By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist
October 31, 2021
Today is our 4th installment on the series “Pray!” Today we want to look at why God delays in answering our prayers. There are times in our lives when we pray, and we pray, and we pray, but the answer to our prayer is slow in coming.
There are times when we pray, and God says yes. There are times when we pray, and God says no because he knows what is best. But there are times when we pray when God says wait — and waiting is hard.
One of the hard things about waiting is that it is hard to tell the difference between a “no” and a “wait.” So, what do you do when you don’t know if the answer is no or wait?
Jesus tells a story in Luke 18 about a woman that goes over and over and over again to the judge to get justice. The reason why Jesus told that story is found in
Luke 18:1 (NIV)
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Did you catch that? Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray and not give up. Perseverance in prayer is a godly trait and a necessary discipline, and one of those things that you will have to engage in over the course of your life. But it is hard. It would be great if we prayed for something one day, and the answer came the next. That happens, but not as often as we would wish. Often the answer is, we don’t get an answer – in other words, the answer is “wait” – Just keep praying.
I think it is helpful to reflect on some of the reasons that God tells us to wait. God has his reasons for delaying answers to prayer. It is wisdom to learn what those reasons are. It is also wise to learn to cooperate with God Ian what he is trying to do so that we can shorten the wait.
So today, I want to give you 12 reasons why God says wait. As I walk through these reasons, I am trusting God to illuminate your heart and mind as to how he is worked in your life in the past and possibly what he is doing in the present.
The first reason Why God says “wait” is
1. Because He is changing our desires.
There are three boundaries that we touched on last week that our prayers must fall within. The first two are found in the Lord’s prayer. It starts out, “Our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name.” That means may God’s name is to be glorified. The answer to prayer must bring glory to God. That is the first condition of answered prayer.
In that same prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our prayers are meant to advance God’s Kingdom and God’s purposes.
The third condition for answered prayer is that we must ask for something that will not hurt us now or in the future. That includes heaven. God wants to give you good things, but he will not give you what hurts you. As Jesus said when a child asks for something good, what father would give him something dangerous like a scorpion or a serpent? Sometimes we ask for things that would hurt us now or things that would hurt us for eternity.
I believe that that is one of the reasons that God does not heal some people. He knows the end from the beginning. You can trust him
It is God’s desire to give us good things. But our prayers must fall within these boundaries: it must glorify God, it must advance his Kingdom and purposes, it must not hurt us now or in the future.
Sometimes, when we are praying for things, our desires must be changed to fall within these boundaries. God waits until our desires and his desires align. God delays in answering our prayers until that happens.
The second reason that God delays in answering our prayers is
2. Because He Is waiting for us to listen for instructions.
God’s moral and redemptive word to us is settled, once for all. We have the scriptures. But God continues to speak relational and directional words to us. God speaks to us continually. We sometimes forget this, or we have never learned to hear the voice of God. But God continues to speak.
Oftentimes God wants to show you a solution to the prayer request that you have been making. But often, we’re not listening. When you are praying and ask God for something, it is also good and right to ask him if there is anything he wants you to do about this prayer request you have made. He might have wisdom to share or direction to give before he can do what he wants to do.
Scripture is full of examples of how God spoke to people and gave them direction. God spoke to Ananias after Paul’s conversion and told him to go and meet Paul. God spoke to Paul. God spoke to Peter and told him to go to the house of Cornelius. God spoke to the church and told them to set aside Paul and Barnabas. God has not stopped speaking.
Often, we want immediate relief, and so we go on begging Without stopping to listen. God is just waiting for us to calm down. After calming down, we can listen. After listening and discerning, we can respond and obey. After responding and obeying, God often moves from wait to yes.
The third reason that God delays in answering our prayers is
3. Because He is working out many circumstances.
The apostle Paul said
1 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV)
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.
There are times when what we are praying for is a number of steps ahead of what needs to happen first. I believe that God wants Asbury to grow. When I first came to Asbury, I could see the potential for growth. But as I was praying, it became obvious to me that we needed to grow first in our walk with God. Thus, the continual emphasis on discipleship that you will hear around here.
There are so many times that I have seen where God has had to clear the way before we could walk the way. A good question to ask God is, “Is there anything that you need to do before you can answer this prayer.” Sometimes he may give us the answer to that prayer, and sometimes not. We do not always see what God is doing. But be assured of this; God is still at work even when you don’t see him.
The fourth reason God delays in answering our prayers is
4. Because He Is protecting us from trouble
Paul asked to be healed from his thorn in the flesh. Here is why Paul records that he was not.
2 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)
… Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
This is where God told Paul that God’s grace was sufficient for him. If Paul had become proud or conceited, it would not have been good for him Because God opposes the proud. It would not have been good for us because his ministry would have been muted.
There are times when God says no or wait because he is protecting us from trouble.
The fifth reason God delays in answering our prayers is
5. Because there is an unseen battle taking place.
You might remember the story of Daniel. He was fasting and praying and asking for understanding. But God did not seem to be coming through. Finally, an Angel appears to him after 21 days, and this is what the Angel says
Daniel 10:12-14 (NIV)
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. 13 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. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.
I do not pretend to understand all of this. But I know that spiritual warfare is real. I know that when you are praying for ministries or for people or even, as in Daniel’s case, for wisdom, that Satan is trying to thwart God’s plans. Often our struggles are often not against what we think they are against.
The 6th reason why God delays answering our prayers is
6. Because he is merciful
2 Peter 3:8–9 (NIV)
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Peter was talking about the coming of the Lord. Some were saying that God is slow in coming back. Peter says that is true, but he is slow because of his great mercy. He doesn’t want any to perish but everyone to come to repentance.
There are so many things in our world that are unjust. We wait for Jesus to come and bring justice. But he sometimes delays because he is merciful.
The seventh reason why God delays in answering our prayers is
7. Because there is sin that we need to deal with
You may remember the story of Achan. The people of God had had an incredible victory over Jericho. They next set their sights on a relatively small town, and they were soundly defeated. (Joshua 7) The Lord showed them the reason for this. Achan had taken stuff from the previous victory that he was not supposed to take. This displeased God, and God did not give them the victory.
There are times in our lives where God is waiting for us to deal with sin before he will answer our prayer. That is why it is good and proper to regularly examine our hearts. David said,
Psalm 139:23–24 (NIV)
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Every day or at very least every week, it is good to ask God to examine our hearts. We do this when we serve communion. We ask God to bring to our mind anything that we need to confess. But that is a discipline that should not be just left to communion.
If you ask God and if you were willing to hear God, God is willing to show you if there is something that you need to confess. Unconfessed sin can delay answers to prayer and get in the way of what God wants to do.
The eighth reason why God delays in answering our prayers
8. Because God sifts our motives until we ask for the right reason.
We looked at this first last week, but it bears repeating
James 4:3 (NIV)
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Let me give you one example because I deal with this one regularly. We have people in our lives that are challenging. It may be a spouse; it may be a child; it may be a co-worker or someone else that you have to interact with on a regular basis. I can find myself praying Asking God to change that person.
The question is, why am I asking God to change that person. Is it so that I can be more comfortable? Is it so that I can be less irritated? Is it so that I can be last annoyed? Those are not good motives.
Those kinds of prayers show that we care more about our comfort than we do about the other person. Maybe God has put that person in your life to help you change to be more like Christ. It is easy to love those who we love to be around. But Christ loved us while we were yet sinners.
God is more concerned about your character than he is about your comfort. God is committed to making you holy, and he will use annoying people to bring that about. ***
If you have difficult people in your life that you are praying for, pray more for them than you do for yourself. Pray for God to do his work in you through them. God sifts our motives until we ask for what we want for the right reason. God delays as he changes our character.
The ninth reason that God delays in answering our prayers is related
9. Because God is preparing us.
You may remember the story of David. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be king over Israel. The problem was that Israel already had a king. It was ten years from the time that David was anointed king to the time that he became king.
Much of that time was spent on the run. David was pursued by Saul. His life was in danger. He had to live rough. Psalm 13 records David’s prayer.
Psalm 13:1–2 (NIV)
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
David wondered where God was. He prayed, and God did not seem to come through. Yet, it was that time in the wilderness that God taught David about himself. It was that time in the wilderness that God taught David that he could trust in him. That wilderness time was a preparation time.
God delayed answering David’s prayers so that he could be prepared to be a great king. Sometimes God delays answering our prayers in order that he can prepare us to fulfill Our Calling.
If you are going through a time of testing and trial and suffering, I urge you to lean into God. He is developing Perseverance and strength so that you can be who you are called to be.
The 10th reason why God delays and answering our prayers is
10. Because he wants to bring glory to himself.
You may remember the story of Lazarus. Lazarus was one of Jesus’ very good friends. Jesus was a couple of days walk away when Lazarus sisters sent word about Lazarus’ illness. When Jesus got the word, he delayed for two days.
Here is what Jesus says
John 11:4 (NIV)
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
You probably know the story. Lazarus did die, but Jesus raised him to life again. Jesus delayed so that the glory of God could be seen.
If Lazarus had not died, then Jesus healing his illness may have gone unrecorded or recorded as an unspecified sickness. Instead, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, Mary and Martha knew, the disciples knew, and the crowds knew a lot more about Jesus. It was that miracle that caused the Palm Sunday outburst of worship. Sometimes God delays because he wants to bring glory to himself.
The 11th reason why God delays in answering our prayers is
11. God has a bigger and better yes.
God wants what is best for his children. Over and over in scripture, God shows himself to be kind and compassionate. He wants to give us what’s best for us. Here is the thing about God, you do not have to wrestle good things from his hands. He wants to give you all that you can handle. Many times, we are not up to handling even good things.
Sometimes God delays in answering our prayers because he has something better for us.
The 12th reason why God delays answering our prayers is
12. Sufficient prayer has not been offered.
Exodus chapter 17 has this curious story of Moses sending Joshua out to fight the Amalekites. Moses himself was up on top of a hill overlooking the battle, praying. His hands were raised in prayer, and the Israelites were winning the battle. When he lowered his hands, the Israelites were losing the battle. So, Aaron and Hur propped Moses arms up.
This story has a number of curious aspects to it. The question I ask is, why did God have this story put in scripture? I think part of the answer is that God wanted to demonstrate that sufficient prayer must be offered for the victory to happen.
This takes us back to our first scripture. Jesus told this parable so that we would always pray and not give up.
There are times when we pray, and God says wait. When that happens, all you can do is keep praying, keep asking and keep trusting. You will notice that out of these twelve reasons, eight of them are all in God’s hands.
- Because he is changing our desires
- Because he’s waiting for us to listen for instruction.
- Because He’s working out many circumstances.
- Because he is keeping us from trouble.
- Because there is an unseen battle taking place. (Daniel)
- Because he is merciful.
- Because there is sin that we need to deal with.
- Because God sifts our motives until we ask for the right reason.
- Because God is preparing someone. (David)
- Because he wants to bring glory to himself (Lazarus)
- Because God has a bigger and better yes
- When sufficient prayer isn’t being offered. (Moses)
We do need him to change our desires. We do need to listen for his instructions. We do need to deal with any sin that is there. And we need sufficient prayer. But when God says wait, he may be working out other circumstances or keeping us from trouble. There may be an unseen battle taking place, or it may be that he is waiting because he is merciful. It may be that he is shifting our motives. We need to cooperate with him on this, but it is God who does this. It may be that he is preparing you or that he wants to bring glory to himself. It may even be that God has a bigger and better yes to the prayers you’ve been asking.
God has a purpose in delaying. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trusting. Keep praying. God wants what is best for you.
Sermon Questions – Why God Delays answering our prayers.
October 31, 2021 Pray! – Part 4
1. What are you grateful for today?
2. What are concerns you most today?
3. There are 12 Reason why God delays answering our prayers. In each one of these, ask yourself the questions, Have I seen this in the past and could this be happening now?
Because he is changing our desires
Three conditions for answered prayer 1. God’s glory, 2. His kingdom benefits. 3. It doesn’t harm us. (What kind of prayers do we tend to pray that fall outside of these boundaries?
Because he’s waiting for us to listen for instruction.
Have you ever felt like you have received instructions from God?
Because He’s working out many circumstances.
Have you seen God work out circumstances so that you could see what he was doing in hindsight?
Because he is keeping us from trouble.
What kind of areas might this apply to?
Because there is an unseen battle taking place. (Daniel)
Read Daniel 10:12-14. Do you see a connection between spiritual warfare and answered prayer?
Because he is merciful.
Read 2 Peter 3:8-9. What does this say about God’s response to us?
Because there is sin that we need to deal with.
Understanding that “nobody’s perfect,” how does this apply to our prayer life?
Because God sifts our motives until we ask for the right reason.
Read James 4:3 – What kind of wrong motives might we struggle with?
Because God is preparing someone. (David)
Have you seen this in your life?
Because he wants to bring glory to himself (Lazarus)
Have you seen this in your life?
Because God has a bigger and better yes.
Do you believe that God wants to give you what is good? Why/Why not?
When sufficient prayer isn’t being offered. (Moses)
How might one know if they have prayed enough? 1 Kings 18:41-45