articlesqa February 20, 2018 the mechanics of prayer
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo EleyinafeCreator and author of

In pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles on prayer, we have high­light­ed how our hearts should be set when we pray. We have em­pha­sized that we should al­ways pray and that we should al­low God to shape our per­spec­tive of the world through prayer. Let us again re­mem­ber that we were made by God out of eter­ni­ty and time. Let us also re­mem­ber that prayer is a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween us and God about the world around us and the world with­in us. There­fore, both prayers and an­swers to prayer will nec­es­sar­i­ly re­volve around is­sues oc­cur­ring in time and is­sues oc­cur­ring in eter­ni­ty. This ar­ti­cle is more of a ref­er­ence guide. Come back of­ten to it to see the ways in which an­swers to prayer man­i­fest and how they can be de­layed.

Con­cep­tion and birth

So for ex­am­ple, I see a fig tree that is not pro­duc­ing any fruit and I ask God about it. It may ap­pear to be just a fig tree but as we have said be­fore, we are ig­no­rant out­side of a re­la­tion­ship with God. So it is wise for me to humbly ask God about even the sil­li­est things. Through my prayer, God leads me to study more about the tree and I, per­haps, learn that the tree is not pro­duc­ing fruit be­cause it is not the right sea­son or the tree has a fun­gal in­fec­tion or maybe it was not even a fig but ac­tu­al­ly an ap­ple tree. In the process of lean­ing in to God through prayer, I come to bet­ter un­der­stand The Cre­ator Who Made er­rant fig trees. I will pon­der Him and ask Him deep ques­tions like, “Why He would al­low such a tree to even ex­ist?” So you see, some­thing sil­ly brought be­fore God leads to greater depth of un­der­stand­ing about both the earth and eter­ni­ty. Hence Je­sus taught us to pray that His Will be done on earth as it is in heav­en. In gen­er­al, just like you and me, every an­swer to prayer is com­posed of eter­ni­ty and time.

As a re­sult, every an­swer to prayer must take time to be­come man­i­fest. This is eas­i­ly per­ceived be­cause prayer is a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween you and God; a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Eter­nal God and a hu­man be­ing who is com­posed of eter­ni­ty and time. We don’t no­tice this but it ob­vi­ous­ly takes time for your brain to find and ar­tic­u­late the words of your prayer in speech, thought or song. We don’t con­sid­er that for God, for Whom a thou­sand years is like a day and a day like a thou­sand years, the sec­ond or hour in which you ut­ter your prayer may be for Him ... an eter­ni­ty. How would we feel if God now says to us, “Adam, you’re tak­ing too long to speak that prayer. I’m go­ing to go talk to Eve in­stead.” Or what if God An­swered prayer but in a lan­guage we couldn’t un­der­stand. Every lan­guage is fun­da­men­tal­ly an ex­pres­sion of spir­it cloaked in the body of time. This is why mu­sic is so pow­er­ful. So in or­der for us to un­der­stand God’s An­swers, He must change us and/or speak His An­swers in some com­bi­na­tion of spir­it and time. There­fore, be­cause of our cre­at­ed na­ture, the man­i­fes­ta­tion of every an­swer to prayer must nec­es­sar­i­ly be a healthy com­po­si­tion of time and eter­ni­ty.

One good anal­o­gy for this is the birth of a baby. Be­cause Je­sus is The Cen­ter of their re­la­tion­ship, when a Chris­t­ian hus­band and wife have sex, their union is a prayer be­fore God. At the very least, it is a prayer that holy love may grow be­tween them. But maybe they are also look­ing for a child. Now at the mo­ment of con­cep­tion, the prayer has been of­fered up but the baby is not yet vis­i­ble. What if the par­ents be­gin to pray more say­ing to Him, “We prayed five days ago but we do not yet see a baby.” Well, the doc­tor will tell this holy but naive cou­ple, “No no no. You don’t want a baby to come out too ear­ly. It is best for the baby to stay in the womb the en­tire 40 weeks.” So also it is with man­i­fes­ta­tions of an­swers to prayer. Like a baby, they are com­po­si­tions of eter­ni­ty and time. No one will ask God for a spir­it with­out a healthy body. When this hap­pens, it is a cause for sad­ness and some­times mourn­ing. There­fore, it is wise for us to wait so that the an­swers to our prayer can form the right spir­it and the right body be­fore they be­come man­i­fest.

De­lays in Time

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Now when we say that some­thing is de­layed, we are say­ing that some­thing did not ar­rive at the ex­pect­ed time. 1 De­lays in time oc­cur when there is no faith. By de­f­i­n­i­tion, there can be no de­lay where there is no ex­pec­ta­tion. How can a farmer plant in prayer when he doesn’t ex­pect the rain? How can the ser­vant go out to see the hori­zon when he doesn’t be­lieve there will be a cloud? There­fore Je­sus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith in the earth?” Luke 18:8 God al­ways shows up but when we don’t have faith, we won’t be there to re­ceive His An­swer. One of the pri­ma­ry ways to show our un­be­lief in God is through dis­obe­di­ence and sin. How can we be ex­pect­ing God to come through when we don’t even trem­ble and obey His Word? There­fore, let us re­pent and sud­den­ly, our prayers are heard and an­swered Isa­iah 58:1-2, 7-10.

2 When there is faith, the de­lay may be due to our abil­i­ty to per­ceive the mir­a­cle. A fe­tus will even­tu­al­ly be com­posed of many many cells. How­ev­er, the union of sperm and egg at con­cep­tion is in­vis­i­ble. The cell con­tin­ues to di­vide and only be­comes bare­ly vis­i­ble by week 3. Now God an­swered the prayer im­me­di­ate­ly but to our eyes, He seemed to have de­layed by about 4 weeks. Some­times we’re look­ing in the wrong area. I mean if you’re look­ing for a fe­tus in the kid­ney in­stead of the uterus, you’ll nev­er see it.

Take the mir­a­cle at Cana where Je­sus turned wa­ter into wine John 3:6-8. The ser­vants brought wa­ter in jars but oth­er­wise every­thing seemed an­ti­cli­mac­tic un­til they ac­tu­al­ly tast­ed the liq­uid in the jars. Again, a mir­a­cle had hap­pened but no one knew un­til it was per­ceived. Or con­sid­er what was go­ing on when Eli­jah on bend­ed knee was pray­ing for rain. He sent his ser­vant to look for the cloud 1 Kings 18:43. Now like the for­ma­tion of a baby, there may have been wa­ter va­por in the sky al­ready co­a­lesc­ing to form a cloud but it only be­came big enough to be seen when the ser­vant went back to look the sev­enth time 1 Kings 18:44. Sim­i­lar­ly the heal­ing of Na­maan may have be­gun on the first dip in the dirty Jor­dan riv­er but his heal­ing only be­came vis­i­bly com­plete by the sev­enth time he went un­der 2 Kings 5:14.

My fa­ther has of­ten told me that sev­en is the num­ber of per­fec­tion. I think, af­ter 33 years, I now un­der­stand what he means. Sev­en is not a mag­i­cal or even real­ly a spir­i­tu­al num­ber. When in the Bible an­swers to prayer man­i­fest af­ter count­ing sev­en changes or rep­e­ti­tions, God is, at the very least, com­mu­ni­cat­ing to us that He An­swers Prayer in time. No mat­ter how high you count the sec­onds or the years, be as­sured that you can count on God to come through. You will sure­ly see the good­ness of the Lord in the land of the liv­ing if you re­main con­fi­dent in Him Psalms 27:13-14. So don’t stop pray­ing even if you don’t yet see. Be­lieve, be­lieve, be­lieve.

De­lays in Eter­ni­ty

There might be more but as far as I can see, the Bible only records two overt in­stances of an­swers de­layed in eter­ni­ty. Sin and un­be­lief are the most fre­quent caus­es eter­nal de­lays. Psalms 78:41 con­cludes that through sin and un­be­lief, God was lim­it­ed in what He could do for Is­rael whom He Fierce­ly Loved. Some­times when we don’t be­lieve or when we dis­obey Him, God does not move in Eter­ni­ty. Why should He Pre­pare a feast when you have told Him ahead of time that you’re not com­ing? So in both eter­ni­ty and time, un­be­lief and dis­obe­di­ence caus­es de­lays in the an­swer to prayer. But for more overt de­lays in eter­ni­ty, we have 1 the en­counter in Daniel 9:12-14, 20-21 be­tween Daniel and an­gel and 2 the prayer of the mar­tyred saints at the al­tar in Rev­e­la­tions 6:9-11.

1 In the case of Daniel, the an­swer had gone out but the dev­il or demons (The Prince of Per­sia) re­sist­ed the an­gel who left heav­en to de­liv­er the an­swer to Daniel. The op­po­si­tion, to an an­gel, was so great that an­gel Micheal had to come help him out. So here we find that the an­swer to a prayer is de­layed by a bat­tle in eter­ni­ty. And Daniel had no idea. This is to tell us, again, that we can nev­er ever lose faith. We must con­tin­ue to pray even when the an­swer is not yet vis­i­ble. Daniel wasn’t even ask­ing for much. He sought un­der­stand­ing and asked for for­give­ness of sin. We don’t un­der­stand and rarely per­ceive the bat­tles that are fought in or­der that one seem­ing­ly mi­nor prayer can be an­swered. Let us be con­fi­dent that the Lord will en­force His Word and de­stroy any re­sis­tance to His Will.

But let us un­der­stand that just as we are com­posed of eter­ni­ty and time, so also every evil we per­ceive on earth is a com­po­si­tion of the spir­i­tu­al and the tem­po­ral. You can­not end hunger, pover­ty, crime, dis­ease and so on with more sci­ence or so-called so­cial en­gi­neer­ing. Black men in Tuskegee will tell you that these dis­ci­plines are them­selves dark­ness and ig­no­rance when they ex­ist out­side of a re­la­tion­ship with God. This is why we must pray to God. We are woe­ful­ly ig­no­rant of the spir­i­tu­al back­bone of the things we see and ex­pe­ri­ence. When your fam­i­ly mem­ber is way­ward, do you think all they need is a job? When you fall into sin, do you think you just need to try hard­er? No. We need to pray be­cause our bat­tle is NOT against flesh and blood but against spir­i­tu­al wicked­ness in high places Eph­esians 6:11-12, 18. When the spir­it is from God, then and only then will the body will be healthy.

2 It is with these ears that we lis­ten to the souls of the mar­tyred saints at the al­tar Rev­e­la­tions 6:9-11. Here the de­lay does not come from the dev­il but from God. We know these saints are not re­belling against God be­cause they de­clare Him to be Sov­er­eign and Holy and True. Yet, like David, they are right­ly ask­ing for jus­tice. But the Jus­tice of the Lord is not yet ready and would have been in­com­plete if it had hap­pened at the fifth seal. There­fore, the saints are giv­en white robes to help them wait. What is the sig­nif­i­cance of this?

Let us go back to Isa­iah 40:28-31 which lets us know that some­times we must wait on the Lord. Isa­iah ac­knowl­edges that, like these saints at the al­tar, as we wait on God, we may grow faint Proverbs 13:12. I have of­ten been con­cerned with the weari­ness that comes through per­sis­tent prayer. Here at last is the an­swer. God knows that we need strength and robes of right­eous­ness to keep go­ing. If you have been pray­ing and pray­ing and you do not yet see an an­swer to your prayer then you will need strength to re­main right­eous and strength to con­tin­ue pray­ing. So ask Him for these things while you wait on Him. The an­swer will sure­ly man­i­fest but as you wait, keep talk­ing to Him. Tell Him how you feel about what is go­ing on. Ask Him for strength be­fore you feel weak and be­fore you faint. As He did for the saints at the al­tar, He Will tell you why there is a de­lay. Just as He promised in Isa­iah and as He does for the saints in Rev­e­la­tions, He will re­new your strength as you wait for Him so that your heart will not get sick with wait­ing. In­stead, like Abra­ham and Sarah, you will grow younger as you grow old­er and you will grow stronger as you wait on God Isa­iah 40:31, He­brews 11:11-12.

Eter­ni­ty and Per­cep­tion

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3 Fi­nal­ly, con­cern­ing de­lays in eter­ni­ty and per­cep­tion, some­times it is not that the an­swer has been de­layed in eter­ni­ty. Some­times it is that our eyes are closed or weak and we can­not see the an­swer to our prayers. They may be closed be­cause of sin in which case we need to re­pent. Or our spir­i­tu­al eyes may be weak be­cause they still need to grow. As I said ear­li­er, in or­der to re­ceive the an­swers of God, He has to speak in some com­po­si­tion of eter­ni­ty and time and/or He must change our na­ture.

What do I mean? Well we be­gan with ba­bies so let us close with ba­bies. The op­tic nerve, which the baby uses to see, is not ful­ly func­tion­al un­til the sev­enth month af­ter birth. Why? Well, the womb, al­though good, is dark like be­fore cre­ation Gen­e­sis 1:1. There is no need for a de­vel­oped op­tic nerve in the dark. But in the light, this nerve is con­stant­ly stim­u­lat­ed and so it grows. So also, maybe what seems to be a de­lay in the an­swer to your prayer is real­ly just you need­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly to even be able to per­ceive the an­swer to your prayer. There­fore re­main in the light of prayer and even if, like Eli, your eyes have be­come as dim or if your hairs have been shorn like Sam­son, they will grow strong again 1 Samuel 3:2, Judges 16:22 so that you may see the good­ness of The Lord in the land of the liv­ing.

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“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 2:3