There is nothing like physical pain to drive you to your knees in prayer. For 20 years, I was plagued by crippling back pain and sciatica. Time after time, I cried out to God for his healing power on my body, but nothing improved. Even as a prayer warrior, I grew weary in going to God about the same thing day in and day out.
One of the hardest challenges of the Christian walk is waiting for God to answer our prayers when we urgently need him to intervene in a circumstance that is breaking our heart, testing our faith, and robbing us of peace and joy. I have been on my knees many times with my Bible in hand, tearfully reminding God of his promises when my husband and I were in a financial crisis, a friend was stricken with a life-threatening disease, or one of my children was in trouble.
Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.—Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
And for years, many of my prayers have been centered on my own need for a miracle. In 2017, after 20 years of pain, I had back surgery to un-pinch my spinal cord, replace deteriorated discs, and straighten my back. The surgery was the answer to my prayers in many ways. I am grateful every day that I can now walk without leg pain and do many of the things I love, like working in my garden, standing long enough to bake cookies with my granddaughter, and traveling to speak for World Vision. However, the trauma to the nerves in my back is taking much longer to heal, and I continue to cry out to God.
Of course, compared to the suffering in many parts of this broken world, my pain is nothing. My heart is often broken by stories about the ongoing hunger crisis in East Africa, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the hatred and violence that seems to be affecting so many. These are problems that only God can solve by changing people’s hearts and minds. But he calls us to participate by giving what we can to those in need and praying without ceasing, because prayer is our greatest weapon against the powers and principalities of this world — that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:12 — which are at the root of today’s suffering.
Like the healing of my back and other situations my family has faced, some prayers take time to fully materialize. As Psalm 40 says, sometimes we have to wait for God’s timing, and it is not unusual to experience what I call “intercession fatigue” when we are faithful to pray, but nothing seems to be happening. One of the greatest challenges we face as Christians is continuing to believe for a miracle when all indications are “it just ain’t happening.”
So, if you tire as you continue crying out to the Lord, here are a few suggestions that have helped me continue to expect my miracle even when all God seems to be saying is “wait.”
1. Take time to remember how much God loves you and those you are praying for.
God’s love is at the root of all hope and, when we truly love someone, we will do anything for them. This is how God cares for us. Humans are created in his image, which means we get our capacity to love and feel compassion from him. In Matthew 7:9-11, we read that God wants to give us good things. So, we can be confident when we pray that God hears us and wants good things for us, those we love, and for all his creation.
2. Remember all the ways God has been faithful in the past.
Faith is a living expression that grows as we dare to put it into action. So, if we take time to remember all the miraculous ways he has answered our prayers in the past, we will find new courage and hope for the future — and our faith will grow.
3. Pray the Word.
Scripture gives us the authority to claim our miracle whether it is physical healing, reconciliation with a friend or loved one, financial provision, wisdom at work, or even something as seemingly impossible as world peace. Every situation imaginable has an applicable promise in the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is alive and active, so let God’s own words be your argument before his Throne of Grace.
4. Be comfortable not knowing what to pray.
One of my greatest frustrations when I pray is that, while I can identify the problem, I have no idea how to fix it. So, I am uncertain how to pray. That is when I claim Romans 8:26 which says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). God doesn’t need our words to know our hearts, and he is faithful to answer even our unspoken requests.
5. Invite others to pray with you.
We all have times when we are just too tired or discouraged to keep praying, and we need others to come alongside to support us. Even Moses — who led the Israelites out of Egypt — needed a little help from his friends. Exodus 17 tells us about a time when the Israelites were in a great battle. As long as Moses held up his hands, they won. But when he let them down, they began to lose. Verse 12 tells us how when Moses’ arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on, and they stood beside him and each held up an arm. We all need Aarons and Hurs in our lives. My family prayed for 15 years before we saw a loved one delivered from drug addiction. And I have to say, there were times when I just laid on the floor and let my tears do the talking. I needed trusted friends to pray when I could not. Together we fought the battle and won!
6. Find peace in surrendering to God’s will.
When we feel like we are running on spiritual fumes, and our spiritual life is beginning to sputter, it may be time to give in, not up. Sometimes we are so determined to win the battle we’re facing that we forget to ask God if we are praying in his will. Paul gives us a great example of this kind of spiritual surrender to God’s plan in 2 Corinthians 12:6-8. Three times he prayed about a “thorn in the flesh” that bothered him. God eventually answered, saying that his grace “is sufficient,” and this weakness stayed with the apostle. It brought him to a point of recognizing that God’s power works through our weaknesses. I have to confess that there have been times when I realized that while I was waiting for God to answer my prayers, he was waiting for me to “give in” to his will.
7. Worship God.
Finally, I will end with the best medicine I know to combat intercession fatigue: Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4, NIV). The journey is just as important as what we’re praying for, so while we wait, we should praise God for who he is and all the good things he has, is, and will do.
Marilee Pierce Dunker travels the world as an ambassador for World Vision, the organization her father, Bob Pierce, founded in 1950. Like he did, she shares stories, pictures, and personal reflections, bearing witness to the extraordinary ways God is using his people to share the gospel and care for the poor.
Visit World Vision’s Speakers Bureau site to request Marilee or another World Vision speaker to present at your upcoming event.