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Luke 11:5-10 NIV5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

These words of our Lord are not intended to present God to us as one that is reluctant to respond to our prayer, and that, consequently, has to be besought and entreated with growing energy and ardor, as Baal’s prophets imagined to be the case with the deity they worshipped (1 Kings 18:1-46). Rather should we think of him as of a Divine Father who, for our sake, delays his answer to our prayer, in order that we may be disciplined in devotion, and in order that he may give us what we ask, with a fuller blessing in the bestowal.

The Fact of Unanswered Prayer

It is a fact attested by the common, if not the universal, experience of the devout, that prayer is often presented to God without any answer being presently and consciously received. And this is not only true of prayer that is not worthy of the name—of mere sacred formalities which proceed only from the sense and not from the soul; it is true of genuine, spiritual devotion. Men honestly and earnestly pray God to give them blessings, and he withholds them. The sickness is not removed, the life not spared, the burden not lightened, the son not reclaimed, the friend not reconciled, the cause not blessed, the wrong not stayed, the faithful not delivered; and the hearts of the people of God are filled with sorrow and dismay; the question that rises to their lips is, “How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not respond?”

The Meaning of God’s Silence

1 . It may mean that we ask for the wrong thing —for that which we think will help us, but which God knows will harm us; which (he knows) will do us much more of lasting, spiritual harm than confer on us present bodily or temporal relief.

2 . It may mean that we are expecting the answer in the wrong way. Like Naaman, we may have laid down, in our own thought, the precise way in which God is to help or heal us, and it may be with us, as it was with him, that God is purposing to respond in another way altogether—perhaps by some simple means (as in his case), which we are disposed to consider unworthy of the occasion; perhaps by some way in which we shall be taught a lesson in humility or in some other grace.

3 . It may mean that we are expecting the answer at the wrong time , much sooner than it would be wise for God to give it, or well for us to receive it.

The Reward of Continuance in Prayer

We find, as our Lord teaches us in the parable, that while our friend wilt not always give us our request at once, yet he will grant it if we do but persevere ( Luke 11:8 ). And so with our Divine Friend; he may not answer our prayer at once; he may delay long to respond to us. He may know that if we received immediately everything we desired of him, we should become unduly confident or be otherwise injuriously affected. He may know and may wish us to learn by disciplinary experience that

“His help is always sure,

His methods seldom guessed:

Delay will make our pleasure pure,

Surprise will give it zest.”

But sooner or later, in one way or in another, in his own good time, God will reward our persevering prayer with his effectual blessing. We must ask, and go on asking, and we shall certainly receive; must knock, and go on knocking, at the door of his mercy and his power, and it will assuredly be opened to us. This will be found in our seeking:

  1. Conscious and joyous acceptance with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Our spiritual growth.
  3. Our usefulness in that especial sphere in which we are engaged for him.

Homilies By W. Clarkson