5-11).
But Habakkuk doesn’t like this answer very much! So he carries the conversation even further. We read seven more verses with his objections, confusion, and additional questions about what God has said (1:12-2:1).
Once again, God answers (2:2-20)! What He says is not easy for Habakkuk to hear, but it is a perspective of justice and Habakkuk is finally satisfied. He responds with prayer and praise and a deeper appreciation of God’s sovereignty, goodness, and strength (3:1-19).
Habakkuk is just one example of saints who have dialogued with God rather than simply take a “wait and see” approach. Consider Abraham (Genesis 18) or Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) for a couple more of the many examples.
What about you? Is there something you’ve requested of God that you’ve not heard anything about yet? Instead of just waiting, why not continue the conversation with Him? Ask Him to share His perspective. Ask Him if your request is in line with His kingdom plans. Tell Him how you ache with the waiting. Ask Him what He would like you to do and be while you wait. Don’t just drop the subject—keep it going with Him and let Him take you deeper in relationship with Him. And let me know how it goes—I really want to hear!