Bottles of tears and bowls of prayers... We've been talking about wait watchers, how hard it is to wait for the Lord to answer His promises. I know that for some of you it's been a hard series and let's face it, none of us like waiting, especially if it is taking a long time.
As George Tuent famously said, “I'm in a hurry, and God isn't!” We've talked about and discovered that, far from being idle and letting you stew so you get more and more frustrated, God is actually weaving people and circumstances together to bring your prayers to pass according to His will.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Sometimes the wait is all day long, day after day, and it gets hard and it gets… well, long! But today I want to finish this series with a wonderfully encouraging message about bottles and bowls….
People collect the strangest things. One collector has 24,999 toe nail clippings, and others collect Pez dispensers, celebrities hair, back scratchers (Manfred Rothstein owns 675 of them). Bettina Dorfman has 6,025 Barbies worth over $150,000. One Dutch collector has 6,290 air sick bags from over 1,000 airlines. 11 year old Luke Underwood owns over 7,000 McHappy meal toys, then of course there's things like autographs, beer mugs, coffee cups, Coke cans, stamps and coins. Graham Barker has over 21 grams of belly button fluff, all home grown.
People collect things that are important to them, things they value, even if you think that they're a bit weird! And God is the same… He collects things that are important to Him…
BOTTLES OF TEARS
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?
What a beautiful picture of a loving Father. God is not enjoying watching you squirm, He's not testing or trying you for no reason, He's not delaying the answer for His own amusement, He actually feels every pain, and He collects bottles of tears. Why? Because He values them!
It's an exquisite description of the tender, personalised care of our Lord. He keeps a count of our wanderings or restless tossing during the night, of our fevered turnings from one side to another. I've had nights this week just like that, tossing to and fro trying to get to sleep but worrying about something almost against my will! Either that or heartburn.
And God cares so much about the details of our tears of sorrow that He can be asked to keep our tears in His bottle. John Bunyan said, “God preserves our tears in a bottle, so that He can wipe them away.” When I read that, I wished I had cried more. We need to weep more. Matthew Henry said, “The tears of God’s persecuted people are bottled up, and sealed among God’s treasures.”
So what does this verse teach you about God, and about what you are going through or waiting for?
- GOD CARES ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BURDENS and SUFFERING
1 Peter 5:7
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
When you hurt, God cares. Many people ask God where He was when they faced pain, and the answer is right beside you. If you face trouble and pain alone, you do so by your own choice, because He is there willing to walk with you through it. Does it stop the pain? No. Does it help you cope? Yes. He is always collecting bottles of tears.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Some of you are walking that road right now and it hurts, and He knows that. But He loves you, He collects your tears and He cares for you and urges you to reach out to Him in your pain.
2. GOD CONNECTS HEARTFELT PRAYER WITH TEARS
God not only sees your tears, He connects them with heartfelt prayers, and they move His heart. That's why He collects bottles of tears! When King Hezekiah was told that he was about to die, he cried out to God and the Lord gave him another 15 years…
2 Kings 20:5
“I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you.
Don't for one moment think that God is not moved by your pain and tears. He connects with them and they move Him, even move Him to action. And He can create great and amazing things from our tears if you let Him. Our tears can water the soil of our lives to produce great fruit!
Some of you might know that Fiona endured a very abusive childhood. Without those horrible, painful experiences, she might never have been inspired to found Lily House. Those tears were shed 40 years ago, and God gave her the vision for Lily House 27 years ago, but Lily House was founded 9 years ago. It took a long time for the bottles of tears to yield fruit, but they did, in God's timing.
3. GOD COLLECTS YOUR TEARS
We read Psalm 56:8 before, and the image of God collecting our tears and saving each one is beautiful.
In ancient times, at funerals some people use to cry and collect their tears in a small bottle, which was buried with the deceased. And God is like that with your tears. He sees them and He collects them in His bottles of tears and He keeps a record of them. He has a book of them, and not one tear falls to the ground, not one pain or hurt is wasted. God sees them all, He keeps a record and He collects them all.
Sometimes we feel desperate, but at times we are not. We don't shed enough tears but I'm telling you now, if you've shed bottles of tears and are still waiting, He cares and is moved by sincere tears and faithful hearts! You might think you're tough, you might think that big boys don't cry. But let me tell you, real men cry, and it takes courage to shed tears, just as it takes love to collect them!
God is not looking for stiff upper lips or religious penitence. You can go to church every Sunday, you can paint on a happy face and pretend that everything is OK in your world, and you might fool your friends and the pastor, but you won't fool God.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
When you are open, when you are brave enough to cry out to God with real tears, God collects them, cherishes them and is moved by them… a broken heart He does not despise! He is always collecting His bottles of tears... your tears!
4. GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT BEAR
We know 1 Corinthians 10:13 talks about God not tempting us beyond what we can bear. This verse is about temptation, but what about pain, persecution, despair? … Does God know what we can bear, and what it takes to accomplish what He is after in us? This is from the Apostle Paul…
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
God’s Holy Spirit is within you if you are a believer, and His Spirit can lead and guide you through anything that comes your way. If it's too much for you to bear, cry out to God, and He will respond to your tears and help you bear it. If it seems overwhelming and beyond you, even to the point of despairing for life itself, then God can and will make a way for you! His Spirit can take over when you reach the end of your ability to bear it. Good will come from those bottles of tears.
5. GOD FEELS THE PAIN
Remember, tears can be prayers just as much as words are, and they travel to God when we can't speak.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
I wonder if those groaning too deep for words include tears? I know I've been so hurt and despondent that tears wouldn't even flow. We are peering into the unseen world of the Spirit here, but sometimes all we can utter is Dear Lord, and then sometimes we are so hurt, so numb that all we have are tears, or maybe we're even beyond tears. Martin Luther once said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer,” and I think he is often right. When we reach the end of ourselves, His Spirit is there to intercede for us!
BOWLS OF PRAYERS
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Not only does God collect bottles of tears, but He also collects all the prayers of the saints in golden bowls, bowls of prayers, that are ever before Him.
Those prayers are precious… they are in golden bowls, and they are constantly before the Father. Wrap your head around that now, the prayers you pray are ever before the Father Himself! He not only collects your tears, but He collects your prayers and values them too!
1. OUR PRAYERS ARE NEVER LOST
Some you pray and you feel like your prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. You might have believed once, but it's taken so long and hurt or frustrated you so much that you feel like you've wasted your time believing God.
The elders hold the bowls of God because the prayers are precious to Him, because He values them.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
That prayer you prayed last week, last year half a lifetime ago is not floating out in the never never. It's not like when you send an email and the address is not quite right and it floats away never to be seen again. Your prayers are valuable, and no matter how long ago you prayed, no matter how much pain you've gone through, no matter how much water flows under the bridge, they are still there in those beautiful golden bowls.
2. GOD IS BLESSED WHEN YOU TURN TO HIM
We've seen in this series how we tend to be independent souls, doing our own thing, taking matters into our own hands. It didn't work for Abraham, it didn't work for Saul and it is not what God wants from you. He is blessed when you turn to Him and share your heart’s desire with Him and when you remember all He has done for you…
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Turning to God, crying out to God, shedding tears and heart felt prayers to God acknowledges your dependency on Him, and He loves to bless you right back!
He doesn't want you to do it all yourself, He longs for you to let Him flow through your life.
3. DELAYS ARE NOT DENIALS
I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
Some of you feel like that, you're weary and sick of crying those tears. But let me encourage you… God answers prayer. Your prayers are ever before Him, in those golden bowls, but remember, there are 4 possible ways He can answer you…
Wait I have a better idea!
As we have seen, God is not just there to meet your every request. He's not a performing animal or a celestial Santa clause whose job it is to bring you what you want in life, He's God, and He has perfect knowledge and perfect timing.
When He delays, it is not to frustrate you or wreck your life. Delay should not be seen as denials, but instead they are golden opportunities to show God that you trust Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
If you want straight paths, if you want to see those heartfelt prayers answered, trust Him. Read the Word daily, get to know Him, cause you cannot trust someone you don't know! Most of the people I know who are struggling with waiting on God don't spend time with Him every day. They neglect Bible reading, and prayer becomes a lifeless monologue.
If you want to prosper, if you want those prayers to be answered, even if it's a no or a wait, then get close to God. If you're tired of waiting, make a commitment right now to spend the time with the Lord and read His Word every day. Don't waste those bottles of tears.
4. GOD ANSWERS AT THE RIGHT TIME AND IN THE RIGHT WAY
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God has a perfect timing. He has a perfect plan for you! Remember those prayers are still in the golden bowls, and He is still God, and they are still before Him.
So if His timing is perfect, how do you move your prayers up in His agenda? How do you make Him answer sooner?
That's the thing, you can't! But here's a secret, if you get closer to God He will get closer to you, and the importance of those tears and those prayers will fade away, because all you want is to know Him! The closer you get to God, the more your will conforms to His, and the closer you get to God, the less important your agenda and timing becomes!
At the right time, and the appointed time, Those bowls of prayer will be poured out!
So my question to you is this…
WHAT IS IN YOUR BOTTLE, AND WHAT IS IN YOUR BOWL?
What is it that you have prayed for and asked God for? What is it that you've cried bottles of tears for? Those tears that the Lord has counted and stored up for you? He's collected those tears and His heart is reaching out to you today. But what about the prayers in the golden bowls? Are they still there, even if God seems distant and like He's not even listening?
Here's the thing… He won't take those prayers out of the golden bowl, He will answer them. The only one who can take them out of the golden bowl is you… when you decide to give up!
We take our prayers out of God's bowl when
- We don't trust God to answer
- We give up on God and try and do it ourselves
- We just plain give up
You trusted Him for salvation once… do you think you can trust Him with your future, with the longings of your heart, with your prayers… with your tears?
Today some of you have been praying for something for so long, you feel like giving up… some of you have already given up. Maybe it's someone you love who has rejected Christ. Maybe it's a financial breakthrough, a house, a job, a plus sign in your bank account. Maybe you're lonely, and you've prayed for a partner, someone to love you and stand with you.
If you believe that God has given you a promise and it is slow in coming, please stand. I want to encourage you to not give up, and if you've pretty much given up, today is the day you place that prayer back in the golden bowl.
Today is the day when we see a return on all those tears through the years, today is the day we place our prayers back in the bowl and we believe that God is the Lord, He's our Father and He loves us, and will answer us!
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
He collects your bottles of tears and your bowls of prayers are ever before Him! So never give up on God!