"WHEN GOD DELAYS TO ANSWER OUR PRAYERS"
Intro. In the Bible we see examples of prayers that were not answered immediately, it is interesting to study these situations to find out why God delayed the answers to these prayers.
I. THE FIRST PRAYER IS THAT OF MOSES. PERHAPS ONE OF THE GREATEST MEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. GOD GAVE TO HIM THE LAW WHICH IS THE BASIS FOR ALL OF THE LAWS IN OUR WESTERN CULTURE.
A. He was mightily used by God to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt.
B. God testified of him that He spoke to him face to face like no other man.
C. When the sister and brother of Moses, spoke against Moses, the Lord called them to stand before Him and He said:
Hear now my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, [and] will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses [is] not so, who [is] faithful in all My house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, very plain and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
D. It must be noted that this mighty man of God a man of prayer, a man who communed with God face to face, a man who successfully interceded for the nation, was disappointed when God refused to answer his own personal request.
E. The story begins at a time close to the end of the wilderness journey. Moses had led these rebellious people for forty years as they wandered through that barren wilderness.
1. These people had seen the mighty hand of God. They saw the Red Sea parted so that they could pass through on dry ground.
2. They saw the awesome manifestations of God's presence in the fire and smoke from Mount Sinai. They had the manna delivered to their tent doors every morning. They had quail delivered to them in the wilderness. They saw water gush out of a flinty rock.
3. They had now come to another stage of the journey where in this part of the desert, they again were without water, they came to Moses and demanded water and said some very insulting things to him. Moses was angry and went in before the Lord with his complaint against the people and their request for water. The Lord told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come forth. Moses rather than just obeying God, went out to the people and rebuked them and then said, "Must I smite this rock that you might have water?" and with his rod he smote the rock and water came gushing out. But God called Moses aside and rebuked him for not obeying God by just speaking to the rock rather than smite it. God said as punishment, Moses would not be able to enter the land.
4. Later Moses prayed that God would let him enter the land and God answered that in no uncertain terms he could not enter the land at this time, and not to speak to God about the issue again for it was a closed issue.
F. You see, Moses was a leader and the leaders are held to a higher standard. His disobedience was something known to all of the people, so God was severe in His disciplining of Moses.
1. The people who loved and respected Moses, who received the word of God from Moses, knew that because of his disobedience he could not enter the land.
2. God through Moses was wanting to teach the people the importance of obeying God.
3. In years to come as mothers would teach their children of the birth of their nation and Moses, the mighty man of God. They with hushed voices would say, "But he was not allowed to enter into the land because he disobeyed God."
4. Thus the importance of obedience was impressed on the people. For the sake of the nation, Moses prayer went unanswered.
5. Of course we do know that later Moses did enter the land, for he with Elijah when Jesus was transfigured before His disciples.
II. THE SECOND PRAYER THAT WE SEE DELAYED IS HERE IN OUR TEXT.
A. There was a man who lived in Mount Ephraim whose name was Elkanah. He had two wives, the one was named Hannah and the other Pininnah. These wives were adversaries to each other. Hannah who was favored by Elkanah, was unable to bear children, whereas it seemed that Pininnah was always pregnant. Pininnah chided Hannah for her barreness and made her life miserable.
B. There were advantages to Hannah's not having children, it meant that she could travel with her husband when he annually went to worship the Lord at Shiloh, whereas Pininnah had to stay home with all her kids.
1. But because of the chiding by his other wife, Hannah had become very depressed.
2. Typical man, Elkanah could not understand this depression and said to her, "Am I not worth more to you than many sons." sort of, "You've got me, what more could you possibly want?" So she felt doubly depressed because not only was she not able to have children, but had a husband who did not understand her feelings.
C. When they were at the Tabernacle at Shiloh, she was praying desperately that God would give her a son. Her agony was so great, she did not utter aloud her words, only her lips were moving as she was pouring out her heart to God.
1. The high priest Eli saw her lying there face distorted and lips moving as she agonized before the Lord, and he said to her, "Put away the booze lady, it will kill you." She responded that she had not been drinking, but was pouring out her soul to the Lord.
2. What was her prayer? It was for a son. That had been her prayer for years, but no answer. Finally she was praying, "God, if you will give me a son, I will give him back to you and no razor shall come to his head. That is, he would be consecrated or dedicated to God all of his life.
3. What was the condition of the nation at this time? It was a time at the end of Judges where there was great moral confusion among God's people. Everyone was doing that which was right in their own eyes, a time of anarchy. The sons of the high priest Eli, were evil to the core, they were abusing their office as priests. They were committing fornication with the women, and taking the sacrifices that the people were bringing to God and demanding the best part of the meat for themselves. Actually they were making the people wish that they had not come to sacrifice to God. And Eli was not disciplining them for their evil.
4. God was needing a man to lead the people back into a right relationship with Him, and it was obvious that the sons of Eli were only going to corrupt the people more. There was no man available for God to use.
5. God had to get the heart of a woman, before he could get a man. He allowed Hannah to travail in prayer until her heart came into harmony with His, when she said, "If you will give a son to me, I will give him back to you, all the days of his life." Now her heart was in tune with the heart of God.
6. So God had delayed His answer to her prayer, that He might give more.
D. This is a classic example of the eyes of the Lord going to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are perfect towards Him.
III. THE NEXT EXAMPLE I WOULD GIVE OF UNANSWERED PRAYER IS THAT OF PAUL THE APOSTLE.
A. Paul had a physical affliction which he referred to as a thorn in the flesh. Literally a tent stake in the flesh. He called it a minister of Satan buffeting him. He tells us that three times he prayed that this might be removed.
1. At first it was no doubt irritating, but Paul felt that he could just pray and the Lord would surely take it away. Paul had seen so many miracles done in the name of Jesus Christ.
2. However the thorn persisted, so he prayed the second time.
3. Finally Paul prayed the third time for the removal of this thorn when God finally answered his prayer.
a. It should be noted that the answer that he got was not the giving him what he had prayed for.
b. The thorn was not removed, but God answered, "My grace is sufficient for you, My strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
c. What was Paul's weakness? Probably the place of his greatest personal strength. This is often the case, for where I am strong, I often do not feel a need of trusting the Lord.
d. Paul was zealous and enthusiastic. He had a very strong will. This strong will would keep him going when others were falling by the wayside.
e. It kept him going in spite of persecution. He could be stoned and drug out of the city of Lystra, as they thought he was dead. And when he comes to say let's get going again.
f. Many a time a man's greatest personal strength becomes a place of weakness. Luke writing concerning his journey with Paul said,
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit would not allow them.
g. Paul was so sick in Galatia, that he could not travel.
h. Paul was so strong willed that he found himself arguing with the Lord. Paul describes it like this:
And it came to pass, that, when I had come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and I saw him saying unto Me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those that believed on You: And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consented unto his death, and kept the raiment of those that slew him. And Jesus said unto me, Depart: for I will send you far from here unto the Gentiles.
B. God was wanting to give to Paul an abundance of revelations concerning the grace and love of God and justification by faith. He wanted to reveal the glory of heaven, so it was necessary to give to him this thorn in the flesh to keep him from being exalted above measure, so that Paul would later write "For we know that this present suffering which is for a moment is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed." So Paul got an answer to his prayer, whereby he looked at his infirmity in a totally different light, as he later wrote, "Wherefore I glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ be revealed in me."
1. So God did not answer the prayer of Paul, precisely as he had asked so that we might benefit from the abundance of the revelations of God given to us through Him.
IV. THE FOURTH EXAMPLE THAT I WOULD BRING TO YOU IS THAT OF OUR LORD HIMSELF.
A. The gospels tell us that Jesus had come to the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples and asked them to watch and pray with Him.
1. He went a little further to be alone and prayed, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me." and being in great agony, His sweat turned as it were to great drops of blood falling to the ground.
2. Coming back to His disciples and finding them asleep, He went back and prayed again, "If this cup cannot pass from me except I drink it, not My will, but Thy will be done."
3. God did not answer His prayer in order that we might be redeemed from our sin and brought into the family of God.
B. When God does not answer our prayers as we have prayed them, it is that He has a higher purpose that He is working out, sometimes we cannot immediately see it, but we must commit ourselves and the situations of our life to Him as to a faithful Creator, who is working out His own purposes in our lives. These purposes are far more important than just the simple thing that we had prayed for.
C. It may be that as with Hannah, He is patiently waiting to bring your heart and will into harmony with His, that He might do far more than to just simply answer your request. The Bible encourages us not to be weary in doing the right things, for in due season, we will reap, if we faint not.