Answered Prayer: Great Expectations

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Is it wrong to place expectations on God when it comes to prayer?

I’m currently working on a picture book on prayer. Here’s a quote:

“I heard your prayer. You thanked Me for breakfast. You’re welcome. Is that such a surprise?” asked God.

Kaitlyn stirred her cereal. “I guess not,” she said. “I just didn’t expect You to answer.”

“And why shouldn’t My children expect an answer when they talk to Me?” 

My critique group flagged the word “expect.” 

I thumbed through my thesaurus, (okay, scrolled) and found “anticipate.” Another writer suggested “wait for.”

And isn’t that the problem? 

Do we really expect, anticipate, or wait for answers from God?

My thinking shifted in a counseling session during which I asked God specific questions and waited for His answers—which He gave. Immediately. I was stunned.

Since then, I’ve been training myself to be still and listen for God’s voice.

Yet I find myself doing the same thing as my character when I pray over a meal. I expect God to respond to prayer—just not at the dinner table. 

Here’s what I’m learning as I seek to dialogue with God:

1. I can’t listen if I never shut up. (My greatest challenge!)

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’” Psalm 46:10 NIV

2. God’s whispers are easily doubted and brushed aside. Yet He continues to whisper. If you think it’s God, go with it. 

“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12

3. The enemy talks too. His voice? Loud. Clear. And wrong. Learn to discern.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say . . .’” Genesis 3:1

4. God’s timeframe for answers rarely matches ours, but don’t stop looking and listening. Daniel waited three weeks because of demonic interference. Abraham waited years because he wasn’t ready for his mission. Zechariah and Elizabeth also waited for years, but because of a historical timing issue. 

“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.’” Daniel 10:12-13

5. God wants to speak to you and is probably speaking right now. Have you prepared yourself to hear Him? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Does God hold a place of reverence and authority in your life? Are you careless with your choices? Are you intentional in following the leading of the Holy Spirit? Character matters. 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

6. God speaks in many, different ways. Dreams, donkeys, writing on the wall. Don’t put him in a box. 

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’ . . . When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”  Matthew 1:19-21, 24

7. When God speaks, write it down. When you heard Him but didn’t jump on it, record it. When you heard Him and obeyed, take note. Sharpen your sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and keep track. You’ll be amazed at how much God talks once you start paying attention.

“I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” Habakkuk 2:1

8. Pray together. There is power in prayer, and it multiplies when we come together. My youngest and I have been praying together for over a month now. Both the consistency and the number of answers has staggered me. 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Pray with expectation. God not only hears you, He has an answer as well. 

Activities:

1. Pray together as a family (weekly?) and keep a prayer journal. 

2. In your personal prayer time, use your imagination. Picture your favorite place on earth. Now, imagine Jesus is with you. Spend some time hanging out there. Why did you choose this spot?

3. Challenge yourself to be still and listen this week. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Set a timer and stay put until it goes off. Be reasonable. If this is new to you, start short.

4. Monologue or dialogue? Which characterizes your relationships? Your prayer life?