Answers Delayed are not Prayers Denied

On a summer's evening, nigh two years ago, I walked into a meeting for prayer. I had longed for such a meeting all the day, for I had thought of those words, "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength," and I hoped, when I found this meeting, that that would be my experience, for I felt the need of it. It turned out to be a small meeting, smaller than I had anticipated, for there were only seven or eight persons present, some young, some old and tired looking. The singing was flat and slow, and the prayers disappointing and dull, and I had begun to wonder whether the evening was being wasted, when an old man of more than eighty years spoke up and said to us, "My friends, I should like to share with you a great joy that I have got today. I must tell you that sixty-five years ago I knelt by my dying mother's bed and she said to me, ' — — you are the only one in the family that knows the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. I commend your father and your brothers to you. Pray for them every day until they are saved.' This morning I got this letter from my last remaining brother, and I will read it to you." Then very quietly, he read, "Dear, dear brother, I have the very best of news for you, I have yielded myself at last to God." And the letter, in the simplest language, told how it all came about, and was full of thankfulness to the brother who for sixty-five years had persevered in prayer for him and watched for his salvation.

You will not need to be told that that simple story transformed that little prayer meeting, and that it ceased to be dull and desultory. Eyes became moist and hearts were moved and those who had kept their seats before now bowed their knees. There was thanksgiving first, and then definite and earnest prayer, prayer with a purpose in it, for here was evidence that it was not in vain to pray, and though the answer be long delayed in God's wise ways, yet at last it comes.

Yes, there came into every heart in that little gathering, the consciousness that we were in the very presence of God, that we had received in the old man's story a gracious admonition for our slackness in prayer, and an assurance that God does hear our cries and will answer them at the right time.

We do well when we pray, but sometimes we grow weary when the answer seems long delayed, and we suppose that our prayers have not been heard; and some have even thought that God did not care, and that their matters were too small for His notice. But what is the truth? For sixty-five years one golden vial in heaven had been filling with this dear man's prayers, and as sweet odours they had been to God (Rev. 5:8). And how rich was the answer when it did come, not only for the one whose daily cries had gone into God's ear, but for us also who shared his joy, and for you, too, who are likely to be discouraged because you have prayed so long with no apparent answer, if this simple incident encourages you to continue in prayer with thanksgiving.