When the Answer Is en Route

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that the God who is unbound by time and space allows His actions to be bound by these same things.

When we pray, it’s with the knowledge and understanding that God can (and sometimes will) immediately answer our prayer in a powerful and obvious way. When the storm stops after being rebuked, when the fire doesn’t singe our clothes, when the demon is cast out with a word, when the sun stops in the sky, when the fish rescues us from a watery grave, when the little child opens her eyes—these are the kinds of instantaneous answers we know God is capable of.

We also know that sometimes His answer is “no” or “not yet.” There are prayers that He will answer in the time and place of His choosing—that is, the perfect time and place.

Even then, I tend to think of those future answers as immediate. He chooses not to fulfill our request immediately in this moment; He will fulfill it immediately at some time in the future.

But there’s another kind of “not yet”—the kind that says, “You have no way of knowing this, but the answer is already on its way.”

When the angel came to explain a vision Daniel had received, he said, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12).

From the first day. Some time has passed since Daniel made his first inquiry to God for clarity. How much time? At least 21 days:

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.

(Daniel 10:13-14)

This is one of the most wild glimpses the Bible gives us into the goings-on of the spirit realm.

God heard Daniel’s words from day one. He dispatched an angel to answer Daniel, but the angel was held up in some kind of spiritual power struggle for twenty-one days. He gets some backup from Michael, a high-ranking angel.

God could have answered that prayer immediately, if He wanted. He could have waited 21 days and then answered it immediately on that day. But instead He chose to send His answer through a messenger He knew would be delayed.


I have no idea. But I do know He had a reason. He always has a reason. And I also know His perfect wisdom means He will always answer our prayers in the perfect way and at the perfect time.

What that tells me is that sometimes, from the moment we pray to God, He’s already dispatched the answer to our prayer. He’s already set something in motion—and it’s going to reach us when it needs to reach us.

It’s so easy to think of ourselves in isolation from the rest of the world, but the truth is that we’re all tied together in a complicated spider’s web of cause and effect, and only God knows what plucking one strand or adding another will do to the bigger picture.

The great fish was an immediate answer from Jonah’s perspective, but even then, God “had prepared” it (Jonah 1:17).

How far in advance?

Had He nurtured this sea creature to the size and the temperament necessary to swallow and preserve a human being for three days? Did He create it ex nihilo when the need arose? Did He divert an existing, nearby creature to snatch up Jonah?

Most people can’t hold their breath underwater for very long. How did He ensure that the fish was where it needed to be, when it needed to be there?

So many questions. Once again, I have no idea. And once again, God did. He knew exactly what to set in motion, along with how and when.

“Not yet” doesn’t mean God is sitting on His hands, making you wait for no reason.

When we pray for a believing spouse, or a dependable job, or escape from a trial, or any number of divine blessings or interventions, we are praying to a God who prepares things—who sets them in motion, guiding them toward the perfect destination in time and space.

A spouse, for example, isn’t created, but prepared. Who knows how many life events God has in mind for your future spouse—and for you—before you’re ready for each other? Who know how many elements are in the process of falling into place at some organization that’s not even on your radar; who knows how many skills God intends to help you develop and refine before you’re ready for that job you’ve been praying for—or before the job is ready for you? The trial you want to end, the blessing you want to experience—there are cogs and levers and pulleys and strings at work you can’t begin to fathom.

But God can.

Sure, He could snap His fingers and make it all happen in a moment, but He often chooses not to. And He does this for a reason, even though we might not always understand.

What we can understand is this:

Sometimes, when we come before God and request His help, the answer is on its way before we’re finished praying.

And it’ll arrive exactly when it needs to.

Until next time,

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