This week, I have had occasion to ask this question of myself as I wait not-so-patiently on the Lord.
It is my own season of waiting in wonder, in fellowship with another Mary of 2000 years ago (Mary is my given name). My due date is Dec. 31, but gosh it would sure be nice to have this baby out of my belly sooner. And so we have asked the Lord for the small mercy (a tiny one, really, and inconsequential, I know), of an early arrival. And so far, his answer has been "no."
What does the Lord think of requests like these? Is there a point to even asking? God, who has orchestrated all of history down to the tiniest flutter of the butterfly wing, who numbers the hairs on my head ... and who promises, "If you ask anything in my name, it will be given to you." And again, "You do not have because you do not ask."
Who also models for us asking big things and getting "no" for an answer: "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done."
And so I wonder, what kind of God is this? (Prayer is a perpetually sticky point for me, one that I really need to ponder at great length and depth; I'm not convinced that I'm ever really convinced that prayer works. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!)
I take comfort in the fact that Tim Keller has said, "Prayer runs on more paradoxical principles than most anything," likening prayer's paradoxes to the incomprehensibility of Jesus being both fully God and fully man. Keller again: "It's taken me many years to get comfortable with prayer, so it's not going to happen overnight." (Btw, both quotes are from this little video, which I just watched several times in a row.)
I read from Andree Seu Peterson over lunch:
My get-together with Howard and Betsy has been bumped three times for circumstances beyond our control. But God’s calendar date for the spread of the Messiah’s message is a flawless confluence of thousand-mile Roman road-building projects, the Pax Romana, the religious vacuum following conquest, a universal linguistic delivery system in Koine Greek, a language unassociated with imperialism yet capable of the necessary subtlety.And, in a small way, the paradox resolves: God will answer "in the fullness of time." In the meantime, I submit this tiny portion of the hidden will of God to his revealed will, and I ask him to help me pray according to his Word:
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress"
"Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!"
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary.