One day Jesus told His disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. Luke 18:1 (NLT)
Spiritual delays are confusing. Sometimes, they can leave you feeling disillusioned with God and wondering if prayer even works. But, these are times where God is often at work in the greatest way in our lives. Spiritual delays teach us persistence in prayer. In fact, Luke tells two stories about shameless persistence in prayer in Luke 11 and 18. In both cases, we get a better understanding of why God permits spiritual delays in answer to prayer. The problem is not that God is insensitive to our needs. It’s often His way of helping us overcome our own insensitivity. Shameless persistence in prayer does more to change our heart and mind than it does His. Spiritual delays cause us to lean in to God with greater intensity and recognize God’s work when He responds. That’s why Jesus says in Luke 7:9,
And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
When Jesus told His followers that they should always pray and never give up, He didn’t mean to pray with endless repetition or some painfully long prayer session. Constant prayer means keeping our requests continually before God with an attitude of confidence and gratitude that He hears our prayers and will answer them. Sometimes, God may be testing how badly we really want what we are requesting. Are we genuinely burdened and broken, or is it just a passing desire? How quickly will we give up praying when there is a spiritual delay? God has good reasons when He delays in answering our prayers. Persistence in prayer helps us to grow in character, faith, and hope. It helps us clearly examine our motives and needs.
Another reason for spiritual delays is found in Daniel 10. Daniel had been praying and fasting for 21 days with no response. Rather than giving up, he persisted in prayer trusting that God was listening even though he didn’t understand the reason for the delay. From Daniel’s experience, we learn that answers to prayer may be hindered by unseen spiritual forces. Job also reveals the challenge of evil forces at work that we may know nothing about. The Bible describes this as a heavenly warfare. Ephesians 6:12 puts it like this:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
If you’re experiencing a spiritual delay in your life, take heart. God is at work. Practice a simple prayer method I call P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens) and never give up!