Sometimes we treat prayer like the little boy or girl that disbelieves in Santa Claus after he fails to deliver their wishes. We’ll earnestly pray to God but give up quickly when we do not miraculously receive according to our desires. A few will give up on God altogether, declaring that prayers unanswered by their standard is scientific evidence that God does not hear or even exist. Others will point to some problem with the prayer; the petitioner didn’t have enough faith or there was some sin in their life or some flaw in their method of prayer that prevented God from answering.
I don’t know why God sometimes answers some prayers rapidly or miraculously while at other times delaying His answer; I just know that He does. Jesus taught, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7, NASB95) Most of your Bibles will have an indication that Jesus meant His hearers to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Bringing a need before God more than once is not a lack of faith. If it was then we would have to declare that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul lacked faith.
The gospels report that Jesus prayed to God three times concerning the trial that was coming towards Him. Matthew records that Jesus’ first prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”” (Matthew 26:39, NASB95) After confronting the disciples about their lack of persistence Jesus returns and earnestly prays “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”” (Matthew 26:39, NASB95) Again Jesus returned from prayer and found the disciples sleeping. Leaving them Jesus again turned to God the Father in prayer; Matthew simply records in verse 44 that Jesus prayed the same thing once more.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul discloses that he prayed three times for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh”. Three times he received the same answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NASB95) Did Paul lack faith? God worked through him to heal others, to release some from demonic possession, and more importantly to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to two continents.
Both Jesus and Paul relied on the truths contained in verses following Jesus command to the keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:8–11, NASB95) Jesus and Paul brought their pain, need, and struggle before God; knowing that they could trust God regardless of the answer. They didn’t stomp off declaring that God didn’t love them when He answered contrary to their initial desires but instead held onto the will of God revealed in the answer.
The point of this is to keep on praying and to take the time to listen for God’s response instead of quickly giving up. Be willing for God to answer your need but perhaps not in the way you see as being the best. Trust that God will answer according to His will and His love for you as a father. Give God room to move, be specific with the need but grant God freedom to respond as He sees fit. Too often we try to box God in, we see the unexpected bill sitting on our desk and pray that God will provide an unexpected check. But perhaps He desires something greater like a breakthrough in a totally different area. So as needs, struggles, and pains arise then pray and listen! If necessary pray again, listening and expecting God’s answer. And perhaps pray and listen some more – God will answer, the question is whether our hearts are in tune with His answer. Oh, and don’t give up after three tries. If it took three times for Jesus and Paul to be at rest in God’s answer it will might take you and I nine or ninety times to arrive at the same place. Pray, listen, pray and listen again, and finally pray and listen some more.