I have been in prayer for a long time for the salvation of family and friends. My family has also struggled with some acute and chronic health issues for years. God invites us to be fervent in prayer, promising that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16b
So I have been fervent. Perhaps, though, I have been defining “fervent” as “begging God and worrying endlessly that He won’t answer the prayer tomorrow and what if Jesus comes and my loved ones haven’t repented and accepted Christ so they will spend eternity in God’s presence!!!” Or “Please God heal me, my husband, my kids, my family because we are getting so discouraged and we need healing!!!!” I don’t know the Greek translation for fervent, but I’d bet all my apologetics books that I’ve got that definition completely wrong, and it’s to my shame that I have gotten it wrong. Merrian-Webster.com defines fervent as 1. very hot, and 2. exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling. So I understand the emotional component of fervent prayer. Unfortunately, I added another component – fear.
I don’t find anywhere in the Bible that earnest prayer + worry = answered prayer. In fact, my worry and my fear is sin because it expresses unbelief – that God somehow can’t move on my behalf without my stress pushing Him! I have been listening to and reading very encouraging messages by Anne Graham Lotz and Stormie Omartian. It’s only recently though that God has shown me, through their messages, how afraid I am that He won’t answer my prayers for my loved ones in time – in time for the Rapture, in time for eternity! Or that he won’t heal my knees and I’ll end up with double knee replacements, or cruising around on a scooter in the grocery store because I can’t walk! Have I mentioned that I also catastrophize on a regular basis?
It’s a hard thing to leave the answers to God, especially when one might be a control freak. I know that He loves me because He made me. He loves me in spite of my lack of faith, my fear, my freakouts, and my occasional wandering into The Land of Worst Case Scenarios. Jesus died for me because He is the only way to God. He paid the price for my sin because there was no way I could. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” 1John 3:1
So now, I still pray fervent, very hot prayers, for the people I love. But I know that the answers, whatever they are, will come in God’s time, not in mine. And I am so thankful God gave me this wisdom. Because now I can rest in knowing that He has it all in His hands. He loves my family so much more than I could ever love them. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2Peter 3:9 And that includes my family.