Why God Doesn't Answer Prayer Right Away
By David J. Stewart
Luke 18:1, 6-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint ...And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
It is a matter of faith entirely. Hebrews 11:6 teaches that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God without FAITH. In Luke 18:1-8 the Lord shows us the relation between FAITH and PRAYER...
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
A believer's faith MUST be tested. Luke 18:1-8 teaches that God ignores believers when we pray, because it pleases Him to do so. God is testing our faith to see if we'll continue praying with persevering prayer. Jesus asks in Luke 18:8 if He will find faith when He returns? It's is not just coincidence that the Lord mentions this Scripture concerning faith in relation to continued PRAYER. Not just prayer, but specifically... CONTINUING PRAYER.
That is what the parable of the unjust judge teaches. Luke 18:1 confirms Jesus told this parable so that MEN OUGHT ALWAYS TO PRAY, AND NOT TO FAINT!!! This is the truth which God wants us to learn. This is an amazing and often overlooked teaching in the Bible.
Notice verses 1 and 8. Verse one says “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” This is the stated purpose of the parable, that is, to compel us to continue praying even when God doesn't answer. And then verse 8 asks if the Lord will find faith when He returns? The conclusion is clear. Will believers stop praying when God doesn't answer? Or will we continue, persevering in continual prayer, trusting upon the Lord to work His will in His own time?
I don't like the term “prayer life.” The Bible never teaches for a Christian to have a prayer life; but rather, a life of prayer. Amen! We are commanded in 1st Thessalonians 5:17 to PRAY WITHOUT CEASING. Evangelist John R. Rice (1895-1980) teaches this topic in his excellent and timeless booklet, “WHY PRAY?” ...Commanded to Pray All the Time
Again, why pray? Because we are commanded to pray all the time. You say, “I don't see how that is possible.” Well, since God commanded it, and it is repeated so many times in the Bible, don't you think we had better take it to heart and pay attention to it and learn what God means and learn how to do that which seems impossible?
Pray all the time? Yes. Many Scriptures say so. One is in Luke 18:1, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Men ought to pray all the time. They ought never get tired, discouraged. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
Jesus goes from there to give a parable. He said,
“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. [The American Standard Version has it clearer, “I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual coming.”] And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”
He said it again in Romans 12:12. There the Scripture says a Christian ought to be “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” Not praying frequently, not praying regularly. All that is right, but that is not what He said. He said, “ . . . continuing instant in prayer.” Does that mean always on the alert in prayer? Evidently. Oh, a Christian ought to pray all the time.
You say you don't see how we could pray all the time. Then, you had better pay attention for that is what God is plainly saying here. You say, “Brother Rice, surely God didn't mean that literally you should pray all the time.” Well, we already know that is what He said; we will argue about what He meant a little later. But there can be no doubt that He said Christians should be, “continuing instant in prayer.”
...Oh, that men ought to pray all the time, with all kinds of prayer and with all kinds of supplication and begging and perseverance and for all the saints.
My, what a lot of “alls” in there! And notice—“supplication.” He said all in one verse, “always” and “supplication” and “perseverance and supplication.” He is talking about persistent, never-ceasing prayer. A Christian ought to pray all the time.
SOURCE: WHY PRAY?, by John R. Rice; Pages 4-6; Sword Of The Lord Publishers, 1975; ISBN: 0-87398-915-5
I agree with Dr. Rice, who said on page 3 in his opening remark, “I am persuaded that the average Christian doesn't pray three minutes a day.” I sincerely doubt if most Christians even pray, until something bad happens and they need God's help. Oh, how selfish we can be if we don't purpose in our mind and heart to please God with our thoughts, words and behavior. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch walked with God and had this testimony... THAT HE PLEASED GOD! Amen! The next verse says that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God without faith.
Prayer and faith are inseparable my friend. This is evidenced by the Lord's teaching on persevering prayer in Luke 18:1-8, and then He finished His parable with this Scripture on faith, “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The believer who doesn't pray lacks faith, for if he truly feared God with whom we all have to do one day (Hebrews 4:13), then he would be compelled to depart from evil and obey the Lord. Hebrews 4:13, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
Notice the phrase in Luke 18:7, “though he bear long with them.” The Greek word for the phrase “he bear long” is makrothumeo and means “to be long spirited, that is, (objectively) forbearing or (subjectively) patient.” My friend, do you know what it means to FORBEAR? It means not to do something. It means God doesn't do anything when we pray. The Bible is saying that God makes us continue praying because He is pleased by that. This is an important truth. Many people complain that God never answers their prayers. That's because they waver in faith and don't continue in prayer as Luke 18:1-8 teaches. James 1:6, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
Biblical prayer is persevering prayer. Now for ourselves the Lord told us not to pray long prayers (Matthew 6:7-8). But the Lord wants us to think on the things of OTHERS (Philippians 2:4-5, 20-21). God wants us to get out of the SELF life. The world lives for self and sin. Christians ought to live for God and others. This is why we are told to pray for others; such as in 1st Timothy 2:1, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” Verse 4 gives us the context of this Scripture passage, 1st Timothy 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Our prayers for others ought to be bathed in concern for getting them saved. Pastor Jack Hyles explains intercessory prayer (Priests And Intercessors) in his awesome book titled, Exploring Prayer With Jack Hyles.
Dr. John R. Rice further teaches believers HOW to pray without ceasing...Prayer Needs to Continue in the Subconscious Mind
Somebody says, “I don't see how I can do that.” But it is commanded. Here it is again in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” Pray without stopping. Pray day and night. Pray all the time. Any honest translation of that has to come out saying that God intends us to pray all the time.
Well, how can one pray all the time? You say we sometimes have to work. I know, but one can still love his wife and whistle songs and know when quitting time comes—while you are conscious of other things. You can pray doing your work. “Well sometimes one has to stop and eat,” you say. I know, but you don't stop talking when you eat. So you don't have to stop praying, either. Your heart should cry to God when you eat, the same as when you talk and eat.”
You say, “But sometimes I've got to sleep.” Yes, I know but even when you sleep, somebody lives there. Maybe in the night you set a time when you have to get up in the morning. You don't have an alarm clock, so what do you do? You have to catch a plane (or a bus or go to a new shift on the job). how will you get up? You set your internal alarm clock and you wake yourself up at a time you never would wake otherwise. In the subconscious nature, one can take on a burden about it and wake yourself up. Many, many people have found that to be true. Somebody lives there even when you are asleep.
...You put this down: if this Christianity gets down deep enough in your soul, down in your subconscious nature, and you get burdened for souls and burdened to have the power of God, that part will be there when you are asleep, too, and your heart can cry out to God. You know, a Christian isn't much of a Christian except on the inside, down below the surface of consciousness.
SOURCE: WHY PRAY?, by John R. Rice; Pages 6-7; Sword Of The Lord Publishers, 1975; ISBN: 0-87398-915-5
Perhaps the most important phrase not to be overlooked in Luke 18:1 is... AND NOT TO FAINT! The word faint means to quit, give up. If we pray and don't give up in despair, then God will be pleased with our perseverance.... “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, That men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
The teaching is plain as can be... keep-on keeping-on praying!
Most believers never pray through the night. Jesus did it often. Luke 6:12,“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” When's the last time that your heart was so broken and burdened that instead of getting drunk like the world, you went out into nature to pray until sunrise? Go camping and make it a prayer trip. Just you and the Lord.
Every believer should pray into the night at times for God's blessing, guidance and power; praying as to a Friend, all the way to sunrise if you feel led to do so. Prayer is entirely a matter of FAITH. Continued prayer mean greater faith. It's easy enough to do. People watch movies late into the night, work into the night, why not pray into the night 'til sunset. Or perhaps you have a different schedule than most people and work nights, so you'd pray during the morning hours until sunset on day when you can.
God doesn't expect anyone to ruin their health praying. Since the Bible commands believers to pray without ceasing in 1st Thessalonians 5:17, it obviously means being flexible and considerate. Walking for exercise and praying are great to do during the evening , night or early morning before the sun heats things up. If you feel that God has not been answering your prayers, then join the crowd. I say that because MOST people simply DON'T know how to pray. It tool me years to learn this truth about prayer, little by little, and then God just began to open my eyes when I diligently sought Him as Hebrews 4:6 says.
Prayer is all about OTHERS (Philippians 2:4-5, 20-21). Most people only pray for me, myself and I (or when in trouble). God tells us not to pray long for ourselves (Matthew 6:7-8), because the Lord already knows our needs. But Jesus wants us to pray and persevere in prayer for OTHERS. You can buy bread at the bakery just for the asking; but to help bake the bread and work there requires much more. Notice that you're not earning an answer to prayer. Jesus said the wicked think they'll be heard for their MUCH SPEAKING in Matthew 6:7-8. It's important that we settle that right now... No one deserves anything good from God. We are sinners and deserve to plunge immediately into the fires of Hell beneath.
I believe one of the reasons (and this is just my opinion) that God requires us as believers to continually pray (laboring intensely in prayer) for OTHERS, is so that God gets the glory and not men. Anytime that we know God is working through us to influence OTHERS, pride can quite easily rear up it's ugly head. James 4:6 says God resists the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Prayer keeps a person humble. We read about God's throne of grace, and our sinless heavenly High Priest in Hebrews 4:15-16). God's grace is defined as help in time of need. Jesus is precious! Could it be that God ignores us when we pray to see if we're proud?
If we are sinfully proud, then we will faint and stop praying, evidencing lack of faith that God will answer, or doubting that He cares. I know one thing is true as a fundamental Biblical truth, that is, WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM (Hebrews 11:6). Prayer is asking, for we are told in James 4:2, “yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” Thus, asking is faith. So continued asking must be greater faith. This pleases God. Faith pleases God. The unjust judge didn't care, but God does care. The unjust judge avenged the widow to make her go away; but God avenges the saints and answers our prayers because He is a good God. The bottom line is that Jesus taught for men always to pray and NOT TO FAINT (Luke 18:1).
Proverbs 3:6 says in all thy ways acknowledge Him (6 words), and He shall direct my paths (6 words). The first 6-words are man's part; the second 6-words are God's part. Our part is to acknowledge God, labouring to please Him in all our ways. God's part is to direct our paths, which no one has a way of telling where they will lead. Serving God may direct us to places we never wanted to be, even horrible places (like Joseph rotting in an Egyptian prison). But that was God directing Joseph. Here's a great MP3 sermon by Pastor Jack Hyles on the subject titled, I WILL BUILD (or as a sub heading, In All Thy Ways Acknowledge Him, And He Shall Direct Thy Paths). Boy this is great stuff! You and I should just do our part and then God will do His part. Don't fantasize about what the future here on earth will be, because you don't know the outcome. It's God's department to direct our paths.
Jesus sums up His teaching on the parable of the unjust judge by asking, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Jesus is teaching about the persevering prayer of the saints here, so He's really asking, “Will I still find any Christian's praying when I return?” People nowadays are lazy and won't pray unless they get immediate results. That's why some wicked psychologists and heathens have reduced prayer to good therapy, because the beneficial results are immediate. There's not one Christian alive, unless they're a total liar, who wouldn't admit that they often feel like God is not answering their prayers. It's like an admission of being a bad Christian if God' doesn't answer your prayers.
My friend, they've got it all backwards. The parable of the unjust judge was given by our Lord to encourage and teach us that When God DOESN'T answer our prayers right away, we are to keep on praying through, even if it takes months or years to do so. It all depends on the circumstances concerning what we're praying for. Don't just pray for two days and then give up. You ought to decide what is important to pray about. Ask God to guide your prayer list. Pray for God's power in your life to help OTHERS and work to get lost sinners saved. Pray for your loved ones, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, for God's will to be done in their lives. I rarely ask God to bless people, nor punish them, simply because God sees things that I don't. And so I ask Him reverently with godly fear (Hebrews 12:28), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7) to do what He knows is best in the situation.
I'm not interested in all the praise teams and entertainment in churches today. I love music and play some musical instruments, but the world is in churches today and the music is often sensual, rockish and inappropriate for a Gospel meeting. We need prayer meetings like never before. I've noticed that millions of people have become preacher bashers and critics in America, who do nothing but go around talking about how bad everything is today. They never fix anything, nor do they ever build anything, neither do they ever solve any problems. All they do is throw rocks and complain. It is clear evidence that they are not praying, for if they were praying their attitude would be one of having a burdened heart, with tears, and compassion, and genuine concern without condemnation. Don't ever complain about anything unless you're doing something to try to fix the problem.
Prayer is what's lacking mostly in America's churches. I've often said that preaching preachers is the great need of the hour, but I am more convinced lately that praying believers is the nation's greatest need. In 2nd Chronicles 7:14, God's call to repentance for His people begins with humbling yourselves in prayer. Then seeking God's face, and turning from our wicked ways. God always turns His face toward those with whom He is pleased (or vise versa). God's face has long been turned away in shame from America. Why would God want to look at the mess we've made in this country.
Luke 18:1, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, That men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
The Christian is not supposed to have a prayer life; but a life of prayer!
EXPLORING PRAYER WITH JACK HYLES