Let’s be real here: unanswered prayer is tough for Christians. There are many theologies surrounding the issues and it is often a topic for discussion in small groups/home groups within churches.
We reassure each other with talk about God’s timing instead of our timing, we remind ourselves (quite correctly) of the Scriptures that promise He DOES answer, that He is a GOOD God, a good Father. We even talk about Daniel and the delay in receiving his answer due to spiritual opposition (Daniel 10).
I had a revelation today when chatting with God over the time it had taken to see the answer to a particular prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I was thanking Him for the answer, and not feeling angry at the timescale – more I was wondering about the time taken, about why that was, and seeing how even in that delay, He had brought good. I realised that not receiving the answers to our prayers when we pray them (or in the timing that we ask for or expect) is more about the constraints of time itself than it is about God’s willingness or ability to act.
God is outside time. We are in it. It is linear.
When we pray over situations or about specifics, it takes time – our time – for those things to be worked out by God because of those constraints. We know that all things work together for the good to those who love God (Romans 8:28) and that is, by its very definition, a process, with an outcome.
If five people set off with directions to a certain place but each one read those directions it differently, after a period of time they will all be in a different location. Imagine they then speak on the phone and realise they are in the wrong place. Having now worked out where they should be – and how to get there – does that knowledge instantly put them in the right place? No! They now have to make their way. That takes time.
When we pray and we ask God to move, when we ask in His Name, He answers. He moves. But the “working together for our good”, the working out, the process, of that answer being manifested in our life is within the earth realm, within our time frame. It takes time to see the evidence of His moving, and time to see the result (the answer to the prayer).
Of course where there is direct spiritual opposition that takes even longer, as it is more than just time that God is dealing with (the good news is our enemy is also restricted within the linear constraints of time).
The “miraculous”, the immediate answer to prayer, the sudden breakthrough, maybe come simply because all things are lined up in such a way that His move and the result seem to us to be instantaneous. They don’t meant God decided to move in one instance but not another. It doesn’t mean that person necessarily had more faith, it certainly doesn’t mean they are more righteous, that God heard them when He didn’t hear you. It doesn’t mean God wanted to heal them now, but you in two years’ time.
So, remember when you pray that you are inside time and God is outside of it.
Learn patience. Seek wisdom. Keep praying.
Keep making yourself available to Holy Spirit so He can use you to bring answers to other people’s prayers, and to speed up the process by aligning yourself with the Will and the Word of God, thus enabling Him to move through you freely to reach others.