I love it when God answers my prayers right away. The other day I prayed for a specific, urgent need for a friend. Within half an hour of my prayer she received a phone call and God’s wonderful answer. Total time elapsed from prayer to answer: about 30 minutes.
But, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that most of my prayers aren’t answered that quickly. I can think of one prayer in particular that I have been praying for years—with no sign whatsoever of an answer. That is, until a few days ago.
A few days ago, in a wonderful and unexpected way, I learned that God has been faithfully working behind the scenes in the area of my prayer request for three years! The fact that I had been completely unaware of His working was irrelevant—He had been at work, responding, I’m convinced, to my pleadings.
Why do some prayers take so long for Him to answer while He answers others immediately? I don’t know. But I did gain some insight while reading Daniel recently. In Daniel 9, the prophet prays a humble prayer of repentance for the sins of his people. Before Daniel had even finished praying, he was interrupted by an angel—Gabriel, no less. And what did Gabriel say? “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God” (Daniel 9:22-23, NLT, emphasis mine).
Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t you love to have your prayers answered that quickly every time? But if you’re like me, and your prayers don’t usually get such quick answers, take heart. Not all of Daniel’s prayers were answered immediately, either. In the very next chapter, Daniel has a different sort of experience. This time he has been praying for three weeks. Not just praying, but fasting and on-his-face mourning. He has dropped everything to plead with God, and he was desperate. But for 21 long days, nothing seemed to be happening.
But then, suddenly, a “man” came to Daniel (probably another angel) and addressed him. “Daniel, you are very precious to God,” he said. “Listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer” (Daniel 10:11-12, NLT, emphasis mine). However, the angel went on to explain that he had been delayed. There’d been something of a cosmic battle that he had to fight his way through in order to get to Daniel. He had started out with God’s answer the day Daniel opened his mouth to pray—but had been delayed for 21 days. The delay had nothing to do with Daniel being inadequate in some way. It had nothing to do with God withholding something from Daniel. It had to do with very real circumstances that Daniel couldn’t have begun to understand.
It makes me wonder. Those prayer requests of mine that I’ve been praying for the long haul—what if God has already sent His answer? What if from the moment I began praying, His answer has been on the way—but I just can’t see it yet? Maybe I’m not praying “wrong.” Maybe there are just things going on that need to be worked out before I can see the answer. The answer will come, even if it’s delayed a while.
That thought encourages me to trust Him and persevere. What about you? Can you relate to what I’m sharing? If you can, please comment—your experience might encourage someone else.