Joseph’s prayer leads to understanding the basis for faith and expectations when circumstances suggest a prayer may have gone “the wrong way.” He prayed for release from jail but the prayer appeared unanswered for two years. Thereafter, he was taken from jail and appointed to a high position in Egypt. If he believed that an appeal to Pharaoh was God’s answer to his prayer, then he likely was disappointed because the appeal did not bring him relief. However, if he understood God may have a plan for him that differed from his expectation, then he likely waited with faith for God’s time. Release from jail at the time he prayed would likely have led to great uncertainties for Joseph. However, more than two years after his prayer, he was released into a condition that gave him great control over future events. Joseph’s experience illustrates that God may grant a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled WHEN and HOW he chooses, to fit his overall plan for the recipient.
In the first installment of this two-part study on Joseph’s prayer (see Prayer of Joseph from the Dungeon Part 1 of 2), we observed that Joseph probably believed his encounter with Pharaoh’s cupbearer was God’s answer to his prayer.
Therefore, he used the opportunity to appeal to Pharaoh. However, although the encounter was indeed a key step in the implementation of God’s plan for Joseph, his expectation regarding the opportunity was different from God’s plan. Joseph prayed to be released from jail and expected his appeal to Pharaoh would result in his release. However, the cupbearer did not deliver the appeal and Joseph remained in jail for the next two years. Thereafter, Pharaoh had dreams that troubled him but could not be interpreted by any of his people [Genesis 41:8]: “In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.” Then, and only then, Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph—as an expert dream interpreter—and informed his master [Genesis 41:12–13]: “Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
God may grant a prayer with a promise, set a schedule to fulfill the promise to fit his overall plan, want the recipient to follow the schedule; but may not reveal the promise, schedule, or plan. We begin a study series to follow David’s experience as king in waiting and examine his interactions in the context of Christ’s teaching: with the purpose of understanding how he followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel without knowing the schedule a priori. The study begins with a discussion of Joseph’s prayer from Potiphar’s jail, as an example of prayer that God granted with a promise but did not reveal the promise or schedule for its fulfillment. The study is potentially relevant to every person in understanding God’s expectations of each of us when he grants a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled WHEN and HOW he chooses.
We begin a bible study series on Following God’s Schedule based on David’s interactions with others during the period between his anointing and confirmation as king of Israel. We examine the interactions in the context of Christ’s teaching several generations later. Recall that David did not become king immediately after his anointing. Instead, he went through a sequence of events that lasted approximately ten years and culminated in the people of Israel formally electing him king. The sequence of events represents God’s Schedule for David to become king of Israel after his anointing. God did not reveal the schedule to any person—not even Prophet Samuel or David himself. That notwithstanding, David followed the schedule, as we can surmise because he did become king. He followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel without knowing the full schedule at any time.
SCHEDULE FOR MISSION As we discuss in a previous study under Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, God often will lead a person to accomplish a mission through a schedule of task increments without revealing the mission or entire schedule. Each task increment leads to an outcome that ushers in the next task. Thus, the person proceeds through God’s schedule in a series of steps that culminate in completing the mission and accomplishing the objectives, without knowing the full schedule at any time. The events in each step can be preparatory (i.e., providing experience needed for the next events), precursory (i.e., a necessary event that leads to the next), or both preparatory and precursory. The person’s choices in each event determine whether he/she follows or departs from God’s schedule. As we discuss in previous studies, a departure from God’s schedule need not be permanent because he often provides opportunity for redirection (see Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection and Divine Intervention by Coercive Redirection). David took advantage of redirection when needed and, thus, followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel.
SCHEDULE FOR PROMISE David’s experience in following God’s schedule is potentially applicable to every person, because God at times grants a prayer with promise, sets a schedule for fulfillment of the promise, wants the recipient to follow the schedule, but may not reveal the promise or the schedule to the recipient. He grants every prayer of a person that believes in him. He may grant some prayers instantaneously and exactly as prayed whereas he grants other prayers with a promise to be fulfilled at a different time as he chooses.
An opportunity to earn blessing often may be encountered first as a call to be compassionate. For example, when Joseph had compassion on two fellow inmates in Potiphar’s jail, he did not realize that the encounter was an opportunity for him to demonstrate competence that would later propel him from jail to the highest administrative position in Egypt. The two men were Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker and were held in the same jail with Joseph.
Every parent will be delighted to know that his/her child’s reputation away from home draws respect and admiration and makes people want to assign greater responsibilities to the child. One such child was Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob. He was sold to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s special guard, by Ishmaelite merchants that took him to Egypt having bought him from his brothers. Joseph quickly distinguished himself as someone that is attentive to needs, commits to doing what he could to provide for the needs, perseveres until he succeeds, and conveys the image of God in everything he did.