When I make bold statements like “God has obligated Himself to answer your prayers QUICKLY, and DRAMATICALLY”, or “A righteous man will ALWAYS receive an answer to his prayer”, and things like that (which I say often) , people often object and say “But what about Paul?? HE prayed 3 times before getting an answer!” or again, “What about Job??”. There are usually only 5 things that people come up with as an objection to my statements.
The reason most people object to them is because they realize that I am making them RESPONSIBLE before God to have their prayers answered, and because I say that if their prayers are NOT answered, it is because God is NOT happy with them.
I say that their OBEDIENCE is directly tied to their faith, and that THEY are in control of their own faith. That they are both able and RESPONSIBLE to build and nurture their own faith, AND THAT THEY MUST!
To a world which has been taught that you should just “believe” and God will love you just as you are, this comes as quite a shock. BUT IT IS THE TRUTH! And until you KNOW what you CAN do, what goal it is POSSIBLE to achieve, as long as you are in the dark and believe that you CAN’T nurture your faith, and believe that it’s all God’s job, you WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO PLEASE GOD!!
And so because of this, I think in the ideal. I strive to see what a perfectly obedient man whom God loved dearly would receive in answer to his prayer. Once we know that, we can work towards it! But if we believe that we “have arrived” already, we will NEVER do that, and WE WILL DIE NEVER having lived up to God’s demands!
And so, in my quest for the ideal, I find scriptures like this:
Isaiah 65:24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
Now that scripture definitely says an instant answer will happen. The context is what life will be like in God’s kingdom, BUT we, TODAY, are already a part of that Kingdom! That should apply to us TODAY!
Psalms 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
Psalms 20:1 The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
This says that God will deliver you in the DAY of trouble – not days or weeks later. Nor in the resurrection. He will deliver you NOW, when you need it.
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
This scripture does not imply a waiting period. But now let’s work on an analogy that God gave us.
Luke 11:11-13 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
So God will treat His children similarly, nay, better, than you would treat your own. Imagine that you have a wonderful relationship with a perfectly obedient son whom you love very much. Now if your son is hurt and bleeding, and cries to you for help… are you going to finish dinner before you help him? Will you wait to get off of work before stopping his bleeding? Of course not. What if he asks you for 20$ because his clothes are falling off of him in rags. Will you make him go to school for a few weeks before you even acknowledge that he said anything? Again, no parent would treat his child that way.
Any good parent will give his children anything that it is in his power to give them. So what if he asks you for something that is bad for him, or something that is not in your power to give him? What do you do? Do you simply ignore him and pretend he didn’t ask? Do you? I think not! You say “I’m sorry son, but we can’t afford that now…” Or “Son, you can’t eat Ice Cream for dinner every night”. BUT YOU GIVE HIM AN ANSWER!
You don’t act as if he never asked, or ignore him and do something in a month or 6 weeks – YOU TELL HIM NO, and you tell him WHY! And postulating an ideal relationship with God, HE WILL DO THE SAME!
#1 “Paul asked God 3 times and was not granted what he asked for.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, LEST I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And HE SAID UNTO ME, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Notice first that God DID answer him! GOD SAID NO! He didn’t ignore him, or pretend Paul was somewhere else – GOD SAID NO! It took Paul three times of asking to GET a verbal answer from God because PAUL is not our perfect example – Christ is! Paul had problems that interfered with his prayers being answered on the level that Christ’s were. And Paul knew that there was a REASON God couldn’t answer him – and he tells us the reason when he says “LEST I should be exalted above measure…”. You see, Paul had been in the third heaven, at least in vision. And Paul had a tendency to be “lifted up”, in other words… Paul had a problem with pride, by his own admission!
And to keep that problem in check, God gave him this weakness, FOR HIS OWN GOOD! And just like YOU would have done to your son when he asked you not to have to go back to school, you said “No, school is for your own good – I can’t let you have your way here”. But you answered him! And GOD WILL ANSWER YOU, and this scripture, far from disproving that, in fact conclusively proves that He WILL if your obedience is sufficient!
#2 “David asked for his baby to live and it died.”
Getting an answer to prayer depends on three things. Believing that God IS. Believing that God is Good (Hebrews 11:6). And believing that YOU are obeying God, and are WORTHY to receive God’s goodness!
1 John 3:21-22 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
If your heart condemns you, and you KNOW you don’t deserve the blessings of God – then God is NOT obligated to answer you, quickly or otherwise! But if your heart DOESN’T condemn you, and you KNOW that you are obeying God, then he MUST answer you, or break His own word!
Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
If YOU ARE RIGHTEOUS, and hold up YOUR END of the bargain, then God would be breaking his promise NOT to answer you! And so God MUST answer the prayer of a righteous man, and HE MUST ANSWER IT QUICKLY! If He DOESN’T, then it is because the man’s conscience is not clean, and the man KNOWS that HE IS NOT OBEYING GOD!
When David asked for this, he did so after committing adultery with Bathsheba, and having Uriah killed. By doing this, he “Gave great occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme”. David’s conscience, I can say without a doubt, was not clean. And David was in no position to remind God of his obedience and claim an answer to his prayer based on his righteousness! But far from proving that God DOESN’T answer quickly, this shows a REASON why God DIDN’T answer quickly!
#3 “Job did not receive an answer to his prayer quickly, and he suffered much and for long. “
The reason God didn’t answer Job is rather lengthy. Rather than go into the great details here, I refer you to www.thesimpleanswers.com/job.html Meanwhile, Elihu speaking, gives us the simplest answer here:
Job 35:14-15 Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore TRUST THOU IN HIM. But now, BECAUSE IT IS NOT SO, he hath visited in his anger; yet he knoweth it NOT in great extremity
The short answer is that Job didn’t trust God. His faith, for all of his rightousness, was fickle and needed tempered. And the process of his experiences succeeded in showing Job his weakness and, just as you would to your child, God wouldn’t remove the trial until Job had learned his lesson. It wasn’t just a random punishment, or because God was busy somewhere else… it was because Job’s faith was not yet perfect.
After his lesson had been learned, God again answered his prayers “while he was yet speaking”, and before he called, God would say “Here I am”. Because God loved Job, because Job was one of the most righteous men who have ever lived, and as you would treat your beloved son who did everything with a mind to what you wanted him to do, so also, and more, God did to Job. And just as you would answer your son, so also God answered Job.
#4 “If God must answer immediately, why did even Paul have to leave a sick friend behind?”
2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
For faith to work, both parties must believe to some extent. Remember that even Christ COULDN’T do mighty miracles in his home town – not because God was busy, nor because His own faith was weak, nor yet because of some “unknowable will of God” that prevented Him from answering, but because of THEIR unbelief. Remember also that Christ put the unbelieving people out of the room before raising the little girl from the dead.
We have no way of knowing the faith of Trophimus. To assume that both Paul and Trophimus were full of faith, and yet God for some “the-Lord-works-in-mysterious-ways” reason just ignored them is simply foolish, particularly in light of the other scriptures I’ve shown today.
We can state confidently that either Paul, Trophimus, or both, did not have enough faith to require God to do an immediate healing. This could be because of some current sin that was troubling them like David had (such as Paul’s pride), or, perhaps more likely, something that interfered with Trophimus’ faith. We know almost nothing about him.
In either case, God either broke HIS promise and didn’t fulfill His end of the bargain, and his promises to answer in the day of trouble, or else Paul, Trophimus, or both, were not holding up theirs. Given that choice, I will always assume that men made the mistake. And the next point will make this one more clear.
#5 “How can you say that God must give an immediate, dramatic answer, when EVEN JESUS CHRIST had to anoint someone twice?”
Mark 8:22-26 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and THEY BRING a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
First, notice that THEY brought this blind man to Him. There isn’t the slightest hint that this man wanted to be healed, or knew of Jesus and believed Him. Second, notice where He is – Bethsaida. Third, notice that Christ took him OUT of the town! Fourth, in no other case of a healing did Jesus ASK if it worked after he healed them. This proves that Jesus was expecting it not to work smoothly. And finally, notice that Jesus commanded him not to go back into this town, not to even SPEAK to anyone from this town. Why?
Here we have a man with perfect faith, Christ, and yet He has to anoint someone twice. Which is only recorded as happening once. Why did He expect it not to work smoothly?
We know that the “ambient faith”, for lack of a better word, affects the miracles, from the examples I quoted earlier of His hometown, and putting the people out of the room before raising the dead girl. Here, Christ was in Bethsaida.
Matthew 11:21-22 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
He really, really didn’t like Bethsaida. Because for all of His works, they refused to believe him and repent! That meant that their faith would grow more and more negative the more they heard and rejected. Now, to add to that the fact that it doesn’t appear to have been the blind man’s idea, but that THEY BROUGHT HIM to Christ, and the fact that we can be certain that Christ’s faith was good, and that EVERY OTHER PRAYER CHRIST ASKED WAS ANSWERED IMMEDIATELY… because of all of that, we can be sure that there was something wrong with the faith of this man, and Bethsaida in general.
And so when Christ anointed this man with weak faith, this man only partially believed it would work. And so it partially worked. And so Christ asked him if he saw, and he said he saw “men as trees, walking”. Now the blind man was thinking “This might work after all!” and so his faith surged. Then Christ was able to anoint him again and he saw perfectly!
But Christ wasn’t through – He WARNED this man not to go back to Bethsaida! Nor to even talk to anyone from there! Because THEY would tell him “This man Jesus isn’t the son of God, he’s an impostor, you shouldn’t listen to him, he doesn’t have the authority to do these things…” etc. And they would DESTROY This man’s faith, and without it, this man would either go blind again, or else, as Christ said elsewhere, a worse thing would befall him
So in conclusion… God has promised, absolutely promised, to be there to deliver a righteous man in the day of trouble. And a righteous man will always get an immediate answer to his prayer. To prove that, I submit the fact that Christ ALWAYS did. And He is our example.
Granted, most men will not be righteous. Of course, most men will not receive answers to their prayers either. Those who are less-than-righteous, but whom God out of the goodness of His heart answers anyway, might have to wait awhile on their answer, just as you would care for your beloved son before you care for your rebellious one. This is only right, and fair.
But never believe for a moment that an instant, immediate answer to your prayer is beyond your grasp. For if you will only do all that you know you should do, God will do all that He has said He will do. And He will do it with a speed and an efficiency that only God can achieve.
Isaiah 58:8-9 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, HERE I AM.