God's delays in answering prayer come from His goodness and wisdom. They are never due to any weakness on His part. His power is so great that He can do anything instantly. After all, He merely spoke and the universe was created. Therefore, any delay in receiving what it is His will to give us must in some way bring additional benefit to the one praying or to others whom God wishes to bless.
There are three obvious factors that come into play in delayed answers: the enemy, ourselves, and circumstances. Any one or any combination of these issues can contribute to lag-time in requests becoming reality. God uses these factors to bring additional benefits to us in the way He answers prayer.
That the devil and his agents can hinder the answer to prayer is seen in the experience of Daniel (chapter 10). The angel sent to give Daniel the answer he was seeking explained his tardiness in arriving thusly: 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 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia (verses 12, 13 NIV). Daniel's answer was delayed because of resistance in the spiritual realm. We must be careful to avoid dualism in our understanding of spiritual warfare. Since God is all-powerful, any resistance He allows must be because it serves His purposes. It is possible that God has limited Himself because He has decided to give mankind a significant role to play in the course of events. But it is more likely that the Lord allows delay because doing so is a way to achieve multiple purposes. The other two reasons for delayed answers help explain why God allows the devil to temporarily thwart His plans (and it is something He allows; remember Job).
Delays may be due to the timing of the answer. God usually works through space-time processes. He can do everything directly and immediately, but He most often uses a process. (The real question concerning creation is not if it took place in six days instead of eons, but why God took six days when He could have done it all in an instant.) A biblical example of timing as a factor in answered prayer is when Jesus waited until Lazarus had been dead for four days before He responded to the plea of Martha and Mary. Henry Blackaby has helped us see that the wait was necessary in order to give the women and His disciples a greater revelation of Himself. John indicates in his gospel, that the resurrection of Lazarus played a part in provoking the religious leaders to kill Jesus (John 11:45-53). Our human, earth-bound, time-bound perspective does not allow us to see how God is orchestrating all human events. He works His answer to our petition into the overall plot of history. In fact, He probably allowed our need so that we would ask so that He could act at the proper time. Mind boggling! But remember what He told Isaiah: "Before they call, I will answer" (65:24). The Lord's timing is always purposeful. He is never early nor late with His answers. His answer serves multiple purposes.
The third reason for answers to prayer not occurring immediately is that God uses the time between our asking and His answering to draw us closer to Himself, to build our character, or to strengthen our faith. As we continue to pray, the Holy Spirit gets us ready to accept the response that God knows we need. This was the experience of the apostle Paul with regard to his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If God answered every prayer immediately, what spoiled little brats we would be! Ability to accept delayed gratification is the essence of maturity. When God keeps us waiting, we seek Him more earnestly, developing a yearning for Him, not just His gifts. As our tolerance for delay increases, we are less likely to doubt the Lord's character or ability. We trust Him more. The Father does not keep us asking so we can wear Him down but so He can build us up.
If we give up praying for something, what does that mean? Did we not really need it? Was it not really that important to us? Have we grown self-sufficient (which means self-centered)? Isaiah cried, "You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth" (62:6). If we are truly committed to Jesus and the Kingdom, let us persist in calling on the Lord to extend His glory to all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages.
The Purpose of This Blog
In response to the challenge by the Southern Baptist Convention that churches take on the task to share the gospel with unengaged unreached people groups, the missions team of Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association felt the need for a way to focus prayer on the task. This blog is intended to facilitate prayer for those contemplating their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. This on-line prayer guide may prove useful to those exploring a call to missions involvement as well as to those who have sensed a call to pray for those who will go to the front lines.