It almost always takes time for prayers to be answered; therefore, prayers need to continue with persistence. But why is that true? Why can’t God answer prayers immediately?
Well, He can, and He sometimes does if He wants to perform a miracle. However, God has chosen to put us, and all His creation, under the law of gradual growth. Just as the grass, the flowers, and the trees grow slowly and gradually, animals and people also grow slowly and gradually. Our prayers should be that that process would continue as it was designed, hence, that God would give us the proper sunshine and rain that we need in order to grow and develop properly. Furthermore, let us pray that He would send His messengers to pull the evil weeds out that hinder our growth.
Now I am not saying that we can’t pray for a miracle, or that God can’t speed up the growth process. He can, and He has—like the time He caused the sun to stand still for a whole day (Josh. 10:12-13). But if we pray for that kind of a miracle we shouldn’t be surprised if God doesn’t answer that prayer; because His normal way is the way of gradual growth—even in our spiritual lives.
Yes, our spiritual life is under that law of gradual growth too. For just as our body takes time to grow and develop, our spirit and our relationship with God takes time too. Consequently, as our faith grows to maturity and as we grow in His knowledge, we will see more and more answers to prayer. But prayer answers may not be dependent on just our faith. They may also depend on three other things: on our will and on the will of others we are praying for, on the accumulation of prayers from others, and on how entrenched Satan is. I would like to talk now about these four things (above in italics), one at a time. We may see them as four things that take time. They are also the reasons why persistence in prayer is necessary.
1. It takes time for man’s will to change. Whether it is our will that needs changing, or the will of the one’s we are praying for, we must allow God time to work through our prayers to change our will. Constant prayer will definitely help to soften a person’s heart and strong will. Just as hard ground needs to be plowed in order for seeds to germinate and grow, we need to pray for ourselves and others that we would seek the Lord and that He would plow up our hard heart and plant His seeds of righteousness. This process will not transpire without long persistent prayer (Jer. 4:3, Hos. 10:12).
2. It takes time for faith to grow to maturity. One of the reasons why answers to prayers are delayed is because we have not believed enough to receive what we ask for. Our constant prayer will serve to build up our faith. The more we pray for a thing the more our faith will grow; hence, the more we will see the will of God and how He is going to answer us.
3. It takes time for prayers to mount up. The more pray-ers that are enlisted and the more prayers that are offered up to God, the more our faith is build up and the more our prayers work to speed up the answers. I don’t know why it works that way but it does. It seems that the more prayers that are heaped up, the greater the power of God is toward us. I think God just loves to see and hear our prayers, especially if we are sincere. And so, what we are saying here is that the reason why we must be persistent in prayer and why it takes time for our prayers to be answered is because there are so many people around us who are not praying as they should. Therefore, since not very many prayers are being offered up to God along with ours, it takes more time for prayer to mount up. So get with it people! Pray! All of your prayers count!
Andrew Murray writes, “Prayers must often be ‘heaped up’ until God sees that its measure is full. Then the answer comes. Just as each of ten thousand seeds is a part of the final harvest, frequently repeated, persevering prayer is necessary to acquire a desired blessing.”
4. It takes time to fight against Satan. The more Satan has been allowed in an area or person, the more he will be entrenched there, and the stronger his hold will be. Furthermore, the stronger his hold is in an area or person the longer it may take to get rid of him and to see prayer answers.
Do you remember the story of when Daniel fasted and prayed for twenty-one days, until he finally received the answer to his prayer? Do you remember why he had to pray for twenty-one days? Well, he found out later from an angel that there was spiritual warfare going on, on all those twenty-one days. Apparently, while Daniel was praying, God heard his prayer on the very first day and He sent an angel out to give him the answer. But the angel was delayed for twenty-one days. He had been ambushed by an evil angel—the prince of the kingdom of Persia (Dan. 10:13)—and he withstood him for twenty-one days until finally the angel Michael came and helped him. What a story! But I think this kind of thing goes on a lot without our knowing it. Hence, this is why sometimes our prayers are delayed—because we have allow Satan to become entrenched and it takes time to fight against him to remove him.
Now let me say one more thing in regard to this section on perseverance. God is eager to answer our prayers; He does not want anyone to perish; and He loves us all so much. But in His sovereign will He has put us under the law of gradual growth; and so things take time to come together. But, when finely, by prayer, the heart is made soft, and when faith is built up enough to receive His answer, and when Satan is put out of the way, hence, when God sees that the time is right, He works speedily! He will not delay His answer one second more than is needed (Lu. 18:7-8)!