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I ask this question because there are some verses that imply that, although God hear our prayers immediately, there is some kind of bureaucracy in heaven that causes a delay in the answer to our prayers. For instance:

  1. “Then he said to me, 'Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia'”(‭‭Daniel‬ ‭10:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  2. “Then the Lord said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.'” (‭‭Genesis‬ ‭18:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

My sister heard the following story from her friend: he had for years been unable to believe in God because when he was a child he was sexually abused by his grandfather. He prayed a lot to God to stop the abuses but his prayers were not answered.

I tried to create a biblical theory trying to explain why God didn't hear the prayer of that child asking not to be sexually abused anymore. There are thousands of ways for God to stop the abuse of that child but He remained inoperative. To me the only explanation for this situation is that there is some kind of bureaucracy in heaven that prevents prayers from being answered quickly. I thought of this because of the verses quoted above.

I ask again: Is there a biblical theory that tries to explain the mechanism of prayer?

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    I don't think you'll find a biblical theory about prayer in this regard. Various denominations might speculate/propose alternate theories as to why your friend was abused (even if theories have backing, we(man) do not know all the ways of God)
    – depperm
    May 6, 2022 at 14:45
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    Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor.
    – Nigel J
    May 6, 2022 at 15:37
  • @NigelJ Where did I ask for personalized advice? I just cited that history to explain one of the reasons why I'm asking this question!
    – user860322
    May 6, 2022 at 16:06
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    You are citing - first - prayers involving nations and kings and prophetic utterances. Then you are introducing the matter of private and personal prayer in times of personal distress. These are two entirely different things. My response was to the second part. The first part is a matter of biblical exegesis regarding complex national and prophetic matters well above the level of what is personal.
    – Nigel J
    May 6, 2022 at 16:11
  • Hi, I’m not on any welcome committee or anything - but welcome! 👏😁 Your question is an interesting one! I’ve always written the Daniel scenario off as anthropomorphism but maybe there is more to it… I have no answer, but will bear the issue in mind… On human suffering, the best answer I think is that we live in a judged, cursed world… We should be surprised when things go well, sadly.. Not when they go badly. If God were to end all suffering right now, he would have to usher in the consummation of the age. …
    – user56152
    May 6, 2022 at 18:57

1 Answer 1

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Prayer is not a mechanism. It's a divine privilege.

Prayer is "wireless", instant communication with God in heaven. Indeed, God even knows what his "saints" are going to say in prayer before a word is on our lips - see Psalm 139:1-7. That was king David's experience long before Daniel received confirmation of that.

The verses you quoted in Daniel, combined with everything Jesus said about prayer to "our Father who art in heaven" are about the fullest we can get to forming a theology of prayer. Whole books have been written on this privilege of prayer.

However, your question then changes tack completely to bring in an actual experience of what a child considered to be God ignoring his prayers, that sexual abuse against him be stopped. A few billion people, over the centuries, could well have thought much the same thing. They pleaded with God in prayer regarding some dreadful situation, or urgent need, yet God seemed to disregard their prayers. That's because they didn't get what they prayed for. But the answer to their prayers was, "No." Or, with hindsight, they might have realised it was "No, not yet". Decades later, God might have shown the person that his will did not lie in the problem they presented, but that there was a deeper, more urgent problem at root, which he would deal with first, or later.

That was my experience before I became a Christian. I thought I was a Christian, zealously devoted to the form of religion I had been brought up in. I prayed quite a lot. But in my early 20s I suffered years of dreadful depression that was bringing me down, even to thoughts of not being able to continue living. One night, utterly at the end of myself, I could only cry out to God to help me. I could say no more. All articulation was gone.

Well, shortly after, God's answer to my desperate situation started to come, though I didn't see it as that till years later. That was because God chose to deal with the real, underlying, spiritual problem I had (believing I was a Christian when I was not). Some years later I had repented of my sin (manifested in how I reacted to the grip of my depression) and, with the help of various Christians getting me to re-read the Bible. Once I saw who the Jesus of the Bible really is, God brought me to spiritual life, as a Christian. Oh, and the initial horror that got me to my knees? That gradually faded as I started to live in the faith of Jesus Christ. Now that I'm the wrong side of 70, I can appreciate with hindsight how God did, indeed, hear my prayer of despair, and trace his hand in answering, over many years.

This answer, I hope, will help show how prayer is not a mechanism, but a privilege, and that God sovereignly deigns to answer sincere prayers in his own way, in his own time, and always for the glory of his Name.

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