This past week, I started looking into prayers of women in the Bible. Honestly, there aren’t that many. Not that women didn’t pray — of course they did — but we have a limited record of women who prayed and what they talked to God about.
The first one I came across was in Genesis 25:21-22:
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
That last line stuck with me: “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
I bet a gazillion wives could say the same regarding issues in their marriage bed: Why is this happening? What’s going on? Could someone explain this weird / painful / discombobulated way I feel? But how many of us take that next step and actually inquire of the Lord?
When we experience difficulty, wouldn’t it be great if our minds first turned to God? If He was our to-go source when we faced challenges? That’s one reason I’ve been writing about praying more this year and including sexual intimacy on our prayer list.
But continuing to read the Genesis 25 passage, the next verse is this one:
The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.” (v. 23)
Well, there you go. Isn’t the takeaway that if you inquire of the Lord, He’ll pop right up with a ready answer, explaining exactly what’s going on? He might speak in symbolic terms, but still … you’ll get the scoop. Inquired, answered, done. And now back to our regular programming.
Actually, I felt a little jolted when I read this account. Even a bit cheated in my own life. “So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her“? Where is the part in between of her inquiring and inquiring and inquiring, and then waiting and waiting and waiting, and fretting and fretting and fretting, and crying and crying and crying, and wondering and wondering and wondering, etc.? Because THAT sounds more like my prayer life.
Not always, of course. Sometimes I sense a quick answer from my Heavenly Father. But years ago, when I was praying earnestly about my flailing and failing marriage, it felt like an eternity of when is He going to answer?
And when I began to write about praying for your marriage bed, that’s the response I received from some of you — that you’d been praying for a long time, but nothing had changed. You long for the kind of quick response Rebekah received.
Even if it took more time than indicated in this summary of her story, it couldn’t have been more than a few months since she was pregnant, we know how long that takes, and she got her answer before the babies arrived. Couldn’t God answer your prayer in nine months or less?
I’m going to be entirely unoriginal and go with the theological answer plenty before me have given: He is answering. It just doesn’t look like we expected.
I have the advantage of getting to look back on the worst of my marriage and see it with a more objective eye. What I now recognize is I wanted God to do certain things, and as long as He wasn’t doing those things, I thought He wasn’t listening or He didn’t care or He wasn’t ready to answer me. His silence in the area where I wanted Him to speak made me feel like He was entirely silent.
But He was answering. He was trying to get me to face my own issues, my own need for growth, my own flaws. Not so that I could wallow in my failures, but so that God could work on my mind, my heart, and my soul. So that He could help me become a better wife, a better person. (He’s still working on that, by the way. I was a pretty rough lump of clay.)
What if God is answering your prayer about sexual intimacy in your marriage? But it doesn’t look like you expected.
(I doubt Rebekah expected that “two nations” in the womb thing either. It’s tough enough having twins, much less two whole nations battling inside you. Sheesh.)
What if God is wanting to work on you in ways you’re not hearing? Because, let’s face it, who wants to be told in the middle of your worst moments that you have some tough work to do? It can feel like you’re lying in your sick-bed and God’s saying, “Time for some calisthenics.” Yet maybe He knows that you’ll be stronger, better, more like Christ if you listen to His guidance.
And that’s a key part as well: Listen.
I did a whole lot of talking to God when things were bad. Everything from whispered reverence to casual conversation to deep pleading to defiant yelling. Know what I didn’t do much of? Shutting up and listening. (It’s not my strong suit — another trait God’s working on.)
When I finally stopped babbling to God and started asking what I needed to work on, I felt a pull in the right direction. And it wasn’t like a “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” voice in my ear (see Jedi mind trick). More like opening myself up to Him and then certain verses niggling their way into my mind as I read my Bible, or remembering to do something I knew I should, or just having the patience or perspective to see a situation differently.
It took a while, but as I made changes, our marriage began to change. The answer to my prayers began to show itself more fully. It pieced together bit by bit like a jigsaw puzzle, where you can’t see the answer with a corner piece or a few connected pieces. It takes time and effort before you can make out the picture, but each piece is part of the answer — God’s answer to your prayer.
But first, we must start with our part: So she went and inquired of the Lord.