Why is God slow to answer our prayers?

One day a parishioner stepped into the office of the renown New England preacher Joseph Parker and found him pacing back and forth, hands clasped tightly behind his back.  “Dr. Parker,” he asked, “what’s the problem?”  To which the preacher replied, “The problem is I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.”

Such is the case in this instant gratification society in which we live, a problem that spills over into our prayer lives.  Even though we face pressing needs and critical issues, it seems God often takes His “good ole” time responding.

There could be a myriad of reasons why His timetable doesn’t fit ours.  Above all, God wants to bring about an increase in our lives, particularly in the area of faith.  Ponder these three indicators of maturity that God desires for His children.

An increased ability to conceive- “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). The natural world says seeing is believing. The supernatural world says believing is seeing.

Jesus said to the hard-hearted Jews of His day, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56, emphasis added). By faith, 2000 years before it actually happened, Abraham joyfully visualized the coming of God in the form of man to the earth. He was willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, knowing in his heart God could raise him from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19).

Walt Disney laid the groundwork, but in 1966, almost five years before Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971, he died. On opening day, a visitor said to Mike Vance, Creative Director of Walt Disney Studios, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?”

“Oh, he did see it.” Vance replied. “That’s why it’s here.”

As you persevere in prayer, visualize what it is you want to see God do in your life or in a situation. Provided it’s something on which He would put His stamp of approval, imagine it already answered.

An increased  willingness to believe- Faith is like a muscle -the more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. If we give up on God and stop using it, it atrophies.  Just like the resistance encountered when lifting weights builds muscle, the struggle faced by repeatedly taking a matter to the Lord increases faith and expectation.

In the midst of the drought, with a cloudless sky overhead, Elijah said to King Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain” (1 Kings 18:41). When Elijah’s servant returned from a seventh trip to check for rain he reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” Elijah responded, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you’” (1 Kings 18:44). Soon the downpour came.

This sequence had nothing to do with luck or coincidence. Rather, it came in the wake of years of persistent, faith-filled prayer. The Lord said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). God wants you to live large in the realm of belief.

An increased capacity to receive- Maybe God hasn’t answered your prayer because you aren’t ready to receive it. As we keep praying and waiting, the Holy Spirit wrings out our fleshly thoughts and desires, making us like a dry sponge, ready to soak up the answer He has for us.

In the course of Elisha’s work, one of his ministry students died, leaving his poor widow and two sons. All they had to live on was a little oil. Elisha said to her, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few (2 Kings 4:4, emphasis added). When she returned and began pouring what little she had into the containers collected, the oil continued to flow as long as there were jars available. When the jars ran out, the oil stopped flowing.   

Plug a 110-volt appliance into a 220-volt outlet and you’ll blow it out. It’s not built to handle the increased power. You’d have a hard time trying to water your plants or wash your car with the hose the size of a straw. Obviously, it doesn’t have the capacity to receive and release the flow that comes from a standard spigot. Small towns swallowed up by urban sprawl often experience snarling traffic jams because they don’t have the necessary road system to handle it.

Limitations arise, not from God’s ability to give, but our capacity to receive. He wants to improve and enlarge our spiritual infrastructure. He wants to make sure we are equipped and prepared for the power He desires to pour in us and generate through us.

Once upon a time, while playing in the woods, a young boy ran across something he’d never seen before, a furry caterpillar. He brought it home and put it in a jar, along with a stick for the caterpillar to climb on.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started to act strangely. The little boy learned from his mother that it was creating a cocoon and would turn into a butterfly. Soon,  a hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to emerge. The boy was excited at first, but then grew worried to see how little progress the butterfly was making.

In a desperate attempt to help, he grabbed a pair of his mother’s scissors and clipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger. It worked, as the butterfly quickly came out. However, instead of flying along colorfully, it just crawled around in a swollen and shriveled condition.

The young lad later learned that the butterfly needed to go through every bit of struggle it took to break free from the cocoon in order to fully develop its wings that allowed it to fly. He intended good but caused harm instead.

God’s best for us can often be found tightly wound within a spiritual cocoon. It often takes a long time to develop and emerge. He could provide immediately, but you might not be ready. Answers may come slowly, but in the end, they’ll be worth the wait.






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