Adrian and I saw Ludovic Einaudi at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham yesterday evening. It was excellent. I’d surprised Adrian with tickets for his birthday but, to be honest, I was expecting to be a little bit bored. I enjoy listening to music, but prefer it to be in the background while I’m doing something else like reading or writing. But to hear such great music live was a good experience. The small orchestra was multi-talented with different instruments and the symphony and harmonies (forgive me if I get the terms wrong, I enjoy music but am not particularly musical!) were exquisite. The music was relaxing, uplifting, exciting and dramatic in turn. I got completely lost in it and found my heart full of worship to God as I listened.
Einaudi bowed at the end of the concert, along with his orchestra, and they disappeared off stage. The audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation. Some whistled and shouted to show their appreciation. But, on the whole, we remained very British and simply clapped. Loudly.
We kept clapping and the stage remained empty. Adrian leaned down to me and whispered: ‘Do you think he’s going to come back?’ I replied: ‘Surely, he can’t resist the pressure!’ because the several hundred-strong audience was clapping in unison. The clapping got quicker and quicker, louder and louder. Still no sign of Einaudi. I wondered if, like Beethoven, he might be deaf and couldn’t hear how much we wanted him to come back and delight us with his music.
At that point, I sensed God asking me: ‘How much do you want this?’ He wasn’t asking me how much I wanted to hear Einaudi again. He was looking into my heart, asking how much I wanted Him to answer a particular prayer request (well, two actually) for which I had been praying all the way through the concert. How much did I really want Him to work? Was I prepared to persevere until there is breakthrough?
Even while I pondered these things, a great roar went up. Einaudi and his orchestra came back on stage. We all settled back down in our seats and enjoyed more beautiful music.
Jesus taught that when it comes to prayer, the Father yearns to bless us with good things. His ears are open to our cries. He is generous and compassionate and concerned to give us the very best. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek and knock in our praying. He promises that for those who ask, it will be given. For those who seek, we will find. For those who knock, it will be opened to us. God isn’t interested in being (indeed, He isn’t!) a heavenly slot machine whereby we recite a prayer and blessing immediately comes out. Oh no. Often when we pray for things, God is interested in changing and sanctifying our hearts through our prayers. His desire for us is that we delight ourselves in Him so that He can give us the desires of our hearts, because it’s when we delight ourselves in Him that our desires change to be more in line with His.
The Father also wants us to learn persistence and perseverence in our praying. Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow, to show that God isn’t hard-hearted and tight-fisted but that He longs that we develop faith in Him. A faith that says no matter how long it takes or how things turn out, we will trust Him. When Jesus met a Canaanite woman during His time as a man on earth, He gently tested her faith. She cried after Him, asking Him to have mercy on her daughter who was severely oppressed by an evil spirit. He questioned her, testing her: how much did she really want what He dearly wanted to give? The end result was that Jesus praised her great faith, granted her desires and healed her daughter.
If you are longing for God to act in your life, in the life of someone you love, or in a particular situation, may I encourage you to persevere in prayer until you see a breakthrough. It may not be what you expect – God delights in surprising us and doing over and above our expectations – but He will answer. Keep asking, seeking and knocking.