“As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you…”
About a week ago, I went for a long walk along the river. It was a hot day, but a shady walk, and few people were out. The stillness beckoned me to stop and soak it in, so I found a bench, and settled on my back: hands under my head, knees bent towards the heavens, breathing the fresh air and listening to the birds and occasional bicycles go by.
The sounds were monotonous, and might have lulled me to sleep, until a boat passed. It was distant, and, its mellow buzz was not loud enough to jolt me out of my happy stupor, but, about 30 seconds after its passing, the entire dock in front of me, filled with little boats, began shaking vehemently.
For whatever reason, Daniel 9:23 came to mind.
Daniel’s prayer, like that boat passing, inspired an immediate response. However, he wouldn’t get to see the effects of his prayer right away. In this analogy, the “ripples” would not reach the “shore,” until some time later. They would absolutely produce change, but it would take time.
This concept then brought to mind the image in scripture of “the prayers of God’s people” being kept in bowls before the throne of God. I’m not sure how exactly it works, but I know that they are preserved in God’s presence, and then, all at once, poured out to produce change on the earth:
“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people,on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder,rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5).
In a sermon about this passage, John Piper says “What God wants us to believe about our God-exalting prayers is that none of them is lost. None is wasted or pointless. They are stored up on the altar of God until the proper time when God pours them out on the earth to accomplish his great purposes of judgment and redemption.”
When you get alone with God in the middle of the business of life today, remember that, on an individual level “as soon as you (begin) to pray an answer (is) given.” Your prayers produce ripples, and you will see the effects of your prayers at some point, but it may take time. Also, remember that, collectively, your prayers are being stored in the presence of God, along with those of your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, who pray and long for the same things you do: for love, mercy, peace, redemption, healing, and for the kingdom of God to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). There will come a day, when those collective prayers, like one mighty wave, will be released in power to produce change on the earth. Until that day, we wait and watch for ripples.