When Jesus told His disciples that when they pray, they should “—believe that you have received them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24) He didn’t even say, believe that you will receive them, but that you have received them. We are to believe that what we ask for has already been given to us. That’s just plain crazy if you only believe in the physical world. But it’s the only option if you believe in God.
So does that mean that the “name it and claim it” formula that a lot of Christian TV evangelists tout is the way we should pray? “Oh Lord, I want that Porsche, I claim it!” As always, every promise, command, and teaching in the Bible is to be taken within the context of all other teachings in God’s word. Faith that believes before it receives, is only real faith when the believer‘s motives are in line with God and submit to His ways. That means prayers of selfishness won’t have the blessing of God, which will leave a believer to stretch and strain and pretend he believes, while the agreement of God’s Spirit is noticeably absent from that prayer.
But when you’re praying with a faith that pleases God, you can even sense His Spirit giving you inspiration and motivation to stick with it—even when answers take a long time in coming. It doesn’t mean that God has denied you, or that you’ve fallen from His favor. If your request is to honor God and you aren’t seeking anything selfish or sinful, if His Word has promised what you are asking for, and you’re living in obedience to Him, there’s no reason why you should doubt that your prayer will be granted no matter how long it takes. Exactly when and how it is granted is God’s domain. Your job is to keep up the fight, keep up the prayers, and keep choosing to live each day in the joy of having already received that request—even when it seems nowhere in sight.
Why do answers delay? Sometimes we block them by our own unfaithful lives, but aside from that, there are demonic forces that resist our prayers from being answered. God is all powerful, but in His wisdom, He wants us to be actively involved in the process of faith and fighting for His will to be done. That’s why there are so many commands for us to go forth and make disciples, to use weapons of warfare, to bind and loose, and heal and set free those who are demon possessed. God is looking to us to be the agents of change, but it is through His Spirit that the change happens.
And so in our obedience to fight in this battle, there are times when we come up against principalities (demons of authority in the devil’s hierarchy) and spiritual powers that resist and discourage us. We can feel stuck, and sometimes even feel like we’re going backwards instead of forwards. But that’s okay, because God is never thrown off balance, and always keeps His word. He knows we need to go through the struggle against time and doubts and to push through dry spells, because that’s the only way for the muscle of our faith to be strengthened. He could easily swoop in and demolish every problem without needing us to make a single prayer, but that would mean breaking His own principles. We want God to keep His promises of blessings, so we have to stick to the principles that He established, requiring each of His children to live by faith. Our flesh doesn’t like tests of endurance, but if we could see into the spiritual world, the power we have in Jesus and the guarantee of victory, we’d do it gladly.
Daniel experienced this when he was a captive in Babylon, crying out to God for the sake of His people. God told him that his prayer had already been heard. Daniel had set his heart to understand what God wanted—not just his own selfish wants. He had humbled himself, and God heard his words. But a demonic “prince” had resisted Daniel’s prayer for twenty-one days and the angel Michael had been sent to help in the battle. It was Daniel’s perseverance that pushed through that answer to prayer.
You may be in a battle against principalities that resist you. You wonder why some prayers are taking so long to be answered, and doubts creep in. Don’t be afraid, God has heard your words. Keep the faith, stay the course and know that God won’t push you beyond what you can bear. God’s not punishing you or ignoring you. You have a battle that has to be fought, so find pleasure in honoring God each day that you persevere. And at the perfect time, you will enjoy the fruit of your faith.
Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. For from the first day that you set your heart to understand this and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:12-13 MEV)