First, they prepare the patient. Obviously, they take all your vitals to ensure that your body is ready and capable for surgery. But they also educate you on what will be happening pre-op, during surgery, and post-op - preparing you mentally. And, of course, for me and many others, there is someone there to pray with you and prepare you spiritually. Yet somehow in all of that preparation they neglected to tell me that all of those doctors and nurses would see me naked....and that was my final thought before I drifted to sleep. Nice, huh? ;)
Then they listen and address any concerns you might have.
And finally, it is time for surgery - where all the magic happens. In a nut shell...they (hopefully) fix the problem.
God answers prayers almost exactly like that.
17 O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
18 To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.
The author of this Psalm had previously gone into great detail of how the wicked were oppressing the meek, the poor, the afflicted. And it seemed, to both the wicked and the oppressed, that God was ignoring this evil - the oppressed were quickly losing hope. But in these concluding verses, we see that the author of this Psalm knows that God has heard their prayer: O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble. How? One cannot be sure. We can either assume that it was known because God had answered previous prayers and can be counted on to do so again or there may have been some sort of spiritual assurance: "To pray and immediately feel the thrilling consciousness 'Thou hast heard,' is given to those who pray in faith" (Expositor's Commentary).
Then, the author goes on to show how after hearing our prayer, God will answer. Yet, we must observe how that answer comes.
First: You will strengthen their heart... This is the hardest part for us to grasp. It is when we are in the midst of raging storms or valley lows that we pray the most and feel as if God does not hear us. But He has!
Psalms 6:9 - The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
John 9:31 - ...but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.
1 John 5:14-15 - This is the confidence we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
And that is just the start! His word promises us that He hears. So why isn't He answering right away? Because He is strengthening, or preparing, our hearts. Much like the nurse helped to prepare me for surgery, the Lord must first prepare you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically before He fixes the problem. Can you imagine if they hadn't prepared me for my gallbladder surgery? I can see it now, pulled right out of the middle of a horror film - they start poking me with needles I don't even know if I need, then I start falling asleep as I desperately try to fight and stay awake because I have no clue what is happening...and then I wake up weak and with stitches in my abdomen. What happened?? Did they steal my kidney?? Did they implant a tracking device?? Okay, okay...that might be a little extreme. But do you get the picture? We need to be prepared before the problem can be fixed.
Then: You will incline Your ear... 'Incline' in the Hebrew is qashab meaning "to hear, be attentive, heed...hearken, pay attention, listen" (Strong's H7181). Though He has already heard your prayer, He will now be attentive to what you are saying just like the nurse answered the incessant amount of questions my mom and I had before they wheeled me away.
And last but, most certainly, not least: He will answer. In the case of this Psalm, the Lord would vindicate the orphan and the oppressed. According to the Gesenius' Lexicon, 'vindicate' in this scenario means "to defend any one's cause." God may not answer you in the way you expected but He has already prepared your heart for the answer He gives - He will not leave you hanging high and dry! He is a miraculous surgeon who knows the best way to fix our problems, even when we may not understand.
"The prayer of the humble, like a whisper amid the avalanches, has power to start the swift, white destruction on its downward path; and when once that gliding mass has way on it, nothing which it smites can stand."
I challenge you today to look at your prayer life a little differently. Are you hung up on an unanswered prayer? Trust in the truth that He is preparing your heart - you are currently in pre-op! Are you holding back because you don't think God is listening? He hears you, His word has promised us that. Keep talking to Him, keep crying out - "He who continues to cry shall infallibly be heard" (Clarke). Your prayers aren't answered the way you want them to be? God is the only surgeon in the entire universe who is incapable of making a mistake. It may not be easy but there are many times I have to humbly admit: "You know better than I."
In fact, my gallbladder surgery was one of those times. For me, that surgery was supposed to be the answer to a long road of health problems. And instead of being the answer I thought it was going to be, it was merely a roadblock. A couple of months after my surgery I began presenting the symptoms I had had before surgery - removing my gallbladder didn't solve a thing. I was later put on medicine that has still not resolved all of my health problems. There are days I wonder why God hasn't answered our prayers for answers in my medical life. On those days where I get nothing accomplished, I have to cancel plans, and I'm in miserable pain...it takes everything in me to say: "You know better than I." But, I am learning that He uses our unanswered prayers to prepare us for things we can't even fathom. I am already stronger because of this.
I pray that you use the unanswered prayers in your life as an opportunity to grow instead of an excuse to shut out God. He has heard and He is holding you close - we just have to make it through pre-op! And thank goodness, we don't have to be stripped down to nothing for Him to fix us! ;)