Why Does God Wait to Answer Prayer?

by Jack Wellman on November 19, 2011 · Print Print · Email Email

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.”

Why Does God Wait To Answer Prayer

We must remember to pray with faith.

Doubt

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

Another article you might be interested in:

Does God Answer The Prayers of Unbelievers?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

JO April 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I have been taking care of a mother with severe dementia for 6 yrs. I have two sisters that never cared about my mother getting ill. They only thought when she was well that she had money (which is a total laugh) so they were always around. I was constantly pushed away and lied about. I was the only one with sincere feelings and my mother also pushed me away. I knew she had nothing and I didn’t want nothing. I only wanted a relationship with her. I eventually started taking care of her 24/7. My sisters are no where in sight for 6 yrs. In away its good because they would only cause trouble. We are in such a financial bind and need help badly. Now my mother is worse. She is recovering from pnumonia and will not walk with her walker anymore (she could even PT has sais there is nothing wrong with her legs and that she is stuborn) so everything is on me, cleaning her etc. It is so hard I feel like I have been buried alive. I have no help except a family health nurse that comes and a PT that is trying to work with her to walk. Otherwise it is pure hell. My sister 6 yrs ago also slandered my name because she was mad I took control of my mother because I could see my sister was taking advantage of her. I had a beginner lawyer that knew nothing and naturally the case got dismissed after 4 1/2 yrs. I was in complete shock and lost all hope or faith in God. I then went back to God and pray constantly for help wuth the situation of my mother and financial assisstance and rcv nothing. I constantly hear how other people are getting ahead and getting things and they don;t even pray and it seems I have been totally forgotten by God.

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Jack April 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This is one of those things that trouble a lot of people, even Solomon, Job, and the Psalmist wrote about this, and in fact, the same vexing question occurs again and again in the Bible:

“Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?” (Job 21:7).

“I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3).

Examples in the present world abound. Any list of the super-rich and super-powerful today would include very few who are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, walking humbly and righteously before God. There is grave spiritual danger inherent in riches and power, unless these privileges are dedicated deliberately and sincerely to the work of God. Even a church—the church at Laodicea—was scathingly rebuked by Christ: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

God has promised to supply all our need if we are faithful to him (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:33), and we need to weigh all our standards of prosperity on the scales of eternity. “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:35–37).

Please understand that everyone will some day face the judgment seat of God (Rev 20) and for those who prosper or take advantage of people will give an account for every single action, word, and deed in this life.

Let me encourage you from the book of Isaiah 49:14-16:
“But Zion has said, “The Lord has forsaken me and the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.”

Our Lord seems to be wanting to reassure us by saying with a personal promise to each one of us that He is ever mindful of us. Isn’t that incredible? “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10) People who are getting ahead but die without Christ will be forever separated from God and that is going to be something that they will have to live with – regret – for all time. Not so with you and those who are believers and have placed their faith in Christ Jesus. Take heart for He will never leave you nor forsake you nor cast you away (John 6:37). I have discovered from experience that when God is most silent is when He is most active…behind the scene of human eyes, working all things for your good (Rom 8:28).

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tony June 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

When I was a young boy I prayed for a brother or sister cuz I was the only child and my parents argued all the time. When I was 15 I prayed that the 1st female I fell for would be my everlasting wife. Today I’m 56 and spent my entire life alone. For me to keep on waiting for something so simple that many many have is a disgrace!

I also see how many millions of christians and others from all faiths pray and send donations for all the starving children, yet I never see God/Jesus opening the sky to let down fresh rain water so they can grow crops for something to eat.

I believe God is real but I also believe He is a horror head. When I look at all the evil today because of this horrible concept He created, giving power to unseen satan demons and devils to enter ppls bodies and the sick hidious things throughout history because of this horrible concept… I don’t see a loving forgiving God/Jesus…I see a horror head.

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Jack Wellman June 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Thank you Tony for your comment. We are free moral agents. In the fall of man in the garden, Adam and Eve rejected obeying God and choose to do their own way of life. Mankind is responsible for all the suffering in the world, not God. Talk about suffering. What they inflicted upon Him [Jesus] was a twofold torment: one of physical pain, by reopening once more all the wounds He had received in His cruel scourging; the other of moral torture, by exposing Him naked to the gaze of the multitude. Being thus made ready for the sacrifice, He was thrown upon the cross, and the revolting scene of His crucifixion began.

Then, a huge nail was fixed upon the palm of one hand, and the point driven home by the blows of a hammer, through the quivering flesh and muscles, into the wood of the transverse beam. Then seizing the other arm, which had shrunk in the agony of this cruel torture, the executioners stretched and pulled it till the hand reached the spot marked in the wood for the nail. Again the blows were struck, and again the nail was driven into the wood of the cross. The sacred feet of the unresisting Saviour were then drawn down and fastened into the place marked for them.

He was rejected, abandoned by all, scorned, ridiculed, spit upon, insulted, slapped, beard plucked out, barely human looking after all was said and done (Isaiah 53). He endured the worst suffering anyone has ever been through…for us, to give us free, eternal life. I DO see a loving God, so loving that He died for us. For you, if you would believe. Otherwise, it is Rev 20:11-15 for you but I pray not Tony.

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chelseagurl March 2, 2013 at 6:37 am

I have been fervently praying for 2 things to happen in my life. First, I have been handling a big department in a hospital since 2008, with over 40 staff under my leadership, I have been waiting for my promotion to be the head of the department as I was holding a position of acting head of department. Until this date, 2013, 5 years down the line, I have yet to receive it. Many times my boss has filed for promotion, but it was like something is not bound to happen, which I still don’t understand. Our department has faced challenges and I thank God that we overcame it and ended up being the most successful department in the hospital. I have helped a number of staff for their promotions, even most of them having a much higher salary than I am. I have helped hundreds of patients and their families overcome their pain and anxiety, I believe that I am a good leader to my staff as I always feel the harmonious relationship everyday. I helped them solved their problems, both personal and professionally. Sometimes I tell God that I am not as strong as He thinks as I am because of the challenges I face on a daily basis. I work abroad, away from my family, I am also supporting my parents as my brother has a family of his own. I refuse to quit my job because I know I was there for a purpose and God has assigned me to this place, and I promised Him that whenever He wants me to do something, I will do it. There are times that I feel cheated and abused by th hospital management because of the unfair salary, but I stopped thinking negatively because I have never given up my faith for my prayers and I believe that God has a purpose for this delay. The second prayer is for a partner in life, I have been single, with no suitors at all for 12 years. This situation is more painful than the delay in my career because I felt alone, my family is very supportive and I am very close to my parents even if they are thousands of miles away. Every night I confess to God how I feel, sometimes I cannot put it into words anymore because I felt that I have been praying the same prayers and saying the same words over and over again for hundreds of times, yet He does not hear me. Most of the time I tell God that you know what is in my heart, please, hear me. My work is very stressful yet very fulfilling because we help people overcome their pain, all I wanted is to have someone who will ask me how was my day or if I am stressed, that everything is going to be ok. I have lots of things to share, stories and experiences to share, and I am hoping that somehow, I could have someone to be there for me. I could confess that i am envious to my friends because even if we share the same stress and fulfillment in our jobs, they have a family to come home to. For me,I have no one to share how my day went by. I have witnessed my friends getting married and having kids, saw them how they changed their priorities in life. For many years, I celebrate weddings, anniversaries, baptismals, kids birthday, and I attended all by myself. God knows how painful it is for me, but I still dont understand why He wanted me to be in this situation. I am a positive person, a cheerful one, usually the life f the party, so I hide my sad feelings to people because no one from my friends would understand how I feel. But as I said, I am positive that God has heard me and know what I am going through, I know that He is guiding me to the next chapter of my life, and someday, everything will make sense. I hope I didnt sound desperate, because I am not. I just dont understand now, but I hope one of these days I will.

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Jack Wellman March 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Indeed Chelseagurl. Today, as Paul said, we see thru a glass darkly but what will be revealed on the day of His return can not even be fathomed (Rom 8:18) but we DO know all things will work out for our best (Rom 8:28) because God is in charge and nothing happens that is not supposed to happen for His purposes even if it is hidden today but it will be revealed some day. I admire your strong faith to keep on believing and to see “the next chapter” in your life. What positive affirmation that Christ lives within you for you have hope.

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chris August 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Chelsea,

I remember a time when I was in the same position as you. I had been single for a long time and dated around during that time. I prayed often for God’s to bring me the girl that I had been searching for. Well, eventually he did but it was, and as it always is, on his time. I remember how WORRIED I was that I wouldn’t find someone. Well, for me as it will be for you, everything will work out. Just don’t give up.. There is a reason that you are in the position you are in.

-Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your paths straight.

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Angie March 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I have come a long way in regards to my faith & it’s importance in prayer. Bible tells me all humans are sinful. But I have tried very hard to dodge sin everyday. I also understand what prayer can & cannot do. I use the Lords prayer as my model for prayer & it turns into more of a conversation with God based around it. Which works well for me. I have a solid faith behind my prayers & seldom (if ever) doubt that God will both listen & answer in his own time. I believe my prayers are in line with the scriptures too. I have read many times that God answers yes, no or wait. I have definitely experienced the yes many times. But what confuses me is the no’s & wait’s. I struggle to know the difference between the two. If I received a no, I’d accept in the best way possible as it’s obviously not what God intended. If I received a wait then again I’d accept it & wait patiently on Gods good timing, no questions. But I truly don’t know which of these two God has answered. Can you please help me with this Jack. Thank you.

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Jack Wellman March 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

Hello Angie. When God is silent, often times He is working things out for us and is unseen by human eyes. He works from the throne and we know at all things will always work out for our best (Rom 8:28). The “no’s” and “wait’s” are the times when these things are being worked out. The “no’s” are always in our best interests, even if we don’t understand. The Potter always fashions things that are best for the clay vessels. We just have to trust Him. Keep on asking and praying and perhaps try to fast for a 12 hour period to show God you desire Him more than anything and that HIS will is always better for us than we can know. Make sure you have no medical conditions for a fast that would cause a problem (i.e. diabetes) with your doctor.

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Lucy March 25, 2013 at 10:19 am

Hey i have read many of your answer about prayers and how God answers but how do i determine that he has said no or wait. am asking this especially on the issue of Marriage i have many truly born again ladies who have been faithful in serving God but it seems like God does not hear their prayer on getting a christian husband and most have even sunk into depression after “waiting on the Lord all the years and then only to grow old ,lonely suffering a lot of ridicule from family and friends on their Foolishly waiting on this God. what is your take on the issue and the fact that the truth is the No. of saved men in our Churches is much less compared to that of ladies who seek not to be unequally yoked. The church in general seems to ignore this fact.Please advice

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Jack Wellman March 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

Thank you Lucy for your comment. I can not answer the “why” that there are fewer men in the church than women. I believe that churches do tend to ignore this but we are not ignorant of it. We can not make the church more user-friendly to men by compromising the gospel and it is God alone who calls people to Jesus Christ (John 6:44) and so it is not up to the church to increase the membership of men but God is sovereign over who is saved or not.

As we read in Acts 5:14 “And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Acts 2:43,47 “And fear came upon every soul… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

As to why women are not seemingly answered in prayer by God to have Christian husbands, again where the Bible is silent, I must also be. You are asking a question that is not addressed in the Bible specifically but if they are “faithful in serving God” does not require God to answer their prayer for a godly husband. You said that they are “foolishly waiting on ‘this” God.” Does this mean that you do not believe in God? You said “this” God in the sense that He is not your God. Do you attend a church? We have had God answer mightily in our church. Jesus said we must seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33) and that means that we should love the Lord our God first and foremost…not just seeking to be made happy. The Bible never guarantees a believer happiness. Our rewards are to be revealed in heaven…and not in this earth. There are also many faithful, godly men. We have more men in our church who are single than there are single women. I know I likely haven’t answered your question to satisfaction but the hidden will of God is not for us to know.

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Shane June 28, 2013 at 11:39 pm

I have a couple of questions. Do you think it is ok to patiently wait for a girlfriend? I’m tired of talking to/dating girls that result into a waste of my time. I just want to find the right girl and I have been praying for this for a couple of years now but it just seems like God is just working really slow or doesn’t want me to have one right now. I also work in a place where it is really just taking a toll on me. I could really use a different job but I want it to be the right one. I guess you can say I am all about what God wants. I have been very blessed throughout my life but as I get older I just want what he wants from me and if I just knew what he wanted from me it would be a lot easier. I guess what I am asking is is there a way to hear him speaking to me? Any kind of clues I should be looking for? I’m not going to lie, sometimes I lose my faith and just feel like giving up. I have come to that point many times but my soul wont allow me to. I would just like some answers if that’s at all possible.

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Jack Wellman June 29, 2013 at 10:44 am

Thank you Shane. I have been where you are now. I worked, with a bachelor’s degree, as a janitor for 7 long years around harsh chemicals and scrubbing toilets and floors. I felt like Joseph. However, if Joseph had not been in prison, he would not have interpreted dreams and the Pharoah would not have used him to interpret Pharohs dream and all of Israel and many nations would have perished.

Also, perhaps the woman you were or would have married would have been a bad marriage and no marriage is better than a bad one in which you couldn’t biblically divorce and would have been stuck with someone God knew would not be good for you as a wife and mother to your children.

I remember a family long ago that wanted to go to America and they were bumped at the last minute on a boat to the U.S. They were so disspointed and thought, “Why God?” It turned out to be the Titanic. Read Psalm 37 brother. I will pray for you.

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joseph July 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Is it wrong of me to pray to god that I want her to see how much I care and love her and that it will work out and wait for her

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Jack Wellman July 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Hello Joseph. No, I think it is fine to pray for this woman to see how much you care for her but you must show her this too in letters, cards, and flowers. But also pray for God’s will in this for a bad marriage is worse than being single for then you are biblically tied to her for the rest of your life. Instead of praying for what YOU want, pray for God’s will and that is always, always, best.

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big kahuna July 5, 2013 at 9:05 am

In God time? Remember we have a starting and ending piont in our life do our problems last a life time I have been waiting 7 years for a prayer to be answer. God gave me a family now I cant not secure a. Perment living space. How can God bless me with a family and not have a means to house them. On thing in physical live I learn that God can’t. Stop is time and time waits for no man!

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Jack Wellman July 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I am sorry “big kahuna” for your trials here you wrote about. I am also sorry this article didn’t help you much. I will pray for you, for what that’s worth. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” but I know it doesn’t seem little to you.

Have you spoken with your pastor? In many cases, church’s have benevolent committees that can give aid for such emergencies as this. What has he said?

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Samantha May 25, 2014 at 10:25 pm

I have been alone the majority of my life. I’m almost 52. I know the world sees only the outside. I believe I am truly unqualified for happiness. I know the characteristics of the person I have been praying for. However, I am so far outside his world, there are days I think, why bother praying to god go put this man in my life. He’s honorable, decent, loves his parents, is deeply thankful for what he has in his life, wants children, successful, a true and proper gentleman and from every thing I know about him, will be a true and forever faithful partner. He is waiting for the right one to come into his life as I have been waiting for that also. I once said I would never marry, ever, not qualified, too ugly, too poor, not highly educated at the right school and just too messed up. I want those feelings to change because I want to love this man and be happy, really happy for the first real time in my life. I’ve been praying for this for a long time. What more can I do?

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Jack Wellman May 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Hello Samantha…I am so very sorry my friend. All you can do is what you have already been doing…keep on praying, perhaps even fast, and I will join you. Just love him and pray to God and leave the rest up to Him…and I will promise to join you in the throne room of heaven. Psalm 37 says that God will give us the desires of our heart but only if we delight in Him. Let me direct you to a Bible Study about this Psalm and I pray it gives you direction and hope and a focus on how to delight in God. Please read this at: http://voices.yahoo.com/how-receive-desires-our-heart-6516628.html?cat=9

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patricia August 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm

This is not helping children of god to want to pray and get answers. Telling us to constantly check our hearts and minds and sin. Come on. Then we will all not get our prayers answered. I dun even think any human on earth will get their prayers answered. Coz theres no such perfect person. Btw, we will never know the will of god for lives , so that means prayers will never be answered.

The truth is we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus our advocate He will intercede for us , He will ensure our prayers are perfect every single time, even if we sin. Even if we are not perfect, even if we make mistakes.. If this puts a relief in yr mind and great assurance. Thats the gospel. Good news.

I m not a pastor or preacher or whatever. I m a child of the most high god and i believe He paid for my sins at the cross, washed me clean, redeemed me. So what god has madr clean, no one not even myself can renounce that! Thats the truth! Please spend time listening to pastors who preach the Truth!

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Jenny November 13, 2014 at 5:05 am

I am 38 years old and I have 3 younger sisters, none of us is yet married. We have been fasting and praying , going through deliverance and special prayer sessions for years now. Nothing seems to be happening . I believe God answers prayers and I know He has heard our cry. How can we keep the faith and keep believing when people are laughing at my family and making mockery of us.

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Jack Wellman November 13, 2014 at 8:11 am

Is your church a small one? Are there no single men in the church you attend? Talk to your pastor. In the meantime, no marriage is better than being bound till death do you part in a bad one. Put the kingdom and Him first (Matt 6:33) and also read Psalm 37 about how God grants the desires of our hearts if our delight is truly in Him. People who laugh…are these people saved? I would be praying for them for without Christ they face sheer terror someday (Rev 20:11-15).

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