God always answers prayer. Period.
Yet, he does not always answer in the way we would like. Sometimes he answers with a “yes” or “yes and even better.” Sometimes, however, he answers with a “no,” or “not yet.”
Why does God answer with a “not yet?” Why does he delay in answering prayer?
Puritan Richard Sibbes helped me to see four reasons God may delay in answering prayer. I’ve added a fifth.
- To try your faith.
Like the Canaanite woman whose faith was tried by Jesus, God may delay in answering to try your faith and cause dependence on him (Matt 15:21-28). Thankfully, “the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3).
- To humble your pride.
Like the Israelites of old, God may delay in answering to humble your pride and make you more dependent on him (Deut 8:3). Thankfully, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
- To increase your desire.
Like the persistent widow whose prayer grew stronger and stronger until the desired outcome was achieved, God may delay in answering your prayer so that you more eagerly and intensely seek him for the answer (Luke 18:1-8).
- To appreciate the answer.
What comes to us quick and easy is not always valued as what comes to us slow and hard. God may delay in answering prayer so that you appreciate the answer more deeply.
- To commune with God.
At the end of the day, prayer is not primarily about what you need, but about who you need. Continually asking God is continually communing with God.
Do you have a request that you have been praying for days, weeks, months, or years? Whatever the length of time, God may be delaying the answer to that prayer request to try your faith, to humble your pride, to increase your desire, to appreciate the answer, or to commune with him.
These five reasons are given for your encouragement—to continue to beg God for a “yes.” After all, whatever reason(s) God may delay in answering with a “yes,” we must continue to ask. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).
Pastor Dan Burrus