He May Not Come When You Want Him: Delays in the Manifestation of Answered Prayer

“Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself waiting 2before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But 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, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.”

(Dan 10:12-14 NLT)

One of the things the old folks where I come from used to say about God’s answering of prayer and God’s deliverance was: “He may not come when you want him; but he’s always on time!” And then, I heard Dottie Peoples singing a few years ago: “He’s an on-time God! Yes He is!” But, if we are to be honest, it seems that more often than not, God’s answers and God’s deliverance never come exactly when we want them to! One of the reasons for this may be because God is Infinite Spirit. God lives outside of the boundaries of time; God lives in the eternal now! And because of the way God has ordered the universe, God answers and delivers in spirit, but in order for us to benefit from the answers and deliverance; they must be transferred from the spiritual realm where God is, to the material or physical realm where we are. That translation is through a process called manifestation and manifestation, like all processes, take time.

But more often than not, the manifestation of answered prayer is not simply just a matter of time. Often there are other factors and forces at work behind the scenes that we may not be aware of. I was studying in the book of Daniel some time ago and I ran across this passage in Daniel 10:12-14 that incidentally provides some insight to the behind the scenes working of prayer. Here’s the setting: Daniel had a vision from the Lord concerning the end-times of his people. The vision was disturbing to Daniel because he could not determine what it meant, so he prayed for revelation and understanding. The text picks up at the point where the angelic messenger appears to Daniel with the answer to Daniel’s prayer. Here are some things, we should notice from this conversation:

Note that the messenger said to 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.” Do you see that? Daniel’s prayer was not answered when the messenger came to give him the answer; Daniel’s prayer was answered the first day he prayed! That is what Jesus was talking about in Mark 11:24 when he said: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (KJV) One of the key factors to answered prayer is to believe; that is have faith that prayer is answered at the time (when) you pray! Therefore, if we are praying for the Lord to make a way, after we have prayed, our focus should then shift to thanking him for the way he has made! We may not see it, but we must believe that we’ve received it!  And when we don’t see it, it is not because we don’t have it; it is because it has not been manifested yet! And sometimes the reason for delay in the manifestation of answered prayer is because of demonic interference. Look at the text again! The messenger said to Daniel: “I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way.” Daniel’s prayer was answered immediately, but for 21 days (three weeks!) the manifestation was hindered by demonic forces! It was only after the messenger received help from the arch-angel Michael that he was freed to deliver the message to Daniel! Oh my friends!  The enemy will do all he can to run interference so that we might give up and let go of our faith! God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials! Sometimes the delay in the manifestation of answered prayer is because of conflicts in the spiritual realm.

Now those are just a couple of reasons for the delay in the manifestation, here are a few more: Sometimes, the delay in the manifestation of answered prayer is because of lazy saints! Let me show you what I’m talking about! There is only one instance in the Bible where God rained down manna from Heaven! Most of the time and normally, God works through people. Therefore, it is important that we learn to obey the promptings and urgings of the Spirit of God quickly and completely because the timely answer to other people’s prayers often depend upon our prompt obedience. Many times the Lord may prompt us to do something for someone today, but we will put it off until tomorrow, not understanding that we may be hindering the manifestation of the answer to someone’s prayer. (By the way, we reap what we sow, so often the reason for the delay in the manifestation of the answer to our prayers could be because we are often too slack in obeying the dictates of God in promptly providing for the needs of others!)

Another reason for the delay in the manifestation of answered prayer might be because of “hard-headed” and “hard-hearted” saints! Unlike lazy saints who delay in doing God’s will, hard-headed and hard-hearted saints don’t do it at all! And because they don’t and won’t do, the Lord has to find somebody who will! And that, of course, takes time, which in turns, causes delays in the manifestation of answered prayer!

And then of course, there is always the possibility it is simply not God’s time! We could be asking for something that we are really not ready for! God knows what’s best for us! You wouldn’t hand the car keys to your 10-year-old would you? Sometimes it’s just not time because we are not ready yet and then sometimes it’s just not for us to have! Sometimes God does say: “No!”

But whatever the case, you can be sure that God does hear and answer prayer! And remember: He may not come when you want him, but he’s always on time! He’s an on-time God! Yes He is! But often-time the problem is that the same cannot be said of his children!

The Blessing of Abraham: Blessed to be a Blessing

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him . . .  (Gen 12:1-4 ESV)

I am writing this post in response to the overwhelming obsession people in the American Church world have today with the idea of being blessed. And I want to suggest that, in many cases, it is really not a desire to be blessed in a true biblical sense, but more so a desire to be comfortable and in most cases to be prosperous and affluent! I say this because when I hear most people talk about wanting to be blessed, they are not talking about wanting to be blessed with the blessings of love, joy and peace; they are talking about being blessed with houses, cars, money, and other material possessions. In other words, being blessed to them is having more of the “stuff” of life! In their minds, blessings equal possessions! They must not have read where Jesus warned: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 ESV). At any rate, since being blessed is such an obsession, I thought it would be good to take a true “biblical” look at the subject by taking a closer look at the blessing of Abraham.

Now this is by no means an attempt to do an exhaustive and intensive exegetical study, that endeavor would require more time than most are willing to invest in reading this post. So, I shall restrict myself to a summary of the text cited: Genesis 12:1-4. For those who are familiar with the biblical text, this text contains what is known as the Abrahamic Covenant. I hear a lot of people today talk about being blessed with the blessing of Abraham, but many don’t realize that the blessing of Abraham was in a covenant context. The LORD made a covenant with Abraham with the following stipulations:

Abraham’s part: Leave his father’s country and all of his kindred and go to a land that the LORD would show him.

The LORD’s part: Make Abraham a great nation, bless him, make Abraham’s name great, make Abraham (to be) a blessing.

Note that the LORD called Abram to leave everything that was familiar to him; his homeland, his father’s house, his father, and the rest of his relatives! The LORD called Abram out of his comfort zone! And not only that, Abraham was not even told where he was going!  Therefore, the covenant was not totally unconditional: The fulfillment of the LORD’s covenant obligations required Abraham’s faithful obedience! And it took a great deal of faith to leave everything he had ever known, not even knowing where he was going! We want to be blessed, but are we obedient? Are we willing to move out of our “comfort zone?” Are we willing to step out on faith, and start without any discernible assurances of the outcome? We want the blessing of Abraham, but are we faithful and are we obedient as Abraham was?

We also might point out at this point, that the blessing of Abraham was really not just about Abraham! Dr. Henry Blackaby says in his work, On Mission With God: “When the LORD came to Abraham, he was on his way to the world!” In other words, when the LORD blessed Abraham, he had much more than just Abraham on his mind! God idea was not such much just to get the blessing “to” Abraham; it was to get the blessing to go “through” Abraham! That is why he said to Abraham: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The problem with many who want to be blessed today is that they want to be a “pool” for blessings while God is actively seeking to bless people who are willing to be a “channel” of blessings! Most of us want the blessings to flow “to” us, but it is God desire for the blessings to flow “through” us! The principle is this: If we are faithful in distributing the blessings, God will make sure we have more than enough! But if we seek to keep it all for ourselves, not only will it not prosper and the supply will also be limited!

The purpose of our being blessed is not just to consume it with our own selfish desires! That is what James was talking about when he said: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3 KJV) We are blessed to be a blessing! The blessings are not just about or for us! God blesses us so that we might be in a position to be a blessing to someone else! The “blessed” of us are to help and be a blessing to the “rest” of us!

So, the next time you hear someone express a desire to be blessed, ask them why are they seeking to be blessed. Is it so that they might be more “comfortable” in life? (By the way, God’s ultimate concern is not our comfort, but rather the formation of righteous character within us!) Is it just the desire to have more of the “stuff” of life? If that is the case, they are asking and seeking “amiss!” But if they and we would concern ourselves with doing God’s will, if we would seek to do God’s will as much or even more so than we seek blessings, blessings would automatically flow into our lives. As Jesus said: “Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things, but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you!” (Matthew 6: 32-33)