In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable about perseverance in prayer. “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Jesus knew that we would have plenty of opportunity to lose heart in prayer. He knew we would be tempted to give up praying.
Many believers have given up on prayer because they “tried and it didn’t work.” This is a wrong attitude about prayer for a couple of reasons. In the first place, the highest purpose of prayer is intimacy with God; not getting answers. We should not give up on prayer simply because we are not getting the answers we want in the time that we want.
Secondly, the Bible teaches that persistence is often required for prayer to be answered. Why is this the case? Why must we wait for prayers to be answered? What causes delay in receiving answers?
There are certain principles that govern prayer. If we want to be effective in our prayer lives we must understand these principles and put them into practice. Below are some of the possible reasons that answers to prayer may be delayed. Hopefully this list will help you to persevere and not lose heart in prayer.
Sometimes we forget that the promises of answered prayer have conditions attached to them. There is no specific list of these conditions—they are spread throughout the Bible—so we must search the Scriptures and find out what it teaches about prayer. Below is a list of some of these conditions, with Scripture references:
a.) Praying in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14) – We must come to God on the basis of what Jesus has done for us and His finished work.
b.) Praying with Faith (Matthew 21:21-22, James 1:6-7) – We must believe that God wants to answer our prayers and that He will give what we ask.
c.) Praying according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15) – We must ask for things that are according to His will. We discover His will by knowing His Word and following the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
d.) Praying with pure motives (James 4:2-3) – The Bible says that sometimes we ask and do not receive because our motives are not pure. If we have selfish motives, we will not receive what we ask for.
e.) Resolving relationship issues (Mark 11:25-26, 1 Peter 3:7) – We need to have our relationships in order and if we have offenses with others we need to forgive them.
f.) Walking in repentance (Psalm 66:18) – If we are walking in rebellion against the Lord, we cannot expect to have Him answer our prayers.
Sometimes the reason we must persevere in prayer is that one or more of these conditions are not being met. As we persist, the Lord can help us come into alignment with Him so that He can answer the request.
Another reason for delay in answer to prayer is simply God’s timing. Sometimes we are asking for things that are right and good, but it is not God’s time for us to receive them. If my three year old son watched me shave my face and asked for a razor, I would be a terrible dad to give it to him. However, when he becomes a teenager, it will be perfectly appropriate to give him a razor.
We may not realize it, but sometimes we are asking for things that could hurt us if we got them right away. God is a perfect Father, and He knows what is best for us but also when it is best.
In Matthew 15:21-28, a gentile woman came to Jesus to ask for help for her demonized daughter. Jesus’ first answer was essentially “no.” But as she persisted in asking, He declared that she had great faith and received the answer to her prayer.
Many times “no” really means “not yet.” Sometimes God will test our level of faith and desire. How hungry are we for the answers to our prayers? Are we willing to persist and press through when the Lord seems to not be interested in our situation?
Daniel 10 contains an amazing story. In this passage, Daniel is praying for understanding of a vision he had received and he perseveres in prayer and fasting for 21 days. Finally, the angel Gabriel comes in response to his prayers. He tells Daniel that he was sent the moment that he began to pray, but that he was help up in a spiritual conflict in the heavenly realm.
There are times when the answers to our prayers may be held up because of a greater spiritual battle that is going on. As we persist in prayer, we will get the breakthrough. What would have happened if Daniel had given up before the answer came?
This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of why answers are delayed. The point is, we must persist in prayer, even when nothing seems to be happening. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Keep asking, seeking, and knocking until you receive the answers to your prayers!