Hope Deferred: when nothing seems to be working

There is nothing more frustrating than praying for months, years or even days for one thing in hope, only to be left feeling crushed and without an answer. I recall a moment when I attended a three day church program, to fast and pray about my business amongst other prayers. I was trusting God for a breakthrough, open doors and all. But after the program, my business that was already struggling went under, and I spent the next couple of months in deep sadness and frustration.

There was another time when a friend texted me that a family member of his wasn’t feeling well. I called him up and we prayed. You know when you pray and can feel the presence of God. Yes! After the prayer I felt sincere peace. Days after he sent me a message that the family member had passed away. I felt crushed and anxiety shot up my whole body; earlier I had been anxious about a couple of issues and this only made my situation worse. All the physical signs of fear and anxiety were present in my life and a hint of doubt dropped in my prayer life for a while.

It got to a point in my life that I would pray for a maximum of one week on an issue and disturb my pastor with numerous calls and texts because I felt my prayers were not being heard. I felt like I was in a pit and no amount of prayer I said could take me out.

Doubters in the pews

So many people are in church but have lost faith, they come to church either out of routine, because they don’t want others to think they have become doubters, or simply out of hope that one day God will come through for them.

This usually happens when people feel they have believed God for years without receiving an answer to a breakthrough. They have yearned for healing, been prayed for, have prayed the best way they know how and are still in the same place. Some are even working in the church and have been trusting God for a financial breakthrough.

Some have been to myriad prophetic services whilst others have claimed and received a billion times, but are still tied up in poverty. People come to church in hope for deliverance, but when deliverance doesn’t seem to come they begin to get frustrated and heartsick.

What do you do when you have been believing God for a spouse for years? What if you have been seeking children for years and you are hitting an age where you feel you may not have children again, what do you do? These are real problems people face…and some go as far as joining disastrous cults and seeking “quick solution” and more out of frustration.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Question is: why do all these answers to our prayers feel impossible to attain?

Jesus said in Matthew 17:21 that, this kind goes not except by fasting and prayer. One may ask, what if we have fasted and prayed for weeks and even months. What if after doing everything and receiving all the anointings, we are still sick, rigged in poverty, unmarried or living with whatever problems we feel swamped in?

What does the Word of God promise or tell us?

1. He said we should pray without ceasing (See 1 Th 5:16-18);

2. He said we should ask and we shall receive (See Matt 7:7);

3. He said that when we ask in prayer, believing that we shall receive what we pray for, we shall have it (See Mark 11:24)

4. He said these signs shall follow those who believe in Jesus, they shall heal the sick (See Mark 16:17-18)

5. He gave the apostles (believers) power to heal all manner of sicknesses (See Matt 10:1),

6. He said life and death is in the power of the tongue and we shall enjoy the fruit of what we proclaim (See Proverbs 18:21)

7. He said no weapon formed and fashioned against us shall prosper and every tongue that rises up against us in judgement we shall condemn (See Isaiah 54:17)

8. He said by His stripes we were healed (See 1 Peter 2:24)

9. He said certain situations only go by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21)

He made all these wonderful promises and provisions for us in His Word. In summary what we hope for will be ours if we ask in prayer according to His will and as long as we do not doubt. For He also said in His Word that, if a man asks in prayer and doubts, he can’t receive anything from God.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

Doubters be wary

This means that though we have so many great promises and provisions, prayer with doubt can mess up our expectation.

So what causes us to doubt you may ask? It’s a symptom that reappears, it’s the low bank alert, it’s a picture on social media that reminded you of your issues. It’s all those signs that appear after prayer that make you feel frustrated and as though you just wasted your time praying.

All these thoughts are lies and projections from the enemy. They are announcements by the enemy to place fear within us, so that we give up and he can stay in his position of authority over us. Unfortunately for us, once we are afraid, he the enemy has the upper hand, and we shall not be able to pray effectively or trust God.

Remember David and Goliath?

Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!” When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.

1 Samuel 17:8-11, 16

For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army.

1 Samuel 17:16

This is exactly what Goliath was doing on the battlefield, he simply stood afar and made projections into the minds of the Israelites who run away in fear. He did this for forty days. They saw, heard and believed the words of Goliath. In the midst of our battles we need to ask ourselves what we are feeding our minds with; are we feeding our minds with the Word of God and what God said which leads to faith in prayer? Or are we listening to the voice of the enemy through what are senses are telling us? Note, Goliath didn’t do this once, but for forty days. Did the people of Israel walk by faith in God and pray? Or were they more focused on their fears and the need to flee. Many times, we pray prayers out of fear and not out of faith. That is, prayers based on our fears and not on our faith in God. Question: when we pray to God do we magnify Him or the issue? Do we tell God how big the problems are or how big He is and how easily our Heavenly Father can rescue us.

Going back to battle with praise

This is what David did when confronting a fear that everyone else had run away from. What gave David the audacity to fight Goliath wasn’t his sling or the stones, but it was his trust in God. He trusted in God so much that he knew He—God—would not fail him. The things we hope for may seem like Goliaths, for example: we yearn for money, and thus fear poverty or debt collectors and shame; we yearn for healing and fear death or disability, we yearn for a spouse and fear loneliness and the list goes on. However these giants will fall once we place our trust in our deliver and not in our carnal solutions.

Whereas people had been fleeing for forty days and had had their hopes deferred by feeling helpless to the giant. David came and addressed the same issue that people had been battling with for days simply by reversing the perspective. He didn’t focus on the giant but on God.

David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

1 Samuel 17:26

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!”

1 Samuel 17:34-37

David’s trust in God was based on His—God’s—track record. God had been faithful and David hadn’t forgotten. He made references to past testimonies and knew that if God had been there for him before, God would do it again. Question is do we remember our testimonies during times of battle? Do we remember how God came through for us in times past and use that as a reference point for how He will deliver us from situations or problems that seem unshakable? Do we remember God’s victories or do we focus on Goliath’s voice? Perspective is everything. For as long as we focus on Goliath he will continue to torment us for days or years.

I will conclude with these words from Jesus

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Mark 11:22-25 (NIV emphasis mine)

It’s one thing praying endlessly and it’s another thing praying in faith that you will receive what you ask for. Lastly praying whiles holding grudges blocks our forgiveness and thus the answers to our prayer.

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