A delayed answer to a prayer is not a denial, so Christians ought to continue praying until they get an answer or a revelation that it is not God's will for them, according to Saddleback Church founder Pastor Rick Warren.
In a devotional entry posted on Nov. 25, Pastor Warren reminded Christians that God always has perfect timing when answering prayers and that His delays were not always tantamount to denials. However, he said there were three things that believers ought to do when they encounter such delays.
First, Christians should continue praying until they get an answer, as Mark 11:24 said anything they pray for and claim in advance will be theirs. Second, they ought to keep on praying until they get an assurance that God will grant their petition. Once they do receive an assurance, they can then start thanking the Lord for it and act on the answered prayer.
Along this line, Pastor Warren recalled how he had received a letter in the past that informed him he had gotten a four-year college scholarship. At the time, he did not wait to receive the money first, but he immediately prepared for college by purchasing new clothes and making sure that his van was in good condition. His experience illustrated how Christians can act in faith once God gives an assurance that their prayers were going to be answered.
Lastly, Warren said believers should keep praying until God tells them that what they are longing for was not His will. Only then should they stop asking God for that request.
In line with the topic of prayer, Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries mentioned some reasons why God sometimes does not grant requests immediately. One reason is because the Lord wants Christians to prioritize their relationship with Him over anything else, as their attention may sometimes shift to other things.
There are also times when God delays answers to prayers in order to allow faith to grow. During the waiting period, the Holy Spirit helps a Christian mature and bear the spiritual fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.
However, God sometimes does not grant prayers when the motive is wrong or when a Christian falls into a pattern of disobedience, as James 4:3 noted. The Lord wants His children to adhere to His standard of holiness, and He may delay answers to prayers so that they can have time to confess their sins and return to Him.