So faith in God isn’t “claiming” something that He hasn’t promised, believing that He’ll do it just because we believe in His ability to do it. Godly faith is trusting that He is the God that He claims to be in the Bible and that He will do what’s best, in His time and in His way. And our job is to follow in obedience, not to lead.
And contrary to the “name it and claim” way, I believe that we are off-base when we are “claiming” a particular answer to prayer before He reveals it, when we tell Him the answer that we expect and that we are going to wait for. I think we need to not be claiming specific answers or blessings as much as “instructions” or “help along the way.”
While we can and should pray what's in our heart and place our desires before the Lord, there may come a time when we have to accept the fact that He isn't answering the way we want. And at this point, it would be far more effective to pray for things like strength while waiting than to pray that the wait ends soon or for guidance to know His answer instead of that the answer is such-and-such. We may not necessarily be able to claim healing, but we can claim God’s peace and wisdom while we wait. We can claim His grace to uphold us while we go through the trials or the waiting or when facing a “no” answer.
Sometimes, the problem is just that we are focused on the wrong thing. We are focused on the end, when we should be focused on the journey. And we are asking for what we want, instead of seeking what He wants for us. I think that we can have faith in the promises that God has given us in the Bible, that we can believe in our hearts that He will answer us when we ask for those kinds of things. But we cannot always “believe” that He will give us whatever we ask for, if we are asking for things that He has not promised in His Word.
And when it comes to what we think we hear God telling us in our hearts, we need to tread very carefully when we are trying to determine what God has “promised” He’ll do. We can far too easily convince ourselves that God has “spoken” to us and promised us something that we want or something that sounds good and godly to us. Such as healing or financial security or health or marriage or a wide-reaching ministry. We have preconceived ideas of what God should do, what He will do, or how He should be. And we end up “claiming” a promise that He has never made to us. And then when it doesn’t happen, we are crushed and so is our faith.
And we even need to be careful when claiming promises and guidance from Scripture. We can easily find verses to verify and confirm what we want. I mean, we could use Proverbs 15:13 to justify any selfish thing that we want to do: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”
But did we seek what God wanted to tell us and wait for it? Did we follow the Spirit’s leading in searching the Scriptures? Or did we go right to the verse that we “needed” to hear, and use it to embolden our decision or to try to influence God to answer as we want Him to? We need to be less about leading and more about following! God doesn’t often reveal His answers ahead of time. Because it’s the journey and the struggle that build godly character.
Another thing that I am learning through the times of unanswered prayer is that our God is not a God who plays games or who messes with us. I don’t think that He makes us unnecessarily wait just so He can go, “See, I knew she’d lose faith if I just made her wait long enough. Now, I’m not going to grant her request.” I used to unconsciously feel like He was doing this, making the wait drag on unnecessarily just to rile me up, so that He could go, “Oh, now she just lost the blessing I was going to give her.”
But I don’t really think He tests us that way - because He knows that we are human and that we will fail Him if we are given a long enough wait. So it’s really not a test. If He’s making us wait, there are reasons. Sometimes it’s that there are issues inside of us that we need to discover and work through. Sometimes it’s to help us go deeper or higher in our walk with Him. Sometimes it’s that we are unknowingly blocking Him by our own sins or desires. Sometimes it’s that our desires need to change because we are asking for the wrong things. And sometimes it’s just because He’s working on the answer, but it’s not ready yet because He works with and through humans to get His Will done.
But we are hasty. We are impatient. And we think everything hinges on us: on our prayers, our strength, our resourcefulness, and our faith. And so we get discouraged with ourselves, our faith, and Him if we have to wait too long. We feel that we let ourselves down, that we let Him down, and that He let us down. All because our prayers “didn’t work.” But it shouldn’t be this way. Our “faith” should not hinge on how and when God chooses to answer.
I should not be limiting God by my expectations and putting parameters around Him and how He works in my life. I cannot determine how He will answer. I cannot know how He should answer. And so I should not be focused on “the answer.” I should be focused more on how I am walking with Him on this journey through life.
While I cannot claim a particular, pre-determined answer, there are many Biblical promises that I can claim to help me on this journey and to encourage me during the waiting. And I should be searching for the Bible’s promises that relate to my character, my walk, my relationship with Him, and His help and comfort and wisdom and guidance, etc.