Receiving answers to prayers is like catching a wave in the ocean. For those who have ever gone surfing, boogie boarding, or body surfing, you know what I mean – that feeling when you sense the wave swelling beneath you, lifting you ever so slightly before whooshing you towards the shore. The feeling of the water carrying your whole body effortlessly and quickly is a true rush. The buoyancy is unmistakable, and the instant delivery from one’s own effort to stay afloat is obvious.
Trepidation on entering the ocean comes from inexperience with it. It takes practice to get into the water. People who swim in the ocean often have no fear about diving right into the waves to go out to catch the big ones – even small children who are experienced can go out past the small surf. But most of the time, little children catch small waves close to the shore. Their tiny bodies are usually capable of catching only the smallest of waves. Yet the thrill of catching a small wave to a child is the same as catching a larger wave to an adult because of proportional body sizes.
Older children, teens, and adults have less fear about swimming past the initial breakers and seeking bigger thrills in the larger swells because they are more experienced with the ocean. After treading through the small waves and diving through the crash of larger waves, a swimmer gets to the lovely place of floating above the ocean floor in a series of steady undulations. Those undulations gradually build to a wave sequence.
To catch a wave, you need to be practiced at seeing the patterns in which you are swimming. You feel a small swell, then a larger one, then an even larger one. Then you see the largest swell is cresting to a wave that is about to break just beyond your reach. You quickly swim toward the wave, hoping to be near its crest just as it peaks so you can catch it and ride it into shore. That entire effort of striding past the shoreline waves, diving through the breakers, and reaching open ocean to catch a wave is worth the rush of riding one wave all the way back to shore. In fact, falling out of a wave is a disheartening experience – a thrill-gone-bad so to speak. You feel like you were ejected from something wonderful that you cannot possibly go back and catch, the opposite of the supported rush you get when riding a wave all the way to the shoreline.
Have you ever caught a wave? Do you know the feeling of the lift when the wave picks you up and starts carrying you? That feeling is the closest feeling I can describe to receiving an answer to a prayer. When God is answering me, my efforts to reach him are over. He is the one carrying me at that point. I just need to choose to stay in the wave.
To me, God is the ocean. He is ever present, always ready to lift us when we enter His presence, whether we come to ride the waves or just to be in the water. The waves are answers to prayers. Learning to ride them is just like learning to receive answers to prayers. They are there to bring us joy if we know how to catch them.
For people new to praying, it is scary to enter the water. Is God really there? Will he really answer? Does he care? For anyone who is praying for the first time, the experience can be tangible.
Parents of small children teach them to trust that God is there. Little waves are for little people. It does not take much effort to catch little waves, but it still requires entering the water, watching the patterns, and then having faith to turn, push, paddle and catch the wave. Small children can learn early to trust that God wants to answers their prayers. They pray about small matters, get answers, and increase their faith. It gives them courage to try larger waves later.
Larger waves are for teens and adults. These larger waves might be answers to prayers about friends, education, withstanding temptation, employment, marriage, and family. To get answers, we make a personal effort to swim past the breaking waves, get to deeper water, be familiar with the feelings and actions needed preparatory to catching a wave, then “catching” it. It is a solo effort and represents our personal relationship with God. These waves we catch literally have a bigger impact on us than those we caught as children. Larger waves can tumble us around and push us under the water if we choose to ignore them and do not make the effort to know God’s plan for us. We then come up gasping for air instead of having enjoyed a sweet ride into shore. Likewise, we can catch an answer and begin to follow it but then turn out of it and lose the peaceful feeling of being carried through an experience.
Sometimes, we see others near us looking at the same swells, also trying to catch answers. Timing of answers is important, and we might be seeking an answer only to see the person just north or south of us catching the wave we thought we’d catch. That’s OK. It was their answer, not ours. Sometimes we catch waves with others and enjoy similar answers. Sometimes, there are no large waves to catch. It’s just not time for an answer. We can still head out past the small surf and rest in the swells. Even at those times, we can still feel God’s support in the buoyancy of the water and know he loves us.
Gigantic waves, such as those found on Oahu’s North Shore, are answers to prayers for the whole world. Only prophets and very experienced “Answer Catchers” can even attempt to catch these waves without the answers themselves destroying the rider. I’m grateful to those who serve me by diving into that part of the ocean and asking and receiving the big answers God wants me to hear. I am not yet up to riding those waves myself.
I know the ocean is always there. God is always there too. I just need to take the time to interact with him. Seeking answers to prayers brings me closer to God’s plan for me. The relationship becomes tangible, just like getting in the water.