DELAYED PRAYERS

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Most of us pray as David did: “In the day that I call, answer me speedily” (Psalm 102:2). “1 am in trouble; hear me speedily” (Psalm 69:17). The Hebrew word for speedily means “right now, hurry up, in the very hour I call on You, do it!” David was saying, “Lord, I put my trust in You-but please hurry!”

God is in no hurry. He doesn’t jump at our commands. In fact, at times you may wonder if He will ever answer. You cry out, weep, fast and hope-but days go by, weeks, months, even years, and you don’t receive even the slightest evidence that God is hearing you. First you question yourself: “Something must be blocking my prayers, some hidden sin. Maybe I asked amiss. Or perhaps my faith is too weak.” You become perplexed, and over time your attitude toward God becomes something like this: “Lord, what do I have to do to get this prayer answered? You promised in Your Word to give me an answer, and I prayed in faith. How many tears must I shed?”

Why does God delay answers to sincere prayers? It certainly isn’t because He lacks power. He could merely wink an eye or think a thought and His work would be finished. And He is most willing -even more than we are-for us to receive from Him. No, the answer is found rather in this verse: “He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

The Greek word for lose heart, or faint in the King James Version, means “relax, become weak or weary in faith, give up the struggle, no longer wait for completion.” Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The Lord is seeking for a praying people who will not relax or grow weary of coming to Him. These people will wait on the Lord, not giving up before His work is completed. And they will be found waiting when He brings the answer.

I thought I had unshakable faith, that I fully trusted in the Lord. Then some of my very important prayers were not answered for a long time; in fact, some still are not answered. I reasoned with the Lord, “If You will just answer my prayers, it will build up my faith. I can go to the sanctuary and boast of Your faithfulness the way David did. Think of how others will be greatly encouraged.” But the whole time the Lord was saying to me, I don’t build your faith on My answers-I build your faith on My delays!

Anybody can believe when the answers to prayer are flooding in. But who’s going to believe after a year or two years? As time goes on, we abandon our prayers and the belief that He will answer, and we move on to something else.

We say to God, “I’ll be faithful to You. But don’t expect me to have faith to wait for answers to prayers anymore.” In reality, God wants only to make sure you’re not going to relax in your prayer vigil. He wants your heart set on persevering, no matter how long His answer takes.

Jesus gave us a parable to prove that He waits on us to dig in and determine not to give up. It is the parable of the distressed widow who kept coming to the judge seeking justice (see Luke 18:2-8). The judge finally granted her request only because he was worn down by her constant pleading: “Because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (verse 5). Jesus added to this parable, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily” (verses 7-8).

You say, “But doesn’t Jesus seem to be speaking a paradox in this verse? First He says God `bears long’ with us-then He says He `will avenge us speedily.’ ” Most of us misinterpret this passage completely. You see, Jesus isn’t speaking of delaying a long time. He says God wants to answer us speedily but is enduring something. God is bearing something that calls for patience on His part. He’s saying, I’ll put up with this thing I see in your heart-I’ll bear with you-until you’re willing to lay hold of Me for the answer as I desire you should.

As I look back at some of the things I’ve prayed for over a long period, I hear the Lord saying, I’m holding up this request to you, like a mirror. And through this, I’m going to show you what’s deep in your heart. What I’ve seen reflected in that mirror are doubt … fear … unbelief … things that have made me throw myself at Jesus’ feet and cry, “0 Lord! I’m not interested in the answer anymore, but only in getting this spirit out of me. I don’t want to doubt You-to pray and weep for an answer, yet still have seeds of unbelief in my heart!”

It’s true that the hardest part of faith is the last half hour. When it looks as if God won’t answer, we give up, putting all behind us and going on to something else. And as we do this, we think we are surrendering to God’s providence, His sovereign will. We say, “Lord, do what You think is best,” or, “Well, God, You must not have wanted it after all.” That is not what God ever intended! When we pray for what is obviously the will of God-salvation of a family member, for instance-we have every right to hold on and never give up until Jesus answers.

We have every reason not to listen to the devil. And we have every right to ask God to plant the faith of Jesus Christ in us and not let us relax until we see completion.

Too often, instead, we faint-we fail the test. If we hadn’t fainted, we would still be holding on more determined than ever to see the answer through. Yet the Lord sees our fainting heart all along. In fact, He gives us a picture of this humbling experience in 2 Kings 6-7.

Samaria was under seige by Ben-Hadad and his great Syrian army. The city was starving: A donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, a pint of dove’s dung for five. The prophet Elisha had prophesied to the king of Samaria that God was going to deliver the people supernaturally. He said to hold on-to wait, pray, repent and trust God no matter how bad things got.

As the king paced atop the city walls, he may have thought, “How long must this go on? We can’t hold out much longer. If God doesn’t answer soon, we’ll have to go out with the white flag and surrender.” Then a woman saw the king and cried out, “Yesterday my neighbor and I boiled and ate my baby. We agreed that today we would eat her baby, but now she has hidden her child. King, it’s unfair-make her give up her baby, too!”

That did it! The king ripped open his sackcloth, and in a rage he bellowed, “Elisha, off comes your head! You had us believing that God would answer your prayer. You told us a miracle would happen.” When the king found Elisha praying among the elders, he screamed, “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” In other words, “It’s too late! The deadline has come and gone and God didn’t keep His word. Prayer isn’t going to help. It’s time to take matters into our own hands!”

While the king was fainting-quitting on his faith-the answer was almost at the gate. Elisha told him, “Tomorrow about this time a seah [about eight gallons] of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). It’s too bad the king hadn’t waited another 24 hours before blowing up. He didn’t know that God was at work creating a miracle. In the Syrian camp, a miraculous buzzing filled the air-the sound of a huge army of chariots rumbling toward them. Panic swept over the Syrians, and they dropped everything and ran for their lives. So the Samarians brought home wagonloads of the Syrians’ food. Vegetables, fine flour and barrels of barley poured through the city gates. Watching this, the king must have been red-faced as he recalled stating, “God didn’t keep His word!”

This kind of thing must have happened to me at least a dozen times. I’ve given up and said, “Oh, well, this must not have been God’s will. It’s an impossible situation.” And sometimes the answer came within an hour of my words! Is that what’s happening with you? Have you given up and stopped pressing in? You must recognize that God is already at work, and His answer is just about to arrive. It is when we wait in faith and see it through that we grow in faith and bring greater glory to His name.

(Source: David Wilkerson – Hungry For More Jesus)

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