Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? If you are like most casual readers of the Bible, you are probably not that familiar with those names. Although the names may seem unfamiliar, most Bible readers are quite familiar with the men the names belong to! Hananiah was the name given by his parents, but we know him by the name the Babylonians gave him: Shadrach. Mishael was his Hebrew name, but we know him better as Meshach. We don’t recognize him as Azariah, but we do know him as Abednego! Of course collectively, we know this popular trio from the book of Daniel as the anti-dancing group: “Three Hebrew Boys in the Fiery Furnace!”
In ancient society, one of the things a conquering power would do to the people they conquered was change their names. This had a demoralizing effect because by changing their names, they robbed them of their history, heritage, culture and identity. They stripped them of who they really were! This is what the ancient Babylonians attempted to do to the Hebrews who were taken away in the Babylonian Captivity. The name: Hananiah meant “God has favored” or “God has been gracious.” His name was changed to the Babylonian name: Shadrach, which meant, “royal” or “the great scribe.” Mishael, which meant, “who is what God is,” was renamed Meshach, which meant “guest of a king.” Azariah, which meant, “Jehovah has helped” was called Abednego, meaning “servant of Nebo.”
These three Hebrew young men were given Babylonian names in an attempt to negate their Hebrew culture and identity. I say it was an attempt, but in a sense, the Babylonians were quite successful because even after thousands of years, we still don’t know them by their Hebrews names! We know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! My question is this: “Are we not doing to them today the very same thing the Babylonians tried to do to them then?” I mean, when was the last time you heard a sermon or a Bible lesson about Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? Chances are, you haven’t! But most likely you have heard countless sermons and Bible lessons about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
And I know you’ve heard the story of “Belteshazzar in the Lion’s Den,” haven’t you? Perhaps not, but you have heard the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den!” Hmmm. I wonder why it has been easier for us to remember the Hebrew name: “Daniel” and forget the Babylonian name: “Belteshazzar,” while at the same time forget the Hebrew names: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and remember the Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Hmmm?
“Then he said, “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. 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!