Apr 2, 2014
It’s not easy when you’ve prayed for something, but God hasn’t answered.
Maybe you’ve prayed for employment, or for healing. Maybe you’ve sought God for the salvation of a loved one, or for pregnancy. Maybe you’ve cried out to God for a husband or wife, or for a Gospel-breakthrough in your area.
You’ve prayed and prayed, for months, and maybe years. But no answer.
That can be painful, and often brings unique temptations.
When we long for God to work, and have labored in prayer without seeing God answer, we can be tempted to stop praying, to become bitter, and to pull our hearts back from God.
I know. I’ve been there. And I find myself back there from time to time.
That’s why I am writing this blog post, to help me and hopefully some of you fight off these temptations.
So here are promises which I have found helpful to encourage my heart when I’ve been praying for a long time with no answer.
Jesus Lovingly Delays
In John 11 Mary and Martha beg Jesus to come and heal their brother, Lazarus, because he was very sick.
And yet in verse six we read that Jesus does not come immediately. Instead, he delays for two whole days. And tragically, during that delay, Lazarus dies.
So why did Jesus delay? Was it because Jesus did not love them? No. John says it was BECAUSE Jesus loved them –
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So [which means “therefore”], when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:5-6)
So the reason Jesus delayed was because he loved them. But what’s loving about delaying and having Lazarus die?
It’s loving because, by raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gave the sisters an even greater display of God’s glory.
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
Through faith in Christ you can be fully assured that every delay is because God DOES love you, and that one reason for this delay is to show you even more of God’s glory than you would have had otherwise.
This is good news, because nothing will satisfy you more than beholding God’s glory. (And if you are struggling to feel that, read this post from last week.)
God Will Answer Speedily
In Luke 18 Jesus gives us a parable whose purpose is to keep us persevering in prayer.
It’s about a woman who persists in asking an unrighteous judge for justice. Because of her persistence, he does finally give her justice.
Here is the Jesus’ point –
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. (Luke 18:6-8)
Notice that we who are the elect cry to God day and night, which means we have heart-felt requests which God has not yet answered.
Notice also that God will bring us justice. That does not necessarily mean he will do exactly what we ask. But it does mean he will either do what we ask, or something even better – something even more satisfying to us because it will display even more of his glory.
And Jesus says God will do this “speedily.” How can it be speedily, if to receive it we have to pray day and night?
It’s because, as Darrell Bock says, “speedily” means “soon” (Luke 9 – 24, p.455). It means there will be some delay, but that delay does not mean God has forgotten us.
“Soon” means God knows our requests, cares about our requests, and will surely respond to our requests in the best way at the perfect time.
His Work is Perfect
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
Recently this verse has brought me great comfort, as I have pondered the truth that everything God does is perfect, just, faithful, and upright. Everything.
That includes the prayers he has lovingly heard and wisely delayed to answer.
These delays are part of God’s perfect work, which means they will bring us the greatest joy as they cause God’s glory to be most powerfully displayed.
Which means the day will come when you see God’s purposes so clearly that you thank him for every day, month, and year of delayed answer to your prayers.
At the same time, he knows these delays can cause heartache. So bring your heartaches to him, using passages like Psalm 13 to express your heart.
He will meet you, as he promises in Psalm 34:18 —
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
He will draw near to you, comfort you, fill and encourage you.
So bring your heartaches to him. Use these promises to battle temptation.
And keep praying.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- Mary and Martha’s Unanswered Prayer
- What about Unanswered Prayer?
- Does Faith Mean Believing I Will Receive Exactly What I’m Praying for?
- Are You Discouraged in Prayer?
(Picture is from everystockphoto by Melodi2.)