It would be nice if prayers were always answered quickly, however that is often not the case. Habakkuk, addresses the people of Judah, who are suffering under the injustice of an evil government. He is crying out to God wondering why He has not interceded and answered their prayers (Habakkuk 1:1-4). In the verses that follow, God answers Habakkuk’s prayer by acknowledging He is well aware of what is going on, but He indicates that the time is not right to answer Habakkuk’s desires.
In teaching about prayer, Jesus said there were three levels of prayer: ask, seek, and knock. Simply ask and God can grant some things immediately. For other things you need to seek in order to obtain. You will have to look for the answer, perhaps in places you might not expect to find it. Finally, we are told that sometimes we have to knock. This is a repetitive prayer. Come back again and again with your petitions for the Lord. In other words, you may have to wait for an answer. That is what Habakkuk is going to have to do. God tells him:
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habakkuk 2:3
Sometimes our prayers will be delayed, and God never apologizes for doing so because the delay is always for the benefit of the kingdom. All of us are impatient. But God will work out His amazing purpose on His perfect time schedule. Of course there are other things that can hinder our prayers.
First, Prayer Can Be Hindered By The Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we utter foolish and unscriptural prayers. The Bible says the Holy Spirit accepts the ministry of helping us with this infirmity (Romans 8:26). We sometimes say foolish things to each other, so it is easy to assume we occasionally say foolish things to God. These prayers are monitored and edited by the Holy Spirit.
Second, Prayer Can Be Hindered By Sin.
Sin can hinder our fellowship with our Lord and rob us of a victorious prayer life. The Word of God also teaches us that a strained marriage relationship can also hinder our prayers (I Peter 3:7).
Third, Prayers Can Be Hindered By Satan.
We all remember the account of Daniel who had to wait three weeks for his prayer to be answered (Daniel 10). Apparently there was demonic conflict going on which hindered his answer from arriving for three weeks. This example is not a secret formula of waiting for 21 days and then Michael will always show up and deliver us, but there are lessons we all can learn. It certainly teaches us that there are things going on in the angelic realm that we cannot see. Apparently, God also wants us to keep praying until the answer comes. We can also learn that Satan considers the earth as his territory, and he looks at God as an invading entity. Therefore, warfare is required when God’s kingdom attempts to break through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
Prayer is a battlefield where the whole armor of God is required if you hope to be victorious. As God’s children, we can expect to receive volleys of flaming darts. We are going to be attacked on every side. We can expect spies and traitors within our own camp. We will endure insults, intimidation, and accusations. There will be a relentless effort to destroy our morale and determination. Indeed, prayers can be hindered by Satan.
Fourth, Prayers Can Be Hindered By Strategy.
If you recall, Revelation teaches us that God retains all of our prayers and will one day offer them on His golden altar in heaven (Revelation 8:3-4). It also appears that on occasion the answer to prayers may also be purposefully stored up in heaven, waiting the appropriate time of release. The Bible often speaks of something called the “fullness of time” that signals a release of held back promises. This is when history reaches a tipping point and all things are ready for a revealing to be released upon the earth. Could this also be true regarding prayer?
Consider the Lord’s Prayer (still not answered), the birth of the Messiah (a promise delayed by centuries), and John’s prayer of “even so come Lord Jesus” (still not answered). As we know, the answer to these prayers came (or will come) at the perfect time.
Now, let’s consider how many desperate prayers and fastings have been made on behalf of our nation over the past few years. We have prayed regarding the abortion holocaust, the moral crisis, and the weakness of the modern church. Recently, we have petitioned God with concerns regarding our government’s attitude towards Israel. We have prayed over radical Islam’s persecution of Christians and their overt acts of terror. We are concerned over nuclear proliferation in Iran. We have prayed over the direction the Supreme Court might be heading if the wrong justice is confirmed, thus insuring the court would perpetually lean to the left. What happened to all of those prayers for America? Could it be they were held in the vaults of heaven awaiting the perfect release point?
Could it be that America’s recent realignment against Israel, the possibility of a left leaning Supreme Court determined to legislate the church out of existence, and the continuing abortion holocaust, brought us to a tipping point? Has the answer to all those prayers finally been released? Although it is far too early to assess the success or failure of the Trump presidency, is this unlikely man in the White House a part of the answer to our pent-up petitions? I am not proclaiming a revival, an awakening, or a radical reformation; but has God granted us a season of refreshing in these last days? Although I still believe America is heading toward judgment, I still wonder if perhaps a limited spiritual breakthrough has occurred against the kingdom of darkness.
When Pent-Up Prayers Are Released, The Effect Can By Dynamic.
When God releases years of pent-up petitions it is like a dam breaking and flooding the countryside with His glory. It is God placing Himself in the very center of what needs to change. It is the power of heaven releasing itself against those who intend to stop the flow of His purpose.
The victory in Jericho occurred because God’s people followed His strategy, not because of powerful man-made munitions. Just like many people today, the inhabitants of Jericho never imagined their walls could be destroyed so quickly. But they were, and God’s people rejoiced over the breakthrough.
Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces.
What is a breakthrough? A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory. Since a breakthrough can be expensive in manpower and munitions, they are not attempted unless it will gain, or lead to the gain of strategic ground. Of course, the enemy knows his adversary desires this strategic ground, so he will amass a great force to keep it protected. Intense fighting most always precedes strategic breakthroughs. The devil knows that America is strategic ground, and such a prize will not be yielded easily.
This same concept applies to spiritual warfare. Since the devil is the god of this world, the church is an invading force. We are the outsiders. Some churches have basically resigned from the conflict; others have just circled-the-wagons and are satisfied to just hold on. But some have picked up the banner and attempted a breakthrough. Just like the Moral Majority back in 1980, these saints decided to become the aggressors, not merely the defenders. Just as the Great Commission commands us to go and liberate those the devil has taken captive, we took it as our position to liberate America from those who were attempting her destruction. Our strategy involved years of prayer and action.
When God moves the church does not always respond, but Satan always will. As a matter of fact, every significant move of God will be preceded and accompanied by a season of increasingly difficult and discouraging opposition. Be assured, if we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking the devil’s ground at a strategic point. It is where the enemy is fortifying his forces that we must focus our assault.
So, in summary, I do not know what the legacy of President Trump might be. As of this writing, he seems to be off to a good start. People on both sides of the isle seem to be shocked with a President who appears to be keeping his word on a number of issues. Let’s pray our amazement will continue. I know better than to put my faith in a man, however it does appear (at least at this stage) that a flood of the pent-up prayers of God’s people are being answered. It could be that the wickedness coming from Washington over the past few years reached a tipping point. This tipping point motivated God’s people to fast, pray, and work even harder to save our nation. Perhaps the stench of our wickedness also reached the God of heaven who determined it was time to answer our prayers of the past years.
Finally, A Personal Application for You and Me.
Perhaps you are praying for a breakthrough in your personal life and have not seen any signs of victory, do not give up. Remember, intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. You are fighting an enemy who is stronger than you can imagine, however “greater is He that is in you, that he who is in the world” (I John 4:4). Don’t lose heart. Perhaps there is a breakthrough just around the corner and a new world of potential and possibilities will be opened for you as years of pent-up petitions are answered.
Dr. Worthington has been in the ministry over forty years and serves
as President of Pathway Ministries