Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leaving Self Behind, Part 1

Leslie Basham: God can do anything, but He doesn't always do what we want Him to. Today, we'll learn how to respond with love and trust when we don't get the answer to prayer that we want.

Here's Nancy to introduce today's message.

Nancy DeMoss: If you've walked with the Lord for any length of time, you can think of times when it seemed that your prayers were going unanswered, that God was delaying in His responses. In fact, I can think of something that I've been praying about for a number of years where there's no evidence yet that God is doing anything about this matter that is of great concern to me.

Well, I shouldn't say He's not doing anything. He hasn't changed the circumstance, He hasn't changed (apparently) the person involved that I've been praying about. But I can tell you one thing He's been doing, He's been changing me as I've been waiting on Him all these years to bring about an answer to this prayer. And maybe that's part of what prayer is all about--letting God change me as I take to Him the concerns that are on my heart.

Elisabeth Elliot is a woman who knows a lot about prayer and about God's delays when it comes to answered prayer. For many of you, the name Elisabeth Elliot is a very familiar one. In fact, for thirteen years, her radio program, Gateway to Joy, was heard on many of the same stations that are now carrying Revive Our Hearts.

A number of years ago, Elisabeth spoke to a group of women at a conference in Denton, Texas. I know you'll be encouraged this week, as I always am, by the ministry of Elisabeth Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot: Lillias Trotter was a great missionary in North Africa: a wonderful, godly, English woman who wrote beautifully and painted exquisitely. She had the privilege of sitting under a very great painter in England, who felt that she had a very wonderful career ahead of her if she would not be so foolish as to go to the mission field. She gave it all up and went to the mission field, but she did write several beautiful books, which she illustrated with exquisite flower pictures.

She writes this about prayer: "One gets glimpses in the Bible of what delayed answer to prayer may mean. Moses, for instance. The answer to his prayer to enter the Promised Land was kept back for centuries until he stood there with Jesus Himself."

You may have to think about that for a minute to figure out, "When did Moses stand with Jesus Himself?" Of course, it was on the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared out of the cloud and were speaking with Jesus as the three disciples were standing there watching.

"And Elijah's prayer to die was refused, because the glory of the fiery chariot was waiting for him. Even if the answer is carried out of the bounds of this life altogether, it is not thereby lost. The powers of the world to come are more than we know yet."

I love to think about the fact that there's never a minute in the entire universe when prayer is not going up. I believe that that is not an exaggeration. Prayer is always ascending to heaven. And I find it very encouraging in my quiet time in the morning to realize that I, as a solitary woman, in a solitary room, praying on my knees, can bring my prayers into this great orchestra that God is orchestrating and I'm just one instrument in the orchestra.

But there's a hymn that I love that Jim Elliot and I used to sing often at sunset when we were living in the jungle. It tells about this whole concept of prayer being all over the world.

As o'er each continent and island
the dawn brings on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent
nor die the strains of praise away.

We thank thee that thy church unsleeping
as earth rolls onward into light
through all the world her watch is keeping
and rests not now by day or night.

So no matter how feeble and foolish and stuttering my prayers may be to God, I believe that they are carried up to God as the Book of Revelation tells us "from the angel with the censer and the golden altar" (Revelation 8:3). God knows what to do with those prayers.

I happened to be reading another one of Elizabeth Goudge's beautiful books. I hope that many of you are familiar with those. I presume that Elizabeth Goudge is dead by now, the last name is spelled G-o-u-d-g-e, but she was obviously a Christian and wrote absolutely beautiful novels. Always there are Christian themes in the background. But I came across her statement about prayer. She said, "It is the ceaseless offering up of the whole personality: every thought, word and action as a sacrifice."

Some of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the lovely little story that Amy Carmichael told to her little Indian children about when she was a little girl at the age of three. She was told that God answers prayer. Since she believed everything that grownups told her, she figured that this was something that she should test. Does God really answer prayer?

There was one thing that she wanted more than anything else in the world, which was blue eyes. She had brown eyes.

So she got down by her bed before she went to sleep that night and she prayed that God would change those brown eyes into blue ones. She went to sleep confident that in the morning her eyes would be blue.

She woke up in the morning, jumped out of bed, pushed a chair over to where she could climb up to look at a mirror and looked into the mirror at the same old brown eyes.

She said to her children years and years later, "I don't remember whether it was an adult who said this to me or whether it was really God Himself who spoke these words to me, but somebody said, 'Isn't no an answer?'" Very often God's answer is "no," isn't it, to our prayers? And so that was a very great lesson for her, of course.

Little could she have imagined at that time that there would be occasions in India many years later, as a missionary, when it would be essential that she be taken for an Indian or she might have been killed. So her very life depended on the fact that she had very dark hair and very dark eyes. God does know what He's doing, doesn't He?

I heard the great missionary to China, who had been a London parlor maid. Her name was Gladys Aylward, and she told us how Jehovah God had sent her to China. She found herself standing on the wharf in China looking around on all the people to whom Jehovah God had sent her. And she said, "I thought about the fact that when I was growing up, I had two great sorrows. One, when all my friends were still growing, I stopped. And the other, when all my friends had beautiful golden hair, mine was black."

So she said, "I stood on the wharf and I looked around at all the people to whom Jehovah God had sent me, and every single one of them had black hair and every single one of them had stopped growing when I did. And I said, 'Lord, God, you know what you are doing!'"

He does know what He is doing. He knows exactly what He's doing and He doesn't overlook the most pitiful prayer of the tiniest child.

Nancy DeMoss: We've been listening to Elisabeth Elliot talking about this matter of unanswered prayer. Now I don't know that many of us have thought to pray and ask God that He would change the color of our eyes or the color of our hair or would make us taller, though at 5'1" that thought has crossed my mind. But all of us can think back to times when there's something we really have wanted to see God do and we've asked Him about it, and it didn't seem that He was answering.

In fact, I can remember a time several years ago when I was seeking the Lord's direction about a major decision in my life. And I prayed about it over a period of, I think it was five months, and it didn't seem to me that the Lord gave me any direction on this decision. At the end of that time, I finally had to make a decision and I just went with one and I prayed and trusted that God was directing my steps even though I didn't have or sense that I had any clear direction from Him.

And at that time, I remember feeling a little bit disillusioned. Why had I prayed about this so hard and yet it didn't seem that God had shown me clearly what I should do? It wasn't until many months later when I looked back on that decision, and I realized that God had answered my prayer even when it wasn't clear to me that He did. So what seemed like a delay or an unanswered prayer, in God's big scheme of things, He really was answering.

That's why I am so encouraged by the passage in Luke, chapter 18, where Jesus said to those who were listening, "Keep praying, don't stop praying, don't give up, don't faint." Some of the translations read: "Don't lose heart."

And then He spoke about that little widow lady who went to the judge, the unjust judge, who is not at all like our Heavenly Father but this judge didn't fear God and didn't care about people and he wouldn't answer her request to have her case heard. But finally, because she kept coming to him, he finally said, "I'm going to help this woman." And I like one of the old translations here. It says, "lest she weary me by her continual coming." And then Jesus went on to remind us that God is a gracious and just judge.

So what is it that you have been praying about? It may be in relation to a husband who doesn't know the Lord. You've prayed and prayed and prayed and asked God to change his heart. Don't stop praying. God is hearing and in God's time, and in God's way, He is going to fulfill His purposes in and through your prayers.

Leslie Basham: Thanks, Nancy. Do you have a need that's weighing you down? We hope that the things you have heard over the last few minutes have encouraged you to be persistent in prayer. Feel free to write to us with any needs that you have. We'd like to pray with you and welcome your letters to Revive Our Hearts.

And would you consider praying with us? You can find a list of needs our radio ministry has when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We're a listener-supported ministry and hope you'll consider what kind of prayer and financial support you can give. When you visit ReviveOurHearts.com be sure to look up the book, The Music of His Promises, by today's guest, Elisabeth Elliot. It's available for a suggested donation of $11 from our web site or by calling 1-800-569-5959.

Tomorrow, we'll continue to hear from Elisabeth Elliot about prayer and to close us in prayer, here's Nancy DeMoss:

Nancy DeMoss: Father, as Elisabeth has said, sometimes we feel that our prayers are very stuttering and foolish and weak, and that we are just one little solitary woman alone in a room crying out to You. But thank You that You do hear those prayers. Thank you that every time we cry out to You that those prayers are ascending to heaven and are part of a great plan that you are orchestrating and fulfilling here on this earth.

I would pray for someone who's listening right now who's discouraged and wondering if it really matters that they are praying. And I pray that they will be encouraged and will keep praying and not give up, not lose heart. Thank You that in Your time and in Your way, You will hear and You will answer. We thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.

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