Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Delayed Answers to Prayer

Recently, while reading through Homer Hailey’s book, Prayer and Providence, I came across a section describing the fact that prayer is sometimes either not answered, or not answered immediately.

In describing the fact that prayer is not always answered, Hailey referred to Moses prayer for God to relent in his decision not to allow Moses to go over into the promised land, (cf. Deut. 3:23-27). God said, “No” though he did allow Moses to view the land from the summit of Mount Pisgah.

God also said “No” to Paul when he requested that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. The malady had a purpose “that I should not be exalted above measure”, and it remained despite Paul’s petition (cf. 2 Cor. 12:1-9).

These two examples show us that sometimes God’s will precludes a positive answer to our requests. As Hailey states, we need to realize “that our Father sees and knows what we cannot, and works out His divine purpose in us” (pg. 83).

Sometimes God, as a part of divine plan for man, delays his answer to petitions. There are several reasons, for this, and we again quote Hailey, who writes, “Whatever the reason, the Christian must accept by faith the assurance that God hears and that He will respond according to His own wisdom and will” (pg. 83).

Hailey gives as an example of this delayed response to prayer the petitions of Job. Following is a lengthy quote from the book about that great example:

The patriarch Job is God’s classic example of a great and patient sufferer whose prayers received a long-delayed answer. His afflictions began with the loss of his flocks and herds, followed by the death of his sons and daughters. Next he was afflicted with sore boils from head to foot; in this condition he became an outcast from society and sat in the ash heap where he would cover the boils with ashes and then he would scrape off the crust formed. When he needed her most, his wife lost her faith in God; and so he was deprived of her support and comfort in the midst of his bitter struggle. His friends came to comfort him, but proved to be everything but comforters, accusing him of being a great sinner and thus bringing about troubles.

The final and most severe test came when he turned to God for an explanation of his great suffering and loneliness and for some word of comfort from Him, only to receive an empty echo to his call. In desperation he calls upon God, saying, “Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: / I cry for help, but there is no justice” (Job 19:7); his cry is followed by an enumeration of his miseries. He finds no response of sympathy from God or man. Time drags on; and in a forlorn and pitiable outcry, he says, “I cry unto thee, and thou dost not answer me: / I stand up, and thou gazest at me. / Thou art turned to be cruel to me; / With the might of thy hand thou persecutest me” (30:20).

However, there was something which Job did not know. His integrity had been challenged by Satan; his faithful devotion to God must be tested (2:4-6). Further, he must learn that back of all God’s strange ways there is purpose.

In delaying His answer to Job’s cry, Jehovah was disciplining the patriarch, preparing him for a greater blessing. In the end, “Job answered Jehovah, and said, / I know that thou canst do all things, / And that no purpose of thine can be restrained… / Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not, / Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” (42:1-3). Because of his rugged trials and experience Job now had a new insight and understanding of God that he could never have had otherwise. Hear him, as he says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; / But now mine eye seeth thee: / Wherefore I abhor myself, / And repent in dust and ashes” (vv. 5,6). Through this new spiritual insight Job possessed a wealth of spiritual understanding that he could have obtained in no way except through experience. So, when we think that God has turned a deaf ear to our cry and has forsaken us, let us not despair but wait patiently for our Father to work out His purposes in us (pp. 83-84).

It is important for us to remember that God has all knowledge. We may not always understand His ways, be it a negative answer, or a delayed answer in response to our petitions. We can know, however, that God loves His children, and will do for us what is best. He may answer “Yes”, “No”, or “Wait”, but He knows what we need, and we can trust Him in His love for us.