The Divine Ministry of Delay (continued)
The second thing I want to say is this. Many of our prayers must be passed through the refining medium of God's wisdom, that is, of God's love; many of them must be edited by God before they are answered. For well-intentioned prayer is not always well-informed. Like those who made requests of the Saviour, God often has to say to His children, "Ye know not what ye ask." If some of our prayers were immediately answered, the consequence would be almost certain moral and Spiritual disaster. Our prayers have to be passed, I say, through the refining medium of God's wisdom, sometimes with regard to their motive. "Ye have not because ye ask amiss."
There are men and women, for instance, who pray for power, while their real objective is preeminence. What they really mean by power is that which will make them prominent in His service. When our motives are altogether unworthy of the words we express, we have to be kept waiting until God turns upon us the searchlight of His love, and learning the untrustworthiness of our own impulses, we yield to that gracious Spirit Who makes intercession in us according to the will of God.
Not only in regard to the motive, but in regard also to the content of our prayers, Christ has to say again and again, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of; are ye able to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized?" For often we know not what we ask, and hence God's delay in response. I have seen children - we have all seen them - who have been utterly spoiled by the weak good-nature of parents who gave them at once everything they wanted For human love may be entirely lacking in wisdom. But the love and wisdom of God are one. When He keeps us waiting for secondary mercies, it is in order to make us know the value of the primary and spiritual. We have to learn that God's "No" is just as much an answer as God's "Yes." We have to learn that God's "Not yet" is just as truly an expression of Divine love as God's "immediately." The day will come to every one of us when we shall know that God's silence was in reality His most loving speech to us. For we shall see that while seemingly inactive God has all the time been working in us, bringing us into moral correspondence with His will, which alone capacitates men to receive His gifts.
Well do I recollect, some years ago, in the city of Dublin, a man coming into the vestry-room of a church and saying: "Sir, I want to thank you for that message about God's love. I believe every word of it now, but I did not six months go." His eyes filled with tears; and as I said: "What does it mean, my brother?" He went on: "Six months ago my home was bright and happy, and the shadow fell. I prayed earnestly that God would save my wife and our infant. But He took them; and I have come to know that He took them only in order to bring me back to Himself, from Whom I had wandered." God's silence in that man's life was His richest and kindest speech. And others of us have found this to be true also; and more of us will find it so ere these dark days in which we live have passed away.
The things we try to get rid of by prayer are often the very things we can least afford to lose. Some of these things we call burdens, of which we try to get rid in the Sanctuary, are the things that God has placed upon us for the steadying of life and the guiding of our energies into channels which otherwise we should overlook and miss. Paul learned that there was something infinitely better than the removal of the thorn-pain - infinitely better! Thrice he besought the Lord to remove it - with what interval between those prayers we know not. But surely Paul, like the rest of us, was perplexed at God's delay. And he ultimately found that God was preparing something far better than the extraction of the thing which caused a throbbing wound - "My grace is sufficient for thee." If he had not had the thorn-pain, like the nightingale which is said to sing sweetest when its breast is pierced, he had never learned the song: "Most gladly will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!" We learn, as we are kept waiting at His feet, that the cord which we would have had God cut, He disentangles, and so saves for purposes of His service. God's ways are always justified of His children, if they will patiently tarry at His leisure.
(continued with # 39)