Summary: When taking our failures to the Lord in prayer, we need to understand that God's delays in answering our prayers are not denials. God is greater than our circumstances and always answers according to what's best for us.


Jeanne Olsen, a mother of five, took her nine-year-old daughter Kirsten out for a mother-daughter breakfast. While they were eating, the mom took a chance by asking her daughter, “How do you think I could be a better mom?”

Kirsten thought for a moment, then replied, “Well, you do yell a lot. I know you’ve been praying about that, but it really isn’t working yet.”

There may be times when our praying doesn’t seem to be “working” but the key to discerning God’s answer to a mother’s or anyone else’s prayer is the optimistic spirit suggested by Kirsten’s use of that little word “yet”.

Time and time again in Scripture we are admonished to “wait patiently” - be willing to let God answer in His own time. To do so is a sure sign of maturity.

God often delays answering our prayers for one of two reasons: we are not yet mature enough to go through the stuff that the answer might require of us, or the timing is not right in God’s sight – the awareness of which elicited from David these memorable words of wisdom:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the honorable . . . permissible desires of your heart . . . Trust in the Lord and commit your way to Him . . . Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him . . . and you will receive that which I promised and enjoy great peace” (transliteration based on part of Psalm 37).

Elizabeth, a respectable Jewish woman from a priestly family, kinswoman of Mary the mother of Jesus, wife of the temple priest Zechariah, mother of John the Baptist, had reached an advanced age with their prayers for a son unanswered.

Then what happened? Her trust in the Lord was rewarded - Luke 1 selections . . .

God would answer the prayers of these two saints “at the proper time”. We must trust God’s timing – a concept that is so intriguing: Luke 1:5 – “In the time of Herod”; 1:10 – “And when the time for the burning of incense came”; 1:20 – “My words will come true at the proper time”; 1:23 – “When his time of service was completed”; 1:24 – “After Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion”; 1:26 – “In the sixth month”; 1:57 – “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.”

Zechariah failed to accept God’s message with conviction – his skepticism probably due to the improbability of such an occurrence. Yet he, like we all have to do sometimes, learned the hard way to wait patiently for God to answer (in His own time, in His own way, in His own power, for His own purpose) knowing that

God never fails to answer prayers – no doubt about it.

It’s not always in our best interests for God to answer our prayers sooner rather than later. We may have some maturing to do before we can handle the answer. Therefore, God’s delays are not God’s denials!

When you are ready to accept “no” for an answer then God will say “no”. On the other hand, get ready for a miracle in the event it suits God’s purpose and fits God’s plan for Him to say “yes”. After all: “It is not our prayers that move God. It is God who moves us to pray.” (O. Hallesby in his book Prayer)

God already knows His answer to your prayers. Be that as it may, keep on praying, and one of three things happens:

(1) YOU recognize God’s answer.

(2) YOU receive reassurance God is going to answer. Zechariah’s reassurance? “God has heard your prayer.” When distressed, all it takes for most folks to calm down is that reassuring phrase, “Help is on the way.”

(3) YOU realize that whatever you’ve been praying about (for) is not God’s will for you, so, it is now time to be at peace with God’s answer.

Elizabeth and her husband had been reassured that they were going to get an answer from God in His own time, in His own way - not the usual time nor normal way but in this case a delay to suit God’s ways that are always higher than our ways.

Someone special was on the way to pave the way for someone greater who would become the Way to go to the Father. Elizabeth named her special son John who would prepare the way for his cousin Jesus to whom he would point and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.”

God’s answers to Elizabeth’s prayers went beyond the mere birth of a son. What every godly mother hopes for her child, John would be: great in the sight of the Lord . . . pure in heart . . . filled with the spirit . . . saved. How do we know John was saved? He himself preached repentance toward God and pointed to the One who had come to save repentant sinners!

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