QUESTION: How can I keep faith while waiting on God to answer prayers?
Growing up, I often asked myself impatiently, “How can I keep faith while waiting on God to answer prayers?” As I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), God has shown me through His Word how to wait on His timing.
Only God can see the big picture. He has planned out everything to intertwine perfectly in the end. Part of His plan includes working through our prayers. We pray, yet we doubt He hears us. He has promised, however, to hear His children.
Although He hears us, He doesn’t always give the response we expect or the answer on our timetable. I prayed twelve years for my son to return to the Lord. Every day, I prayed, believing God heard and would answer. My sovereign God used those twelve years to work in my son’s heart and bring him back into the fold. In a human’s eyes, twelve years seem an awfully long time to wait. In God’s eyes, it is a breath (2 Peter 3:8). His time is not our time.
When waiting on God to answer prayers, we must believe God will answer. Unbelief is the biggest obstacle to overcome in praying and waiting. “But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
While waiting on God to answer prayers, take stock of your blessings. Are you breathing? Then, rejoice in life! Do you see the blue sky or even a cloudy one? Thank God for the ability to see. Can you hear the sound of the wind blowing through the trees or a child laughing? Praise God for hearing! Turn the wait into a treasure hunt for the blessings that we often take for granted. For remembrance, keep a prayer journal, listing all your prayers with the date of request. Frequently lift up the requests to God, and record the date you received an answer.
Never forget that answers come in God’s time — not ours. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God has promised His own a hopeful future. Rest in God’s faithfulness. He will answer you.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions
If you’re anything like me, your prayers often reflect impatience, even petulance. “Hurry up, God!” “What’s taking so long?” But the person who prays must learn to wait on God. So what does that mean? How do we do that? Waiting on God is not a passive posture. It involves action. It requires effort, much of which is counter-intuitive, particularly to 21st century people.
Here are 6 ways to actively wait to hear from God:
1. Don’t stop praying.
David, the great shepherd-king of Israel, earned a Ph.D. in waiting on God. He wrote and sang of it often:
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1, NASB).
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14, NASB).
Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed (Psalm 25:3, NASB).
Who better, then, to show us how to wait on God than David and his Psalm 130? Psalm 130 is a prayer from beginning to end. David pours out his heart to God:
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications (Psalm 130:1-2, NASB).
Waiting on God is not a cessation of prayer, a pause but intensification. If we are waiting on God we are, if anything, more active in prayer than we were before.
2. Examine yourself.
As he waits, David’s thoughts turn inward, reflecting on the status of his heart and life and reminding himself of God’s fondness for forgiveness:
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared (Psalm 130:3-4, NASB).
While we wait on God, we also search our own hearts to confess any sin that may hinder an answer or make any surrender that will further align us with God’s plans and purpose.
3. Focus and refocus your heart, soul and mind.
David doesn’t spend his time twiddling his thumbs or pacing the floor; he focuses his thoughts and aligns himself with God’s word:
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope (Psalm 130:5, NASB).
Waiting on God often involves reading and repeating God’s word and focusing our thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable…. about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).
4. Keep your eyes and heart open and alert.
Waiting on God requires a heightened attentiveness and watchfulness in which you scan your surroundings, circumstances, conversations and “coincidences” for clues and indications of God’s answer on the horizon:
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning (Psalm 130:6, NASB).
A watchman on the walls of a city was constantly searching the horizon and scanning the landscape for movement. The soul who waits on God will be similarly alert for hints and harbingers of God at work.
5. Keep trusting, reminding and hoping.
Even as he waits, David reminds himself and those around him of who God is, what God has done and why they should continue to hope in Him:
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption (Psalm 130:7, NASB).
6. Keep going.
Too often when we are waiting on God—or think we are—we tense and freeze and stop progressing. But God is just as able to close doors and pathways as He is to open them. So rather than choosing inaction, we who wait on God can keep moving ahead, trusting as David did that God will guide our steps as we go:
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities (Psalm 130:8, NASB).
Why would God wait to answer our prayers? Wouldn’t we expect that since God is all-powerful that He would answer immediately? What is the purpose for God’s delaying our prayer requests?
Table of contents
Outside of God’s Will
One reason that God may not answer our prayers or that He waits is that we are asking for the wrong thing. We may be asking for something that is not in God’s will for our lives and we might be asking for selfish reasons. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”(James 4:3). For example, if we ask for money and we are not already giving to our local church or we have not been helping the poor, why should God give us more money so that we might spend it on ourselves? Also, we might have the wrong motives in asking for something. If we ask for a better job, the job that we think would be better may actually be worse than the job we have now. God is sovereign and He knows what is best, and holds our best interests in mind for our future (Jer. 29:11).
In the Lord’s Prayer, we are to ask that His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). We know that God’s will for believers is to grow in grace and knowledge, so we can ask for spiritual understanding of His Word just before we read the Bible. There is confidence in praying when we know His will for out lives as it says in I John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
When we pray, we may have serious doubts about God’s ability or willingness to answer our prayer. James 12:6-7 indicates that if we pray in doubt, God will not honor our requests saying, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” God may be waiting for us to pray in real faith, in expectation of receiving an answer, or to see if we are serious enough to continue to pray for it.
Sin Stops Prayer From Being Answered
God will not answer the prayer of a believer if they are in a state of perpetual, unrepentant sin (I Pet. 3:12). Psalm 66:18 is clear that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.“ If we are obedient, He will hear our prayers (John 15:7) but if we are unforgiving, He will refuse our petitions before His altar (Matt. 18:35). Matthew 5:24 is says that when we fail to forgive others, this is cause for a failed request for His help, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Prayer is Answered in God’s Timing
God also expects us to wait patiently on His perfect timing (Psalm 66:18). In Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.” The minor prophet, Habakkuk speaks for all of us when he grew impatient in waiting for God to answer his request in 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” I can most certainly identify with Habakkuk in his sentiments. Psalm 37 is a great Psalm to read when you are seeking the desires of your heart with the realization that it may take some time. Read these key verses from Psalm 37 on waiting:
7 “Rest before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not worry when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“
25 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
34 “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”
Sometimes the desires of our heart take time. They do not happen overnight. God is most often at work when He appears to be the most silent. Even though Daniel had to wait three weeks before his prayer was answered, God had actually answered his prayer that very day that he prayed. Don’t think that since God does not immediately reveal to you His answer, that He has not answered it and has not answered it right away. Daniel had his prayer answered the very same day of his request but it took three weeks for God’s sovereign timing for it to reach him – and it did at exactly the right time, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them”(10:12).
Stories of Waiting For Prayer To Be Answered
Don’t ever give up on praying. God shows us that persistence pays off in Luke 18:1-8, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The point of this parable is that if we continue steadfastly in prayer God will honor that persistence. Never give up on praying because God may be waiting to see if it is important enough to us to continue in prayer, day and night, day after day.
I heard the story of a faithful mother who had been praying for 28 years for her son to come to faith in Christ. Year after year her son was rebellious. He abused drugs, was in and out of jail, and showed no signs of ever knowing Christ. The days and years dragged on with absolutely no indication that there was anything different in the man‘s life. Then one day, 28 years after his mother first prayed for him, this man came to a saving faith in Christ. Today this man, Terry Williams, uses his testimony to help other prison inmates find their way to a relationship with the only One Who can save: Jesus Christ. What if this mother had given up? What if she decided it was not important enough to keep praying each and every day? What a difference this mother made in her steadfast prayers due to her undying love for her son. Today her son is making an eternal difference for others in prison. This was all due to prayer. Even though she had to wait
Another article you might be interested in:
Does God Answer The Prayers of Unbelievers?
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Waiting on God when He has not answered our prayers is one of the hardest places to be. There are times when we pray with everything in us and we so need God to intervene and yet, nothing changes. Status quo. Silence. Or the need gets even greater.
At first, it’s easy to pray and wait with great expectancy for God to answer big and bold. But as the days and weeks and months – and years — roll on with no answer, we can begin to wonder whether God is even listening.
Have you been in a place where circumstances are hard and though you have been praying, it just seems like God does not hear?
When the weeks and months go on without a clear answer, we can become weary in praying. I begin to pray less fervently and less consistently. It gets harder to expect God to answer big and bold. And my faith in whether God will answer can get a little shaky.
I have been there. Waiting on God to intervene, to show Himself, to fix it.
“How long, O LORD, will I call for help, And You will not hear?”
This was the cry of Habakkuk. As I studied Habakkuk (pronounced ha-BACK-uk and not ha-ba-COOK as I was trying to do), God reaffirmed several deep truths about waiting on Him to answer prayer. I knew generally about Habakkuk, because one of my all-time favorite books is based on the last verses of this book, but I knew little about Habakkuk’s struggles as He waited for God.
Habakkuk was in a hard place and he came to God with some hard questions. Judah, the country surrounding Jerusalem where Habakkuk lived, was filled with immorality, cult worship and injustice. The dialogue between Habakkuk and God shows us 6 truths about waiting on God to answer our prayer:
1. When waiting on God, I need to bring the hard questions to God rather than letting the hard questions drive me from God. (Hab 1:2; 13) Will God answer my questions? I have found that if I lay my hard questions before God in trust, God slowly peels back the layers of my understanding. Sometimes, however, God’s full answer may not be completely revealed until I see Him in heaven.
2. When waiting on God, I need to realize God’s answer to my situation may be part of a much larger plan. (Hab 1:5) If our eyes could only pan out to see all that God is orchestrating, we might understand the wait. Sometimes we have to wait for God to answer our prayers because our situation is only a small part of the larger work that God is doing.
3. When waiting on God, I need to realize that God is at work even when I cannot see Him. (Hab 1:5) Even as Habakkuk wondered whether God was listening, God had been moving on a worldwide level to address the very problems that Habakkuk prayed about. God’s silence does not mean God’s inactivity.
4. When waiting on God, I need to reaffirm Who God is so that I can press through the wait. (Hab 1:12) When our prayers are not answered right away, we can begin to wonder whether God’s promises are really true. Is He really in charge or are we just subject to the whim of life’s circumstances? The only way to make it through the wait is to take our tiny seed of faith to God’s Word, where He rewards us with soul-deep affirmations of Who He is.
5. When waiting on God, I need to make sure that I haven’t rejected His answer. (Hab 1:13) Is God really asking me to wait or am I just looking for a different answer? Above all else, my life must conform to God’s will.
6. When waiting on God, I need to fully trust that God‘s timing is perfect. (Hab 2:3)
“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely
take place. It will not be delayed.”
We know this; we’ve seen it’s truth over and over. God’s timing is not just better than ours, it is perfect. And if God’s timing is perfect, then we can rest in the wait.
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