One of the challenges of asking for God’s help is what to do after the “amen”. Should we pray then WAIT for the answer, or pray then WORK towards one? At times, praying about something then taking action ourselves can have the marks of unrest and self-dependence. But, at times asking and then NOT doing anything can be presumptuous, expecting God to do something he wants us to take responsibility for. So, when do we pray and wait, and when do we pray then work? There’s no black-and-white formula.

Ancient Israel, even in cycles of rebellion against God, found their prayer voice when trouble came. We’re familiar with the Lord’s call for them to WAIT for him, to patiently expect him to work for their good (Isaiah 40:31). But, while the thought of ‘soaring like eagles’ was a nice one, they wanted an answer that required no waiting. So many ran to Egypt for refuge, and it didn’t end well. Their best option was to wait for God.

When Absalom made a grab for the throne, King David’s life was in danger so he fled the city. As he walked up the Mount of Olives his thoughts turned to his trusted counsellor who had betrayed him and had offered his skills to the rebels. David prayed a strategic prayer: “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness” (2 Sam 15:31). By the time David reached the summit, he had a plan: He sent his friend, Hushai to infiltrate the rebel leadership cluster. God used him to frustrate Ahithophel’s counsel, which then led to Absalom’s defeat and a restoration of order. David had prayed, and then he worked on a plan of action.

The pray-then-wait, and pray-then-work options have common ground: prayer. It’s here that the waiting or working is shaped. The waiting in expectation, enjoyment of admiring the Lord, building a case with him and persevering in asking is often the only work he looks for. To step beyond that could be a move into self-reliance and unrest. But if, during the prayer experience, the Lord shines on something that needs to be done, an obedience that works with his planned answer, then to NOT act would dishonour the Spirit of grace who prepared the work for us.

An formula that fits all circumstances might make things easier, but at the cost of a reduced passion for hearing the Speaker’s voice. Choices like this are part of our great prayer adventure, a journey of the heart, managed by the Spirit and routed through the Word. The space between one asking point and its answer might be for prayer + waiting; a different point, however, might take us into prayer + working. Thankfully we don’t have to use guesswork to choose. The Lord is a faithful Nudger into best choices. So checking with him, listening for his updates, is an important part of life in the space.

“Waiting for God means power to do nothing save under command. This is not lack of power to do anything. Waiting for God needs strength rather than weakness. It is power to do nothing. It is the strength that holds strength in check. It is the strength that prevents the blundering activity which is entirely false and will make true activity impossible when the definite command comes.”  – G. Campbell Morgan

“If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people”  – Charles Spurgeon

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