Patiently waiting for God’s answer to our prayer is not always something we like to do. Many believers, especially American Christians, want instant answers. Our flesh, like the culture around us, wants instant gratification. However, God often works in our lives through the process of delay.
The Lord is always interested in maturing us in our faith — bringing about things in our lives that groom us to be more like Jesus. So if an answer to prayer is immediate, it is for our benefit. In the same way, we need to understand that God often delays the answer to our prayers to benefit us spiritually and physically, and for the Lord’s greater glory.
A father brought his possessed son to Jesus to be healed after the disciples failed in their attempts to cast out the spirit. “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit … I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not” (Mark 9:17-18). The crowd was discontent and questioning the disciples as to their lack of power to heal the boy. The disciples were confused as to why God did not answer their prayer and heal the child. And, finally, the father of the child was exhausted and desperate to find help for his beloved son.
God’s delay in answering prayer affected everyone in this story. We need to understand that when God delays in answering prayer, we can be sure He is working in the hearts of all the people affected by the situation. Perhaps the disciples were boasting that they could deliver this child, not because of their faith but because of their presumption that they were able to do what Jesus could do. And Jesus answered the prayer of the father who believed, even in small measure, that He could do what no one else had been able to do — set his son free.
The Bible tells us that “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Sometimes that involves just lying flat on your back, raising one hand, and praying, “Jesus, Son of God, this is all I have.” And Jesus replies, “That’s all I need!”
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” He had just told the story of a persistent woman who asked a judge to rule in her favor and bring justice to her cause (see the story in Luke 18:2-8.) Jesus uses this woman as an example of the kind of tenacious, enduring faith he is looking for — the kind that calls upon God in times of trial and trusts him to fulfill his promises. Christ knew such enduring faith would be the only kind able to sustain his people in the times to come.
Jesus addresses this issue when he speaks of those whose faith will endure “but for a while.” In other words, when their prayers are not answered — when the deadlines for their requests are not met — they will fall into unbelief. Their faith has no roots. “He has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:21).
Too often, when afflictions begin showing up in the lives of such believers, they become offended. You may have heard such offense expressed by Christians who have faced dire afflictions. They have read God’s Word, claimed certain promises, and prayed earnestly, but their trial continues and nagging doubts creep in.
Make no mistake, Satan feeds those growing doubts so that your passion for Christ is reduced to a flicker. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). He was saying, “You are a soldier in the Lord’s army and you have been trained to undergo hardship in spiritual battle.”
“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). Think of it! God looks down upon the whole earth, searching diligently for that man or woman of faith who is wholly given to him in trust.
When you purpose in your heart to stand strong for God, He will show himself strong to you and give you his power to “keep the faith.”
When you are experiencing a “dry” season in your spirit, a time of feeling isolated and forsaken, questions will undoubtedly arise. “Father, why do you feel so far from me? Have I sinned once too often? Are you angry with me? Do you still love me?” During these difficult times you don’t feel like reading the Word or praying or praising him. And God feels ever more distant.
All true believers experience such times in their Christian walk — even Jesus felt isolation and cried out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?” when he was on the cross (see Matthew 27:46).
It is possible to sense God’s overwhelming love in your driest hours, but that is not enough. There must be the nearness of the Lord — and the joy of hearing that still, small voice. The heart must feel his warmth; the presence of the Lord must fill the room; his joy must rush through all the corridors of your mind. The heart must know that he has come to guide, to comfort, to help in the hour of need. There must be no doubt — no question — that God has chosen to come and commune with you.
What can you do to overcome spiritual dryness? First, maintain a life of prayer! Too often you try everything but prayer, right? Talking with friends, reading books, seeking out counseling — looking everywhere for a word of comfort or advice. And none of those things is wrong, by the way. But nothing dispels dryness and emptiness more quickly than an hour or two shut in with God! “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Second, do not be afraid of a little suffering; after all, Christ’s resurrection was preceded by a short period of suffering. But we do not want to suffer or be hurt. We want painless deliverance through supernatural intervention. Be prepared, though, because victory does not always come without pain. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Choose to seek him and walk out of your testing time in victory through his Word!
What is it about faith that keeps demanding of us greater testings? Just when we come through one trial that proves us faithful, our heart declaring, “Lord, I will trust you for everything,” here comes another test, increased in its intensity. This experience is shared by Christians worldwide.
Consider the ever-increasing demands on Abraham’s faith. God asked him to pack up his family and travel to an unnamed destination, yet by faith, Abraham obeyed and was greatly blessed. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
At one point, God told Abraham to behold the starry sky, saying, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them … So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). In other words, “Abraham, that is how many children, grandchildren and family you are going to have. They will number as many as the stars.”
Abraham’s response was a lesson for us all: “He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (15:6). When God promised Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age, Abraham believed God and Isaac was born. And when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, again he obeyed and his son was restored to him. Time after time Abraham put his faith in God, and he was considered righteous in the Lord’s eyes.
By the time Abraham turned one hundred years old, he had endured a lifetime of incredible tests of faith and through it all, Scriptures says that he had trusted God. The Lord said of this faithful, obedient man, “I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (18:19).
God himself said of this man of faith, “I trust Abraham. He has a proven faith.” What a marvelous thing it is to be considered faithful in the eyes of the Lord.
If our leaders declared they had absolutely no idea how to govern and provide direction, our nation would be confused and fearful. But that very thing happened in the time of King Jehoshaphat when three enemy armies were closing in on Judah. This mighty king called the nation together and instead of presenting a war plan and a decisive declaration of action, he stood before the people and poured out his heart out to God: “Here they come, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:11-12).
What kind of plan was this? No program, no committee action, no brilliant war plans. Just a simple declaration: “We are in over our heads and don’t know what to do — but we will keep our eyes on the Lord.” Believe it or not, even the greatest saints who ever lived did not fully understand the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Look at all the different denominations we have — and disputes over doctrine. Men today are still in the dark about so many things.
The urge to “make things happen” on our own comes to all of us at times and we may start to get ahead of his plan. Also, the enemy comes against us, causing us to reach that point of panic when the heart cries out, “What do I do now?” God has an answer for us: “I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7).
It is important to understand, however, that “keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord” does not mean we fold our hands and sit around letting God do it all. It means waiting until he shows the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
God is eager to provide guidance to you, his dear child, so spend time in his presence and keep your eyes upon him.