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Our boys used to approach Christmas as methodically as a military campaign. They painstakingly made their Christmas lists sometime about, like October? You know, you must get the jump on anybody who wants to buy you underwear or socks. Right? So, they listed what they wanted in priority order, with what they called "the big one" right on top, circled and surrounded with big stars. One year, our oldest son had the year's hottest toy on top. I knew I would have to break my pattern and do this particular shopping early. So right around Thanksgiving, I bought it before it became virtually "ungettable." But my son must have reminded me about that thing 20 times between then and the day he got it - that very happy Christmas Day. Of course, I just smiled.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I was looking at a picture of me and God as I looked at what was going on between me and my son. And I learned a powerful lesson about how prayer really works. As you're in the middle of praying for some things that you really need God to do right now, maybe the same lesson will be an encouragement to you.
Jesus laid out some of prayer's exciting dynamics in our word for today from the Word of God. It's recorded in Mark 11:24. He said, "I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Now notice the tense of those verbs. "Believe that you have received it" - past tense - "and it will be yours" - future tense. You don't have it yet, but you proceed in faith as if it's done. That's a secret Jesus gave us as to how to get your prayers answered.
My son gave me his request. I responded almost immediately and I secured what he asked for. It was, in essence, already his. But he didn't have it yet. If I had given it to him right away, it would have ruined it; it would have spoiled Christmas. I had answered his request, but it wasn't the right time yet for me to give it to him.
So many times, that's what I believe is going on when you and I pray to God for some things that really matter to us. In fact, you may have a recurring request that's at the top of your list, all circled and starred - it's "the big one." But you don't have an answer yet. Based on what Jesus said, it could very well be that your Heavenly Father has already answered your prayer, but He hasn't given you your answer yet. It's not the right time. If you got it now, it would ruin it. And this waiting time is meant to be a trusting time, where you learn to trust your loving Heavenly Father in ways you've never trusted Him before. You're in "faith school," and you've still got a little more to learn. Then He's going to give you what He's already secured for you.
Your mission is to proceed in faith in the direction of what you've asked God for and believed God for, under the Holy Spirit's leading. You keep putting logs on the fire, acting as if there's going to be a fire; knowing that only God can ignite it. Live in faith as if you "have received it" and it "will be yours."
Like any loving father, God loves to give us what we ask for, unless it's something He knows will hurt us. And if He knows what you've asked for is good, He's already got it for you. You have to keep walking in that direction by faith for now, continuing to remind Him that you're trusting Him for it. You're waiting right now, even wondering why you don't have your answer yet. But hang on - if it's in line with God's will, there's an exciting day coming when you're going to get the gift your Father has had for you since you started asking. And it will be right on time!