Why God Delays Answers to Prayer

There are many reasons why, God does not answer all prayers, or why He delays to answer. The greatest reason is sin. Says the psalmist, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalm 66:18. To “regard” here means to think well of, to be pleased with, and to love. Of Christ it is written, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed Thee.” Hebrews 1:9. Christ did not “regard” iniquity in His heart; He hated it. Therefore, God anointed Him.


“Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2. Note these dreadful words: “Though they shall cry unto Me, I will not hearken.” Jeremiah 11:11. “Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” Isaiah 1:15.


 If the Lord does not hear our prayers, it is not because He is unwilling or unable to help. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” Isaiah 59:1. The Lord can hear what we say, but He may not answer, because sin has made a separation between Him and us.


This does not mean that we have to be sinless before the Lord will answer prayer. However, it does mean that we must not regard sin, not love or harbor it, but hate it as Christ hated it.


This point needs to be stressed lest some become discouraged as they think of their sins of the past, and fear God will not hear them. Does God not hear sinners? Most assuredly He does. If He did not, no prayer from human lips would ever reach Him; for “all have sinned.” Romans 3:23. David himself sinned grievously; yet, upon repentance, he would say, “Verily God hath heard me; He hath attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:19. David had sinned deeply, but he repented as deeply as he sinned; and he no longer looked with an approving covetous eye on sin as he had done before. Almost in surprise he exclaims, “Verily God hath heard me.” If God heard David despite his sin, all may take courage. David committed adultery, and, worse, he murdered the faithful husband-a sin that would seem unforgivable. We repeat, if God heard David, we may be confident that God will hear us.


There are times when God does not answer our prayers immediately, and we are tempted to fear that He will not answer at all. This may not be the case, but more often God waits until He in His wisdom decides that the time has come to respond.


There are three ways in which God may answer our prayers: He may say, “No;” He may say, “Yes;” or He may say, “Wait.” The last answer is the most common, and in some respects the hardest; but it is always the most profitable for us if we have learned to wait upon God. 


One reason why God waits is to test our sincerity and earnestness. Do we really pray with an honest heart and sincere desire to know and to do God’s will and abide by the answer, whatever that may be? Alternatively, is our prayer but the whim of a moment? Are we like Pilate, who asked the momentous question, “What is truth?” and went away without waiting for an answer? John 18:38. His question was not grounded in a desire to know the truth in order to live it. It was merely an idle question asked out of curiosity. Speculative questions do not interest God. Pilate was not sufficiently interested to wait for an answer, so he never found out. “If any man will do His will, he shall know,” says God. John 7:17. That is, only as a man will do God’s will, will he in reality know. When we pray to God that we should ask ourselves, are we dead earnest? Do we really want to know the truth for the purpose of doing it? On the other hand, are we playing with God and sacred things?


God Wants Us to Decide

Another reason why God does not answer all questions immediately is found in the fact that it is not best for us to have Him settle all questions. He wants us to wrestle with the problem ourselves and attempt to find the solution. This is based on the sound proposition that it is not good for anyone to have someone else do his thinking for him. God has given us minds, and He wants us to use them. If He answered all our prayers, we would never need to do any studying or thinking. The Lord does wish to deprive us of the opportunity of reaching our own conclusions, which is a vital factor in the formation of character.


Within limits, children should early be taught and permitted to make decisions for themselves. While this can easily be carried to extreme, as in ultramodern psychology, the practice in itself, if kept within proper bounds, is of definite value. When parents insist on making decisions for their children on every point, they harm the child. Children should have increasingly greater responsibility placed upon them, should have opportunity to make decisions for themselves, so that when they are grown they can take their place in society fully competent to order their own lives.


At times parents are asked by their children to help them do their homework. The children find some problems that the teachers assigned a little hard, and they ask for help. It may be proper to help them, if it is done judiciously and in moderation. However, if the parents habitually worked the problems for the children, they would do more harm than good. In the examination held at school, such children would be sadly handicapped, having never had to work a problem unaided.


If God should solve all our problems, If He should answer all our prayers, He would make the same mistake that parents do when they work the problems for their children. God would ruin us effectively in so doing. As it is, God let us use the strength we have, then He adds whatever we need, and we are the stronger for it. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12,13.



Problems in the Bible


For every difficulty we solve we will be stronger and more able to do more efficient work. If we are to build character, we must learn to tackle difficult situations. To have every prayer answered promptly would be disastrous for us. God wants sturdy, self-reliant men and women. To develop that kind of people He gives them opportunity to work out their own problems as far as they are able. He will help; He will give us only as much help as we need, not necessarily, as much as we want.


There are problems in the Bible for which there are no ready solutions. This is in accordance with the principles here discussed. God wants us to study, to use the mind He has given us. He has made plain every great doctrine; all essential points of faith are clearly and authoritatively stated. There is no ambiguity, and hence there is no excuse for ignorance. However, there are many questions God leaves for us to solve. He could have easily have given us the solution as well as the problem, but He chooses not to do so. At times, we wonder why God did not do things differently.


To illustrate: The Bible clearly states that we are to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.  All will agree that this is a sound principle. However, the question still arises? What things are Caesar’s? What things are God’s? On this, there is no agreement among men, and God gives no definite answer. He leaves that for us to settle.


Tithing is a plain Bible requirement. However, what is tithe? On this point, opinions vary. Does it mean the gross income, or are certain exemptions permissible? In addition, if so, what? God leaves that question for us. 


The question of Sabbath keeping is another vital doctrine. On the seventh day, we are to rest and not to do any work. What kind of work is permitted and counted essential. What is forbidden? Farmers have no easy task in determining how far they may go in doing essential work on God’s holy day. Physicians are constantly confronted with problems relating to Sabbath observance. Who will settle them? Housewives, janitors, and ministers have their problems in Sabbath observance. In all these matters, the individual conscience must decide. Moreover, God has a reason for this. The making of decisions is in itself character building.


The man who habitually decides every tithing question in his favor is not building character for eternity. The same is true of those who decide questions of Sabbath keeping too liberally, or any question that God has left for man’s decision.


Let us not be discouraged or perplexed when God does not answer promptly every question we bring to Him. He is waiting to see what we will do, and is giving us an opportunity to make our own decisions. The waiting time is a testing time, a time to search our hearts, to determine our motives, and to come to conclusions. In this work, we may confidently ask God’s help. He may not solve every problem for us, we should not expect Him to, but He can give hints and suggestions that will keep us on the right track.


God’s delay in answering our prayers, therefore, is for a purpose. To solve every problem for us would be disastrous. God is too wise to do this. He gives us time to think things through. In our extremity, He will step in, but we must use all our resources first.


Memory Verse:


“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17




1.      Has God recently tested your sincerity and earnestness in prayer? Explain. 




2.   Is it good to wrestle with a problem and find the solution before involving God? 




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