Is There an Answer to Prayers of “How Long”?

Remember the family vacations when you traveled long distances with restless children? Mommas do their best to prepare for the trip with car games, snacks, music, and special activities. It seems no matter how diligently you plan to fill the time or how many gentle reminders of patience you offer to wiggly ones, you can still count on repeated wails coming from the backseat, “How long until we get there?”

Children grow up to be adults who continue asking, “How long?” Scripture records the despairing pleas of God’s children, like Habakkuk, 

How long, LORD, must I call for help
and you do not listen 
or cry out to you about violence 
and you do not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)

Even Jesus, out of frustration over the Jews’ slowness to understand that He was the Messiah, uttered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” (Matt. 17:17).

“How Long?” Prayers

Throughout my lifetime, “How long?” is quite possibly the prayer I’ve prayed more than any other. Doesn’t it seem like some prayer requests replay on an infinite loop? You can’t remember a day when certain yearnings weren’t branded on your soul. In your prayer journal, the “How long?” page is faded, dog-eared, and tearstained. 

Perhaps one of these prayers is your heart-cry day and night:

  • How long before You heal injustice?
  • How long before my grieving heart is pieced back together?
  • How long before my weary body is restored?
  • How long before this relationship is patched up?
  • How long before I become a mother?
  • How long before my broken marriage is redeemed?
  • How long before my prodigal turns around?
  • How long before my longing for a husband ends?
  • How long before my loved one comes to Jesus?
  • How long before You revive Your church?

Psalm 13 gives us permission to express the deep sorrow and anguish of our souls to God while we’re waiting for Him to act. In its opening verses, David laments four times, “How long?” These two words are a universal language for the person whose tongue is parched from the desperate groaning of their inner being: 

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long will I store up anxious concerns within me,
agony in my mind every day?
How long will my enemy dominate me? (vv. 1–2, emphasis added)

Forgotten and Abandoned?

When our circumstances don’t change and our prayers go unanswered month after month, and year after year, it begins to feel like we’ve been forgotten by God. We wonder if God overlooks some people or really cares about us. Doubt ransacks our minds. Isaiah helps us sort through the lies when our heart accuses God of disregarding us: 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:15–16)

Our Father wants us to know that when our emotions tell us we’ve been forgotten, the truth—without exception—is that He will never forget us. More than a nursing mother who could hardly forget to feed her hungry baby who is crying at the top of its tiny lungs, God is attuned to the needs of His children. 

Even more, we’re so beloved by God that our names are engraved (or inscribed) on His hands. (Isaiah is speaking metaphorically.) Once something is engraved, it’s not likely it will be put out of mind or sight. Further proof of His never-letting-go, never-giving-up love is the grace that poured through our Redeemer’s nail-pierced hands.

Just as Isaiah 49 reassures us that we aren’t forgotten, Hebrews 13:5 validates the truth that God will not forsake us despite the sense that He is absent. “I will never leave you or abandon you” is medicine for broken hearts that are dripping in tears of lament. Psalm 139 adds more layers of assurance: we’re hemmed in by God; His hand is upon us. There’s nowhere we can go to escape His presence. He is the constant friend and companion who gently holds us close. When the enemy tells you a different story, do not be deceived. 

Jesus Was Forsaken and Abandoned

When the Lord Jesus retreated to the garden of Gethsemane on the evening before He was crucified, His soul was tormented and His mind raced with questions. The cross loomed before Him, where He would endure God’s wrath for the sins of the world—past, present, and future. We cannot fathom such agony which causes sweat to turn into microdroplets of blood. The Father’s sinless Son was slain so sinful man could be made right with Him.

Yet out of the darkest night of Jesus’ soul, a resolve to surrender and obey the Father’s salvation plan pierced the black sky with hope. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. . . . My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42).

On Calvary, as Christ rehearsed Psalm 22 in His final minutes of life, He erupted in a cry, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (v. 1). How long would Jesus hang limp, barely able to take a breath while nailed to a tree? Our Savior suffered six grueling hours as onlookers taunted and mocked Him. Jesus, both fully God and fully-man, understands your questions and suffering more than anyone else possibly could.

  • Jesus was abandoned by His Father so you will never be forgotten.
  • Jesus was forsaken so you could be welcomed into God’s family forever.
  • God hid His face from Jesus so His smile would always shine toward you. 
  • Satan celebrated Jesus’ death, but three days later the empty tomb sealed his ultimate defeat.
  • Life won over death.
  • Love conquered.
  • It is finished.

The Answer to “How Long?”

God doesn’t directly answer David’s cries of “how long?” in Psalm 13, even though he specifically asks in verse 3. He isn’t obligated to. The Lord invites our questions in order to draw weary and troubled travelers into deeper surrender and intimacy with Him. Only He knows the answer to every “How long?” question. And amid unanswered questions, He gives unexplainable peace. 

The conclusion of Psalm 13 foreshadows a heart and mind grounded in the gospel. Despair finally reaches its destination and flips upside down to joy. The anxious sojourner remembers Jesus’ trek from the garden to the cross to the grave to His ascension:

But I have trusted in your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in your deliverance.
I will sing to the LORD
because he has treated me generously. (vv. 5–6)

Does that mean we give up asking? Never. By all means, let’s persist in praying “how long?” prayers. But let’s also ask the Lord to help us pray with a tone like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Surrender as many times as it takes until you can say with unexplainable quietude, “Father, Your will be done. How long? is exactly how long it needs to beno longer, no shorter.” 

Like the psalmist, draw near to God. Wait upon Him. Rest in His presence. Embrace His good plan. Trust His timing. Cling to His love. Sing. His hands are holding you close.

Save the date: True Woman is coming back and better than ever! Circle October 2–4, 2025 on your calendar, and make plans to join the Revive Our Hearts team in Indianapolis for True Woman ’25! Be among the first to get the details when you sign up to receive more information.

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