Keep Praying Despite Delayed Answers

By Dave Earley

Have you prayed seriously about a matter and received no answer?

Have you removed the roadblocks to answered prayer and are still not seeing a response to your request? 

Have you fasted and prayed, and yet have no results?

Are you living as right with God as you possibly know, and yet, when it comes to something you are ardently praying about, God seems deaf to your pleas?

I understand.

I humbly, earnestly, and desperately prayed about a very important matter for several years. During this season of supernatural silence, I carefully went through the checklist of roadblocks to answered prayer. I met the conditions for answered prayer. Yet, no answer.

I examined my motives. With boldness and faith, I prayed confidently that God’s answer to my request would accomplish His will, advance His Kingdom, and glorify His name. But no answer came. 

I have diligently prayed Scripture promises and have prayed Scripture prayers over this matter. I have been careful to pray with thanksgiving and praise. I have forgiven everyone I can think of. Repeatedly, I have surrendered the issue to God. I even fasted for 40 days, primarily to see a breakthrough in this one area. 

Yet, there is no visible progress.

Plus, my wife Cathy and I prayed in united prayer about this matter for more than a year (Matthew 18:19–20). We asked spiritually mature people to join us in praying for this request.

For a couple of years, from my limited perspective, it appeared that nothing positive happened. In fact, things got worse. Our faith could have been crushed, but we understood why prayers are not always answered or answered according to our time frame. 

So, we kept praying with every tool available. And over the last 18 months, there have been big breakthroughs, huge changes, and steps of progress. Everything is still not all it could be, but it is so much better. We have seen the impossible.

Yay God! I am glad we used the 21st key to answered prayer: keep praying despite delayed answers.

Reasons Prayer Is Unanswered

I have learned that when my prayers are unanswered, it is because of at least one of several reasons. Everything needs to be examined, beginning with self vs. sovereignty.

Self: Is it Me?

When I believe I am asking for something legitimate, and yet am seeing no results, I ask God to show me why He is not answering. Sometimes the answer points back to me. I am the reason.

Maybe there is a sin I am hanging on to or there is a person I have yet to forgive. Maybe I have prayed with selfish motives. Or possibly, I have prayed in doubt and not faith.

When I correct the problem, the answers come.

Occasionally, I have sensed that I needed to add fasting to the equation. Or pray in united prayer with others. So, after I add these aspects, the answer is given.

Sovereignty: Is it God?

There are times when nothing we do seems to make any difference. We are doing everything right. We pray and pray, yet the heavens are silent, God is distant, and our earnest request seems to be completely ignored. Why?

There are six possible reasons that all revolve around God. He is the reason. 

Six Reasons God May Not Answer

1. God is sovereign. He does not need to explain Himself to me.

The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths (Psalm 135:6).

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3).

God knew Job was a good and godly man. Yet, in a sickening series of seemingly senseless attacks from the enemy, God allowed Job to lose everything.

Remarkably, Job responded with worship and prayer (Job 1:20–22). He also begged God for relief from his pain and for an explanation for this senseless ruin without reason.

But God was silent. 

Job’s friends were no help. In fact, they falsely blamed Job for his sufferings. Yet, Job maintained his faith and continued his prayers as he pleaded with God to give him an audience. 

Finally, God appeared to Job (Job 40-41). But instead of letting Job air his griefs, and rather than explain His inactivity and silence, God gave Job a mini tour of creation. Instead of Job getting to question God, God further crushed Job’s pride by asking him a series of rhetorical questions. God’s point was clear.

I am God. You are not. I do not need to explain Myself to you.

Job answered that he was convinced God is sovereign and that he had no right to question God (Job 42:1–6). Then he prayed for his self-righteous, judgmental friends.

Seemingly that was what God was looking for. The next thing we see is the Lord taking up Job’s defense before his friends, turning Job’s situation around, and blessing Job with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:7–16).

 God is the sovereign Creator. He does not need to explain His activities—or lack of activity—to me.

2. God’s ways are not my ways. I don’t always understand why God does or does not do certain things.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

God is infinite. We are not. He has unlimited knowledge. We do not. He has the perfect understanding of all things. We don’t.

Therefore, God does things that are beyond our ability to grasp. One day it will make sense to us when we are in heaven, but until then we struggle to see what God is doing.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

My dog cannot comprehend why I do some of the things I do. He does not understand why I don’t always do the things he wants me to do. In his mind, I primarily exist to feed him, play with him, take him for rides in the car, and walk him. He cannot understand why I don’t do these activities with him more often.

But I am the man. He the dog. I don’t have to explain my reasoning to him. Even if I could, there are some things he wouldn’t understand. 

God’s ways are not my ways. I won’t always understand why God does or does not do certain things. I am OK with that. I could not fully worship a God I can fully understand.

3. God is eternal and patient. He does not work according to my timetable.

God is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 102:12; Revelation 1:8 ). He dwells outside of the realm of space and time. He lives in a never-ending present (Exodus 3:14). God is also patient. The Old Testament repeatedly refers to God as a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8; Joel 2:13).

Solomon stated that God has “a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–11). In speaking of God’s patience, Peter reminded his readers that time is viewed differently by an eternal God: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

God does not work on our timetables. Your answer may feel like it is taking an eternity to get to you, but God knows that is not the case. Compared to eternity, it has been a mere blinking of an eye. God will answer when He sees fit to do so. Maybe we are asking for the right thing, but God knows that giving it to us now would be the wrong time. We need to be patient and trust His timing.

4. God does not always give us the little thing we want now because it might hinder the much bigger, better thing He wants to give us later.

Consider Joseph. He probably prayed, “Set me free from slavery,” or later, “Get me out of prison.” But God did not answer. Yet, because he was forgotten in prison, Joseph was given an opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and as a result became prime minister of Egypt. If God had given Joseph freedom sooner, Joseph would have missed the opportunity. I am sure it did not make sense to Joseph as he sat in prison, but it made sense later.

Consider Jesus. When He realized the anguish He was about to endure on the cross, He asked God to take this assignment away and deliver Him from the pain.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

But the Father did not answer. He was silent. Why?

He had a bigger perspective. Jesus saw the agony in what lay immediately ahead. But the Father saw the greater glory of the salvation of the world and the greater elevation and exaltation of His Son.

Sometimes God delays giving us a good thing now, to give us a better thing later.

5. God is wise. He has a better plan.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:11–12).

We usually believe what we are asking for is the very best idea. But God is smarter than we are. He is omniscient and has unlimited understanding (Psalm 147:5). He alone has infinite knowledge of all things past, present, and future—whether actual or possible. He knows all that can be known of everything that has, is, will, or could exist. He knows things that we sometimes cannot see or understand (Romans 11:33).

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life (Psalm 121:7). 

Maybe the Lord is not answering because He is protecting us from danger that we can’t see coming. Or He is waiting until the timing is right to give us the best possible answer.

6. God is more concerned about my godliness than my happiness.

Most of us know Romans 8:28, but few know Romans 8:29. Read them both.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28–29, emphasis added).

When we read that God works all things for the “good,” we assume “good” refers to things to make us happy. But to God, our “good” means making us more like Jesus— “conformed to the image of his Son.” God may be slow in answering our request because He is using the postponement of immediate gratification to grow us up in Christ.

Spiritual Warfare: Is it Satan?

In Daniel 10, we read a fascinating story about the unseen world of spiritual warfare. As Daniel began praying about a specific situation, God sent the angel Gabriel with the answer the moment Daniel began praying. But Gabriel could not break through because the enemy interfered.

The enemy was the problem. He viewed the delivery of this answer as especially damaging to his kingdom of darkness. So, Satan used the demonic prince over the principality of Persia and his demon army to block Gabriel from giving the answer to Daniel.

Daniel was unaware of the battle, yet he continued to fast and pray day after day, week after week. Finally, Gabriel appeared to Daniel.

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (Daniel 10:12–14).

Michael is a mighty angel who is one of the chief angelic princes of heaven. God sent Michael and his army of angels to engage the demon prince of Persia and his troops. The good guys cleared a way for Gabriel to get through and deliver the answer to Daniel’s prayers.

When it seems like there is no reason God has not answered my prayer, I have learned to consider spiritual warfare. Angels and demons may be warring right now over whether my answer is delivered or not. Therefore, I need to keep praying, keep fasting, keep fighting on my knees. I need to PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens. 


It is important that when you face unanswered prayer you do not get discouraged and give up. What can you do?

  1. Surrender to God the right to answer when He wants, how He wants, as He wants, and if He wants. Trust Him.
  2. Don’t quit. The enemy may be fighting to keep back your answer. Pray Until Something Happens.


1Wesley Duewel, Mighty Prevailing Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1990), 229.

2Duewel, 262.

Adapted from Dave Earley’s 21 Keys to Answered Prayer, to be released July 15th. You can pre-order this book now at