20 Isaiah 49:8 This is what the LORD says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you . . . .” (New Living Translation)
Proverbs 25:11 says, “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket,” (NLT). The King James Version is emblazoned on many a memory as saying, “Words fitly spoken.” The Christian Standard Version says, “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.” The Message says it this way: “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, . . . .”
Timing is important. Consider the declaration, “How lovely you are!” When spoken to your wife as she steps into the living room after preparing for a banquet, these words will find a fonder reception than when she steps in from a sudden rainstorm for which she had no umbrella and is drenched to the bone.
The right thing in the wrong timing usually concludes counter to intention. In other words, “Oops.”
The right play at the right time in a game seals a victory. The right pitch in the right count gets a strikeout. The right turn at the right time leads to the right destination. The right answer at the right time earns a higher score on an exam.
Never underestimate the power of timing.
Our Father in heaven is particularly good at timing.
Consider this: What if the Red Sea had opened a day earlier or later? What if a Middle-Eastern Mom had not sent her son out with a sack lunch on the day five thousand hungry people pressed in on Jesus and his disciples?
We could go on.
What if I had not been standing alone with no one to talk to and nothing to do the day Katie entered the Baptist Student Union and pretended to read the bulletin board while awaiting the arrival of a friend? What if I had not gathered the courage to walk up and speak to her for the first time six months later and ask her out on a date moments before another guy was preparing to do the same?
God’s timing is perfect. He is never early, never late. He says, “At just the right time, I will respond to you.” This is another good reminder from the Bible that waiting is one of the most important disciplines we ever learn. How many times does the Bible record God’s straightforward command, “Wait”? Frequently enough for us to hear it, but apparently not enough for it to sink in.
If God has not delivered you yet in a manner showing the whole world how good he is and how he loves everyone who waits on him in faith, keep waiting. His promises made are his promises kept.
At just the right time, I will respond to you.
Maybe it’s the right time for a little prayer practice. Here is an example of how to pray when you have to wait:
Our Father, your timing is perfect. You are never early, never late. I need you now. I need you in this moment and in this situation. Show me the way I should go. Give me the strength for the journey. Give the the strength to be still. Protect me, defend me, surround me. Give me grace to wait and grace when it is time to move. Enlarge my faith so that standing still feels as faithful as plunging ahead. Give me the self-discipline to stand still and watch you do what only you can do, and to await your perfect timing. Give me the peace of contentment in this pregnant moment with you. Amen.
To get good at following God’s path, we have to get good at waiting. As much as we hate waiting, some things are worth waiting for.
Wait for it. . . .
I will wait when it is time to wait.
Our Father, waiting is not my best strength. I prefer quick solutions and a fast pace. I want to accomplish many things today and every day. However, I want to learn to wait because I do not want to miss the one thing worth waiting for. Deliver me from hurry. Save me from the temptation to rush. Strengthen me to restrain my impulse for fruitless activity. Amen.
21 Ephesians 1:16–18 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
Have you ever said something like, “I’ll be praying for you,” and then honestly, truthfully did not know how to get beyond praying, “Bless ’em. Bless ’em real good”?
Paul the Apostle, a man who knew how to pray, teaches us how to pray when we do not know what to pray. He prayed with thanksgiving: “I have not stopped thanking God for you.” The Christian Standard Bible translates these words this way: “I never stop giving thanks for you.” The Message paraphrases it, “I couldn’t stop thanking God for you — every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.”
You get the feeling Paul was deeply grateful for these friends. An article I read a while back said emails are more likely to get a response if you close them with the two little words. With gratitude. I began using this as part of my email signature. It is a nice reminder to express gratitude to God for the person addressed.
Paul says he expressed his gratitude every time he thought about this group of people. Never stopping giving thanks is a good start toward improved relationships, wouldn’t you say?
Paul also asked our Father in heaven to give this group of people spiritual wisdom and insight so that they might grow in their knowledge of God. God’s wonderful plan for our friends’ lives is better than our wonderful plan for them. It is more important that our family members, friends, and coworkers know and experience God and his purpose than me and mine. This thought seriously reshapes my prayers for others.
Paul continued by praying “that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called.” In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Holy Grail is lost forever. In the discussion following this dramatic scene, Indie’s father, who has searched for the Holy Grail for his whole life, is asked what he received from the experience. He replies with a single word: “Illumination.”
Praying for illumination for others is asking God to turn on the lights for people to see, understand, and embrace the “confident hope he has given to those he called.”
Sitting in a Bible class at college during my student days, a guy you would not expect to attend a Bible class was among my classmates. This rough and crude young man who spoke with colorful expression often unheard in the University Christian Center received illumination one day well into the semester.
When the lights came on, he loudly blurted out an attention-getting expletive that caused the professor to stop in the middle of her remarks. Christianity finally made sense to him. It dawned on him what Jesus had done for him. Walking away from class that day, he appeared lighter on his toes, fully joyful, engulfed in a deep smile of gratitude.
Pray for illumination.
When a person understands and embraces this confident hope, he or she understands and embraces what it means to be included in God’s family. They awaken to the reality of belonging to our Father in heaven. They are his dearly loved children.
Who would not want that for whoever they pray for? Today is a good day to reshape our prayers for others. Paul’s prayer gives ours a jumpstart moving us well beyond, “Bless ’em. Bless ’em real good.”
I will pray with gratitude.
Our Father, teach me to pray for others with gratitude. Teach me to pray for others to know and experience you. I want their minds to be illumined. I want them to experience confident hope. I want them to know they belong to you. Amen.