Earley: When God answers prayer ‘Not yet’

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By Al Earley

A pastor thought God gave him an idea and he presented it at the church board meeting. After giving his most impassioned plea and really “selling” the idea, the board voted down the pastor’s proposed changes 12-1. The head elder looked at the pastor and said, “Well pastor, its 12 votes to 1. It looks like you’ve been outvoted and it is time to go home. Will you please close in prayer?”

The pastor, not wanting to give up yet on what he felt God was leading him to do, poured himself into the prayer, “Loooorrrdddd, I know my brothers do not have the same vision you have given me. Please help them to see that this is not MY vision, but YOOOUUURRRR vision!” At that exact moment, a lightning bolt came through the window into the meeting room, striking the table, splitting it in two and knocking everyone to the floor. As the dust cleared, the pastor looked at the head elder and said, “So, what do you think about that?”

The head elder, dusting himself off, sighed and said, “Well, I guess that’s 12 votes to 2.”

We hear about the power of prayer. We see it all the time if we pray very often, but there are times in our lives when it seems God is forever answering our prayers, “Not yet!” It is usually something important to us and so we fixate on that prayer and even begin to think God answers all our prayers that way.

There are many ways God answers prayer: Yes, no, maybe, not yet and giving us more than we ever imagined. A careful study of my prayer journal shows me that 70 to 80 percent of the time God answers my prayers, “Yes.” That is a high percentage. I remember that when it feels like God is answering my prayers, “Maybe or not yet.” About 10 percent of the time it seems God answers my prayers, “No.”

When this happens I usually find over time the reason for the no answer is that God has a better plan. The rest fall into the “Maybe” and “Not yet” category.

So why does God answer our prayers, “Not yet?” I have found that the main reason is to change us. Jesus told his disciples there would be such times in our prayer life and he told them to just keep praying. We read in Luke 11:9 and 13), “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I have a group of ministers I have been praying with for revival in our region for almost 20 years. Our commitment is strong, but there have been times when we have wondered why God keeps answering our prayer for revival with, “Not yet!”

As the years have passed we have seen something dramatic happen to one another. We have become much more humble, trusting of God’s ways and plans and much more trusting of one another. We believe revival will come, but we also see that if God had sent revival many years ago we would have been poorly prepared for something so powerful.

Our growing humility today convinces me that we will be prepared when God decides, in His infinite wisdom, to send the revival we pray for.

Have you noticed how many of your prayers God answers, “Yes?” Do you have a prayer God seems to be answering, “Not yet?” Have you considered God wants to change you in some way? Do you ever wonder how long you will have to pray for something? How long are you willing to pray for something that is important to you?

There is one great prize waiting for the person who continues to pray when God keeps saying, “Not yet.” When God does answer your prayer He is probably going to give you more than you ever imagined.

Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see www.lagrangepres.com.