June 3, 2016

When Heaven is Silent

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 (NIV)

Answered prayers are amazing! But, what do we do when the heavens are silent? What do we do when our prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling and we don’t see God at work, much less responding to our prayer? It’s not that the answer God is giving is no; it’s just that there is no answer at all.

Prayer can be pictured as sowing and reaping. When you sow a seed, you expect a harvest. What can be difficult is the time that lapses between sowing and reaping, especially if you’re sowing in hard soil. This Psalm was a song sung by those who were in captivity. Sin had run its course and, despite repeated warnings, God had to discipline His people. Israel would be taken captive, removed from their land, and enslaved in a foreign land for seventy years. Their exile created hardships that led them back to God. In verse four, they prayed,

“Restore our fortunes, LORD, as streams renew the desert.”

Yet, the years of captivity took their toll, and the heavens remained silent. When that happens in our lives, it’s tempting to give up and quit praying. What’s the use? Is God even listening? But, the burden drives us back to prayer. We begin to sow our prayers in tears. Have your prayers been sown in tears? Has your heart broken with despair for circumstances that never seem to change? Are there those for whom you pray that remain distant from God, despite the years you’ve cried out to God on their behalf?

When the heavens are silent, the Psalmist offers hope. We may not know exactly what God is doing or when He will respond, but the promise is sure. “Those who sow in tears will reap songs of joy.” Don’t give up! Keep sowing even when the tears flow! Keep praying! There is a mystery to prayer I don’t understand. Theologians call it the importunity of prayer. It means shameless persistence. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 7:7, He said,

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

The action is continuous. Ask, and keep on asking. Seek, and keep on seeking. Knock, and keep on knocking. Don’t quit until you get an answer. One Bible teacher I heard calls it the P.U.S.H. principle in prayer – Pray Until Something Happens!

What is it you’ve given up praying about? Maybe, it’s a dream that’s been shattered. Perhaps, it’s even a person. It could be a rebellious son or daughter, even a spouse or parent. Years have come and gone with no response. Are you willing to re-engage in prayer, to sow in tears? After years of sowing in tears, look what God did for captive Israel in Psalm 126:1-3,

“When the LORD brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them.’ Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!”

Your sowing is not in vain! Be patient while you wait. Pray fervently. God’s great harvest of joy will come! Don’t give up!