It is surprising that despite God and His promises being true and He has commanded “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7), still certain people are not blessed in spite of their intense prayer and fellowship. God’s answer has been “Son, I have released the blessing immediately when they prayed but they failed to receive that by being wrongly positioned”. We need to reassess our position; state and company to be ready for the answer to our prayer for the blessing may come and not find you there or not ready to receive.
It is an accepted fact that the Word of God is true and God is faithful in fulfilling His promises. But despite this most of the believers struggle with various issues of life and continue to live a life full of misery. There is a clear promise from our Lord “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Analyzing the Greek words used in this sentence we get the details regarding this promise. The Greek word translated as ‘Ask’ is ‘aiteo’ and relates to the attitude of the one who is asking- someone lesser in position petitioning a higher authority- from God; a child from a parent (Matthew 7:9,10); a subject from a king (Acts 12:20) etc. The aspect of asking therefore, is about looking up to the provider and the word for giving is ‘didomi’ which has various meanings including ‘given’. The meanings are- allow, bestow, cause, command, produce, grant, permit or yield. Thus a believer as a ‘child of God’ looks up to His Heavenly Father to meet his request while the Father – Jehovah Jireh- provides or allows something to be produced to meet the request.
The important point in asking is the attitude, for God searches the heart to give each man according to his ways as a result of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:10). While recording the promise the writer of the Gospel has included another critical statement by our Lord “ Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matthew 7:6). When a command of such severe nature is given to us how much more will God Himself also observe the same thing while dispensing His blessings to those who ask? If our attitude is improper- not of reverence, not to glorify God or not to help others with the bounties that we have received, the answer may not be forthcoming.
Our Lord commanded the disciples to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The declaration was clear for all “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) but they had to wait for the same to be passed down to them through the Holy Spirit from the Father. The disciples obeyed the command and they stayed on together with one accord, in prayer and supplication in one place and then “they were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 4). Thus even though the promise is clear, its fulfillment still depends on our attitude and purpose of asking as well as in obedience to the Lord.
How long before God answers our Prayers? – Daniel and his three friends receive answers from God each and every time that they prayed for a blessing. Daniel had received visions of war and great hardships and prayed for intervention from God and was visited by Gabriel, one of the archangels. The message from God conveyed through him to Daniel in illustrative “Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer” (Daniel 10:12). Since the day he started praying twenty one days had passed in fasting and prayer for Daniel and there was no answer. The reason is clarified the angel since the prayer was heard and the translated Hebrew word ‘shama’ means to pay attention to accept or heed request amplifies this, that the prayer was accepted on the very first day itself. Prophet Elijah taunted the 450 prophets of Baal and another 400 appointed by the queen Jezebel that their god might be asleep, or gone aside- so they must shout louder to wake him (1 Kings 18:27). But Jehovah, our God answers our prayer immediately always and every time from the moment we decide to- firstly humble ourselves before Him and secondly pray or ask Him.
Why is there delay in receiving answers to our prayers? – The delay was caused “for twenty one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me” (Daniel 10:13). Satan tries to stop our prayers and answers to the prayers in many ways. Firstly, he tries to discourage us from praying or asking God for anything by repeatedly reminding us of our past sins or sinful thoughts of the present. He interferes in our prayers thus by discouraging us by branding us as ineligible to receive any blessing from God due to our sinful nature. Secondly, he tries to dislodge us from the place of our blessing or the company of believers with which we are of one accord in prayer and worship. Thirdly, Satan tries to stop the messengers of God or the angels from reaching us to convey the answers to our prayers. Fourthly, he tries to divert our attention from the answer from God to the visible symptoms and misleading us into doubting God and His love.
Satan knows us by name but chooses to call us by our past sins by reminding us about the same while our Lord Jesus knows about all of our sins but decides to disregard the same and call us by our individual names. It is important for us to remember that our sins have been paid for in full by the declaration of our Lord of that one word ‘Tetelestai’ on the cross. All past sins committed and likely to be committed by us through our weaknesses, ignorance or even deliberate fault have been thrown as far as the east is from the west and forgiven. The same Greek word ‘aiteo’ is used for asking while a warning is issued to remain steadfast in faith “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind”. And such a person will not receive any answer to his prayers from the Lord (James 1:6-7).
Immediately after the great high of transfiguration our Lord Jesus was confronted by a situation where a boy affected by an evil spirit that tries to kill him by throwing him into fire and water is brought before Him. The boy’s father after explaining the situation prays to the Lord “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” and Lord Jesus is incredulous “If You can!” The evil spirit leaves the boy ‘as dead so that many said, “he is dead” but Lord Jesus lifted him up and he rose (Mark 9:22, 23, 26 and 27). In another instance Jairus’ daughter is also declared dead by all present but Lord Jesus does not look at her but raises her from the dead after declaring her to be sleeping rather than being dead (Mark 5:40-41). As long as we remain focused on God and His powers, nothing is impossible for us also since we operate in His power and authority. “But God, who is rich in mercy, ….. raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6). And our Lord had also sought the same for us in the only recorded prayer out of all that He prayed to God the Father during His stay on the earth- oneness in Him and through Him oneness with the Father through the glory that He imparts to each and every believer (John 17:20-22). The blessings that we seek through our prayers in the name and authority of Lord Jesus are heard in our spiritual presence and granted. We are thus given all blessings in the spiritual realm in heavenly places.
Converting the heavenly gifts into material realm – Lord Jesus is in heaven as our High Priest, Advocate and King who is seated on the right hand of God the Father. His coming to the earth was to restore all that we had lost due to sin through our expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The key in getting these gifts into our physical and material world lies in the creation process itself. All actions of God in the first four days of creation are carried out by the Son who appears in His Divine glory filling the whole earth with light at the first command of creation process. All that happens on the earth during these four days is carried out in His Light and has a distinct resemblance to His own glory and nature of dispensing His love to all equally whether deserving of the same or not. Thus the earth provides water, residence, its produce and fruits, light from the sun and moon to all in the same as an act of mercy of God without any effort by anyone.
On the fifth day, however, the animals were given certain capabilities to think and work and on the sixth day man was created with an additional capability to exercise his will in addition to thinking and working. Thus all that man or animals do is not automatic blessing from God but requires some effort on their part. Fruit is God dependent while work in this scenario is man dependent. But the two must interweave with each other to become a blessing to man and the creation. Lord Jesus did this during His ministry on the earth through total surrender to God- “I only do what My Father tells Me to do” and through complete dependence on power from God “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:19 & 30). Thus His work became fruit as an automatic blessing from God, enabling Him to declare “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me (without having spoken anything in open prayer before others). And I know that You always hear Me” (John 11:41-42). While in total surrender to God the Father, the Lord could receive the spiritual blessings in physical realm directly. He could thus multiply 5 loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 families; stop storms, heal the sick and raise the dead and much more.
The aim of our Lord’s work was and remains forever to glorify God the Father and we as children of God are also expected and entitled to do the same to receive our work as a fruit. Total surrender to God’s power and authority to do His will alone, provides the power to convert the spiritual to physical. The answer to prayers that are said in humble submission and for God’s glory to benefit many others and not self alone will always be available immediately. We must accept this fact; embrace the answer as our very own and thankfully wait for it to materialize. While waiting our attitude should be to prepare for the outcome of the answered prayer in anticipation rather than waiting for it to appear before our eyes. First the spiritual eye must see and only then will the eyes see it physically and receive the same.
Our Lord Jesus spoke a parable of the persistent widow to His followers wherein the widow pleaded before “the judge who did not fear God nor regard man” for seeking justice from her adversary. Her persistence finally forced the judge to “avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:3-5). The widow had already accepted the fact of her receiving justice and her persistent paid. Lord Jesus exhorts us “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” for God would definitely and speedily avenge His own elect “who cry out day and night to Him” (Luke 18:1, 7-8). After praying to God we must start preparing for oir part in fulfillment of the prayer and while offering thanks for the answer keep reminding God about the need. The symptoms may not be favorable but we must thankfully persevere. Lord Jesus got into a boat to go towards the other side of the lake of Galilee and went to sleep after boarding. Despite a storm that threatened to drown the boat He kept sleeping till the disciples cried out to Him in alarm. The outward storms should not deter us from believing in the answer to the prayer given by God and the same will then materialize before us.
How long should be the wait for an answer to a prayer? – It is not possible to define and set an exact timeframe for receiving answers to our prayers for a prayer is not to persuade and force God to do our will but as a means to prepare ourselves to do His will. Lord Jesus surrendered to God’s will in Gethsemane Park after three times making His request to God to “let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39). In like manner we are supposed to pray for something and be prepared to not receive an answer and humbly accept the same. Our trials and waiting for an answer to our prayers is a testing time for us to prepare us for greater blessings. Our Lord was tested and passed through immense sufferings to receive the ‘crown of glory’ and in like manner Job was subjected to extreme sufferings to be counted righteous. We have to patiently wait and persevere for He has set a time for everything that has or will happen in our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). .
Obedience to whatever is commanded by God is a must for at transfiguration; God the Father had Himself directed all mankind “Hear Him” (Mark 9:7). Even Mary who was privy to all details about Lord Jesus from before His birth said the same thing to those near Him “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5) and water was turned to the best wine to save the marriage hosts in Cana from definite embarrassment and ridicule. We have to bring to Him whatever we have to receive great multiplication for He is ready to fill the empty jars with the oil of His blessing (2 Kings 4:1-7) or convert 5 loaves and two fish to a quantity sufficient to meet the needs of 5,000 families with 12 large buckets full of leftovers (Matthew 14:13-21).
Are offerings before God important for answers to prayers? – God as Creator owns everything that is available on the earth and is held by us. Thus our offerings do not please God and cannot be used as a bribe offered conditional to the answer and He demands “thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:7-14). God has also commanded us to bring our tithes into His house for use for others welfare and thus to try Him “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, not shall the vine fail to bear fruit in the field. And all nations shall call you blessed” (Malachi 3:10-12). If a vow has been made related to the prayer it should be paid and the blessings of God awaited.
Importance of thanksgiving – Lord Jesus healed ten lepers when they cried out to Him but only one, a Samaritan, returned to give thanks, was commended and made ‘whole’ by Him (Luke 17:11:19). There is something more than healing or receiving an answer to prayer- commendation and wholeness; which included healing, reparation and restoration of what was lost. Apostle Paul also commands us to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Since this is God’s desire for us in His Son whose name we use to pray and seek, then without this the answer may not be forthcoming.
An important Hymn of Faith goes as such – “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19). We must recognize that delay in answer to something is for our good for our being and our strength is from the Lord and in Him alone.
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens” Khalil Gibran. As a child of God every step that we take in our lives, is a step forward in the direction of achieving something bigger and greater than the present situation. But this change can only come about with an attitude of gratitude towards God for everything that happens.
God does not bless us with various gifts for ourselves but to be a blessing to someone else! Christ became a man to bless others and Christians must do the same!