The Silence of God

In prayer, we often experience deafening silence. We pray faithfully and the prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. So what is going on?

My prayer for a successful men’s ministry has always been followed by watching to see what God could be up to. As I pray and plan, I desire for God to make himself and his will plain to me. The event comes and goes with moderate numbers. I hope to encourage men to become involved with something greater than themselves, that which will help them to become better husbands and fathers. I’m not a complicated guy, so changing the hearts of men MUST be a part of what God would want, and would actually bless. But the Men of Steel has never taken off with growth and numbers. So, THIS WEEK, I am coming to the point where I must surrender and say that God may not want me moving in that direction.

Unanswered Prayer:

If prayers go unanswered, the standard line is that there must be some unconfessed sin in our lives. That is exactly what Job’s friends claimed as he was going through so much suffering.

But there is another reason for God’s silence. It could be that God is about to bring into our lives a greater revelation of himself than we could have ever known. This what we find in John 11:4-5, 21, 32, 40.

Jesus could have come to see Lazarus, Mary and Martha as soon as he heard of the illness, but he waited, for a reason. The people were going to see a greater glory of God, more than just a healing from sickness, but a resurrection from the dead. God will let you know what he is doing in your life WHEN and IF you need to know it. In John 11, Jesus’ delay and silence was not rejection, but he was going to disclose himself far more than they had ever known.

We can respond to God’s silence in one of two ways:

  1. We may go into depression, guilt and self-condemnation.
  2. We may have an expectation that God is going to do something far greater than we could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).

I remember a time of deafening silence from God. Kim and I just left the mission field and were on leave of absence from the IMB (meaning no support). We sold many personal items to raise money for air tickets back to the states. We stayed at my parents’ home in Birmingham since they had room for my family of four. I looked for a source of income which eventually came in the form of working at a Lemstone Christian bookstore. It was minimum wage, working with several college students and a couple retired people, but it was something to supplement our savings that was being depleted month by month. (By the way, the people at Lemstone were one of the best supportive communities of faith of which I had ever been a part… which is another story).

All the while I was seeking meaningful employment to stay in the ministry and provide for my family. God was silent. There was no prospect for full-time employment on my horizon. I exhausted my list of friends in the ministry, referrals and recommendations. I had a fairly good resume and did not even get to the interview stage in the job hunting process. I was feeling forsaken by God and forsaken by my denomination. God was silent. I was broken.

About the time that our savings was nearly gone and I was debating whether to get my own business license (for roofing and painting) I received information from the IMB home office in Richmond about an opening as a missionary consultant. It was a personnel position, and with my background in and love for missions, my counseling degrees and experience, and my desire to stay active and faithful in Christian ministry. God’s timing was the best. I learned a great lesson through this experience: God did not meet my need when I wanted it met. When all my sources of security and stability where gone, I needed HIM alone. That event is where God’s name became “God is my Provider” because he provided what I needed when I needed it the most.

Stay strong, wait patiently, watch for what God is doing and when he moves, be ready to respond in childlike faith and obedience.

God, if I ever give you a request and you have more to give than I am asking, cancel my request and give me what YOU want. I trust that YOU will let me know what I need to know and when I need to know it. Help me examine my life to confess and eliminate sin and prepare me for deeper understanding of yourself.

What Happens During Prayer?

It is a reality that we often do not know how to pray, or what to pray for, and the Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26), but it is also true that we usually pray for far less than the Lord desires for us (Ephesians 3:20-21). It is the Holy Spirit who knows what God is doing or wants to do in your life (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).

In prayer, we go before God and seek clarification in what we sense to be God’s will. We are not to simply run ahead and ask God to bless what we want to do for him. We must seek where he is working and decide to join him in that work.

Spiritual Concentration:

In prayer, the greatest need we have is for spiritual concentration. Then we are to anticipate the activity of God in answering our prayer. Most of the time we pray and then forget about what we just prayed; we get distracted and are not concentrating on seeking God’s answer. We must immediately begin to watch and anticipate how God will answer.

How often have you prayed for something and not received it or receive something different? I have a friend Tony, whose father had cancer. We prayed as a church for healing and then one day I received a call that he was at death’s door at the hospital. The family had been called in. At some point I asked him about his prayer life and faith, having so fervently prayed for his father’s healing. His response was inspiring to me. He said, “He IS healed, no more suffering and no more pain. The cancer is gone.”

So, what are you praying for right now and God is not granting? For me, I have been a fan of men’s ministry. I know the statistics and the value of men leading their families in faith and integrity, that accountability and involvement in a small group community is vital to being successful husbands and fathers. That is what the Men of Steel is all about. I have prayed over and over for God to bless what I want to do and only THIS WEEK have realized that men’s ministry is what I want to do. I have valued the relationships of several men who have participated but God has not blessed these efforts with growth or numbers.

So it is a time of seeking God, to discover if this is what HE wants me to do. When he is silent, it does not mean that he is not present or working.