God encourages us to ask him for what we want; Mark 11:24 reads, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." But sometimes, after we've offered up our requests, God seems to be silent. What do we do in such situations?
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren shares the three things to do when it seems God is delaying answering our prayer requests.
In a recent devotional, the pastor first explained that while it may seem God is late, his time is always perfect.
"God's delays are not God's denials. 'Not yet' does not mean 'no,'" he said. He encouraged readers to "keep on praying until one of three things happens."
First: You get the answer.
"When you get it, then you can stop praying for it - obviously," he said.
Second: You get the assurance that you're going to get what you're praying for.
"Sometimes God does that! He says, 'I'm going to give you this,' and you're sure of it," he contended. "You stop asking God for it, and you start thanking God for it and acting on it. Mark 11:24 says, 'Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours' (NIV)."
Third: You keep praying until God reveals to you that it's not his will.
"When you figure that out, you become uncomfortable praying about it and you don't have any peace, so you stop praying for that request," Warren said. "In order to receive an answer from God, you've got to be willing to let God answer in his time! But he will answer because he is trustworthy, he hears your prayers, and he will respond."
In a previous devotional, Warren said we must be willing to let God answer our prayers in his own time.
"That means according to his schedule, his timetable - whenever God thinks is best," he said.
"God answers our prayers immediately, but sometimes there's a delay in the giving of the gift," the pastor asserted. "Why? Because he wants to change us first. God is more interested in making you mature than he is in making life easy. After you've learned the right attitude, then God's free to go to work on the problem."
The pastor also explained that there's only one kind of prayer that God answers: the prayer of faith.
"Some people are praying about their spiritual, financial, and health goals, and they think because they're asking for good things that they want, God will answer their prayer. But desire is not faith. It can lead to faith, but it's not faith," he said.
"If I take a seed and plant it in the ground and in a few months, it sprouts and I get a tomato plant from it, is that a miracle? No. I simply cooperated with the laws of God's universe, and it happened. When I pray, believing and following the conditions laid out in Scripture, and God answers, is that a miracle? No. It is simply in line with the universal laws of life that God has ordained," he continued.
"The Bible says, 'according to your faith,' not according to your ability, your education, or how good a person you are," Warren concluded. "If you have met the conditions of Scripture - you have an honest relationship with God, you have forgiven others, you're willing to share the results with other people, and you're asking God in faith - you have every right to expect God to answer your prayers."