Why would God wait to answer our prayers? Wouldn’t we expect that since God is all-powerful that He would answer immediately? What is the purpose for God’s delaying our prayer requests?
Outside of God’s Will
One reason that God may not answer our prayers or that He waits is that we are asking for the wrong thing. We may be asking for something that is not in God’s will for our lives and we might be asking for selfish reasons. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”(James 4:3). For example, if we ask for money and we are not already giving to our local church or we have not been helping the poor, why should God give us more money so that we might spend it on ourselves? Also, we might have the wrong motives in asking for something. If we ask for a better job, the job that we think would be better may actually be worse than the job we have now. God is sovereign and He knows what is best, and holds our best interests in mind for our future (Jer. 29:11).
In the Lord’s Prayer, we are to ask that His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). We know that God’s will for believers is to grow in grace and knowledge, so we can ask for spiritual understanding of His Word just before we read the Bible. There is confidence in praying when we know His will for out lives as it says in I John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
When we pray, we may have serious doubts about God’s ability or willingness to answer our prayer. James 12:6-7 indicates that if we pray in doubt, God will not honor our requests saying, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” God may be waiting for us to pray in real faith, in expectation of receiving an answer, or to see if we are serious enough to continue to pray for it.
Sin Stops Prayer From Being Answered
God will not answer the prayer of a believer if they are in a state of perpetual, unrepentant sin (I Pet. 3:12). Psalm 66:18 is clear that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.“ If we are obedient, He will hear our prayers (John 15:7) but if we are unforgiving, He will refuse our petitions before His altar (Matt. 18:35). Matthew 5:24 is says that when we fail to forgive others, this is cause for a failed request for His help, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Prayer is Answered in God’s Timing
God also expects us to wait patiently on His perfect timing (Psalm 66:18). In Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.” The minor prophet, Habakkuk speaks for all of us when he grew impatient in waiting for God to answer his request in 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” I can most certainly identify with Habakkuk in his sentiments. Psalm 37 is a great Psalm to read when you are seeking the desires of your heart with the realization that it may take some time. Read these key verses from Psalm 37 on waiting:
7 “Rest before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not worry when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“
25 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
34 “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”
Sometimes the desires of our heart take time. They do not happen overnight. God is most often at work when He appears to be the most silent. Even though Daniel had to wait three weeks before his prayer was answered, God had actually answered his prayer that very day that he prayed. Don’t think that since God does not immediately reveal to you His answer, that He has not answered it and has not answered it right away. Daniel had his prayer answered the very same day of his request but it took three weeks for God’s sovereign timing for it to reach him – and it did at exactly the right time, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them”(10:12).
Stories of Waiting For Prayer To Be Answered
Don’t ever give up on praying. God shows us that persistence pays off in Luke 18:1-8, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The point of this parable is that if we continue steadfastly in prayer God will honor that persistence. Never give up on praying because God may be waiting to see if it is important enough to us to continue in prayer, day and night, day after day.
I heard the story of a faithful mother who had been praying for 28 years for her son to come to faith in Christ. Year after year her son was rebellious. He abused drugs, was in and out of jail, and showed no signs of ever knowing Christ. The days and years dragged on with absolutely no indication that there was anything different in the man‘s life. Then one day, 28 years after his mother first prayed for him, this man came to a saving faith in Christ. Today this man, Terry Williams, uses his testimony to help other prison inmates find their way to a relationship with the only One Who can save: Jesus Christ. What if this mother had given up? What if she decided it was not important enough to keep praying each and every day? What a difference this mother made in her steadfast prayers due to her undying love for her son. Today her son is making an eternal difference for others in prison. This was all due to prayer. Even though she had to wait
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