Last week I shared some themes that encouraged me from The Horse and His Boy, book two in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. This week I’d like to discuss some thoughts on prayer based on my reading of the next book in the series, Prince Caspian.
Note: as I said before, these books are not Scripture, and it’s not my intent to treat them as such. Lewis was a Christian, however, and biblical themes pervade his books, so I don’t think it’s wrong to use these ideas as a springboard into spiritual principles–principles that challenged and encouraged me in my waiting, praying season of chronic illness.
1. Answers to prayer don’t always look like what we expect.
“I suppose you are the four children out of the old stories,” said Trumpkin. “. . . But, you know, the King and Trufflehunter and Doctor Cornelius were expecting–well, if you see what I mean, help. To put it another way, I think they’d been imagining you as great warriors. As it is–we’re awfully fond of children and all that, but just at the moment, in the middle of a war–but I’m sure you understand.”Chapter 8, How They Left the Island
When the Pevensies show up in Narnia, they’re received with a bit of doubt because the Narnians expected the Kings and Queens of old to be just as big and powerful as they were in the stories. Before long, however, Peter and his siblings prove that they really are the sovereigns of old and that they do have the skills to help Narnia.
We can be guilty of responding like Trumpkin sometimes (or a lot of times) too. We pray for healing, and God leads us to another five doctors instead of miraculously restoring us. We pray for strength, and we barely accomplish the task through pain and fatigue (but we still accomplish it). We pray for relief, and God gives us one good day out of ten instead of permanently easing our symptoms.
Are these answers to our prayers any less just because they’re not what we expected? God knows best–because He knows everything–and we can trust Him to answer our prayers in the best way possible, even if it’s not in the way that we expect.
2. Answers to prayer don’t always come when we expect.
“There was no bridge in our time,” said Peter. “And then from Beruna down to here was another day and a bit. We used to get home about teatime on the second day, going easily. Going hard, we could do the whole thing in a day and a half perhaps.”Chapter 8, How They Left the Island
“But remember it’s all woods now,” said Trumpkin, “and there are enemies to dodge.”
Caspian blows the magic horn, but help doesn’t show up immediately: Trumpkin takes a night and a day to reach the ruins of Cair Paravel, he and the Pevensies spend another day or so getting acquainted, and together they take another two days at least to return to Aslan’s Howe.
We see this same idea of waiting for answered prayer and fulfilled promises all throughout Scripture. The most notable example–and the most relevant to our current Christmas season–is Israel waiting for the promised Messiah: two thousand years from God’s promise to Abraham, roughly five thousand years from God’s promise to Adam and Eve.
It can be discouraging when we pray and pray and no answer seems to come. But just because we don’t see an answer right away doesn’t mean the answer won’t come–Scripture assures us that God hears our prayers and He IS working on our behalf, even if we can’t see it.
3. Waiting for answered prayer requires patience.
“The help will come,” said Trufflehunter. “I stand by Aslan. Have patience, like us beasts. The help will come. It may be even now at the door.”Chapter 12
“Pah!” snarled Nikabrik. “You badgers would have us wait till the sky falls and we can all catch larks. I tell you we can’t wait. Food is running short; we lose more than we can afford at every encounter; our followers are slipping away.”
The dwarf Nikabrik doesn’t want to wait for the old kings (who are, ironically at the door) and Aslan. He convinces Caspian to let him summon the White Witch to help instead, and the results are disastrous: Nikabrik is killed and Caspian is injured.
The faith of Trufflehunter the badger, however, is rewarded when Peter gives him a hug and commends him.
“Best of badgers,” [Peter] said. “You never doubted us all through.”Chapter 12, Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance
“No credit to me, your Majesty,” said Trufflehunter. “I’m a beast and we don’t change. I’m a badger, what’s more, and we hold on.”
Do you tend to be a Nikabrik or a Trufflehunter when day after day goes by and your prayer still hasn’t been answered? (Being honest here? I’m usually more dwarf than badger.)
But God wants us to be patient. And if we’re yielded to His Spirit (Eph 5:18), we will be, because patience–or longsuffering, literally suffering long–is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
4. Waiting for answered prayer includes action.
“Now,” said Peter, as they finished their meal, “Aslan and the girls (that’s Queen Susan and Queen Lucy, Caspian) are somewhere close. We don’t know when he will act. In his time, no doubt, not ours. In the meantime he would like us to do what we can on our own.”Chapter 13, The High King in Command
After he blows the horn, Caspian doesn’t just sit back and twiddle his thumbs. He can’t afford to–the war is still going on. He sends out messengers to look for the Kings and Queens, gathers supplies, shores up the defenses, and engages in skirmishes with Miraz’s men.
Something I’ve been learning in my season right now is that waiting on God doesn’t mean sitting on my hands doing nothing. Waiting means putting my confidence in God, first and always, and then taking action in two ways: 1) using biblical wisdom (and following God’s specific leading as He opens doors) to take steps toward the answer, if I can, and 2) occupying myself fully in what I have at hand.
For example, I can pray for healing, but am I eating well? Am I resting? Am I willing to step out and try a new doctor? (It can be hard to know what’s our responsibility and what’s God’s, I know–but that’s a topic for another post.)
On the other side, I can pray for healing so that I can change my job/location/life situation, but until that change happens (if it does), am I wasting my time bumming around and pining for the life I don’t have or am I using my time wisely to fully engage in the life I have right now?
In II Kings 3, Israel’s armies are marching against Moab and they run out of water. Jehoshaphat consults the prophet about this need, and God tells the people to dig ditches because He’s going to bring water for them and their animals. The people obey, and sure enough, the next morning God miraculously brings water that fills the ditches.
Sometimes God asks us to dig ditches to prepare for His answer. Sometimes all we can do is stay faithful where we are until He does His work to move us. Either way, we wait on Him–a waiting that takes action while ultimately leaving the results in His hands.
Do you accept God’s answers when they come at a different time–or in a different way–from what you expect? Are you patiently waiting on and trusting in His sovereignty? What are some ways you are (or can be) active in your waiting?