Why does a good and all-powerful God who could answer our prayers immediately often delay and not respond ‘on time” [from our perspective]? Why does He call us to persevering prayer? Sam Storms provides some excellent answers:
First, we are presumptuous people. We just assume that God ought always to do what we ask, when we ask, precisely in the way we ask. By delaying his response, God awakens us to the gracious character of all answered prayer. In other words, that God says or does anything at all in response to our petitions is sheer, undiluted grace. Resolute continuation in prayer, watchful perseverance, is often the best way for us to learn this invaluable lesson.
Second, steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon him. We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk. If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer, we would gradually lose our sense of urgency. Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good. Suspending his response, God is saying to each of us: “Just how desperate are you? How conscious are you that I am your only source, your sole and all-sufficient supply?”
Third, persistent praying puts us in that frame of mind and spirit in which we may properly receive what it is that God is reluctant to give, but that we lack preparation to receive. Try to envision what a mess your life would have been if your parents granted you everything you asked for as a child! God often delays his answers because, quite simply, we are in no shape to receive them. Few of us are willing to admit that, but deep down we know it’s true.
Fourth, steadfast, watchful continuation in prayer helps us differentiate between impetuous, ill-conceived, selfish desires, and sincere, deep-seated, Christ-exalting ones. Persistence in prayer thus enables us to weed out improper petitions.
Fifth, endurance at the throne of grace purifies the content of our petitions. By repeating our prayers we are forced to think and rethink what we are saying. We are compelled to evaluate our motivation and aim for asking God for something in particular. It’s a bit like how I read, reread, and read yet again each of these meditations. It helps me identify mistakes, locate typographical errors, and rephrase something that otherwise might be false of misleading. I can almost envision God saying in response to my first articulation of a prayer, “Sam, are you sure you want me to answer that one? Think about it. Contemplate the long-term consequences of a yes. Then co e back and ask me again in different terms, with a purified purpose.”
Sixth, perseverance cultivates patience. By withholding ans immediate response, we learn how to wait on God. Waiting on the Lord is far from a passive posture. It’s and active, expectant, persistent pressing to the heart and purposes of a loving God. How might we ever learn to do this were it not for steadfastness in prayer?
Seventh, oftentimes God wants to give, but not now. The answer will come in better circumstances, at a more opportune moment. By delaying his response, a greater and better and more God-glorifying end is secured than by an immediate answer.
Finally, even if none of the reasons given above make sense to you, persevere anyway! God isn’t asking you to understand; he’s asking you to be faithful.
–The Hope of Glory (pg. 313-314)