The Wisdom Behind a Delayed Response
It is indeed a great trial for a Muslim to make du'aa', sincerely and properly, continually, for a long period of time, and yet see no sign of response. Here, a person's eemaan in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is truly tested. And here is the opportunity that Shaytaan uses to try to sow his whispers, and plant his doubts in a believer's heart. In this way a person might start thinking evil thoughts about his Creator, or start doubting the wisdom of the Divine Decree.
So whoever falls into this, should immediately seek Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى refuge from Shaytaan, and turn to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى sincerely, making yet another du'aa' that he be saved from Shaytaan's evil plots, and that he be granted patience to withstand the test that he is undergoing. He should also ponder over his own limited knowledge and intelligence, and realise the infinite Knowledge of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and the extreme wisdom behind any Divine act.
At the same time, he should realise the great blessings that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has given to mankind when He guaranteed a response to all du'aa's as long as the du'aa' conforms to all the necessary etiquette, and there are no prohibiting factors found in the one making it. So every du'aa' al-'ibaadah is responded to by giving the doer rewards in this life and the Hereafter, and every du'aa' al-mas'alah is responded to by giving what was asked, or something equivalent to it, or by averting some evil that was to befall the one making du'aa' or by giving him reward equivalent to his du'aa' on the Day of Judgement. So even when one's du'aa' is apparently not responded to, he should realise that the actual response might not be what he presumes, and it is, in fact, possible that his du'aa' has already been answered, without his even knowing it!
A Muslim should understand that there are many wisdoms behind the delayed response of a du'aa', whether he realises it or not. All of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى decrees are wise, and, although it is not possible that we fully and truly comprehend all the Divine Wisdom behind an act, it is possible that we can glean some of the benefits of a Decree. The following points have been mentioned by some scholars:
1. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is the Maalik
Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is the true King, the Owner of All Kingdoms. No one can interfere in His Decisions, and no one can question His resolutions. As Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur'aan,
"He is not questioned regarding what He does, but rather they will be questioned (regarding what they do)." [Sooratul Anbiyaa, 21:23]
He سبحانه و تعالى also says:
"And Allaah Judges, and there is none that can change His Judgement. And He is the Ever-Swift in Reckoning." [Sooratur Ra'd, 13:41]
So the Muslim does not question the Will of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, rather he accepts it, and is pleased with it.
One of the scholars wrote: "So there is none of us who can escape from the Will of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and His Decree. And no one can avert His Judgement or His trials (upon us). Verily, we all belong to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, we are His slaves and (part of His) possessions. He does with us as He pleases, and what He wills."
2. Man does not have a Right Over his Creator
The one making du'aa' should realise his lowly status, and know that he does not have a right over his Creator that his du'aa' be responded to. He should be wise enough to contemplate his own many faults and shortcomings with regards to the rights that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has over him. This will make him appreciate that he does not have any rights over Allaah سبحانه و تعالى!
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله wrote:
"So one of the greatest matters of benefit to the heart is that it looks into the rights that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has over His slaves, because this will cause him to look at his own self in a despicable and lowly manner. It will make him avoid self-conceit and vanity concerning his actions, and instead open for him the door to humility and meekness. He will be submissive before his Lord, and give up hope of his own self, for he will realise that success will only come about through the Mercy of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and His Blessings. For His right (upon the soul) is that He be obeyed, and not disobeyed, and remembered, and not forgotten, and thanked, and not rejected. So whoever looks into this right that his Lord has upon him, then he will know - a most certain knowledge — that he is not fulfilling the rights of his Lord in a way that he should, and that nothing can save him except divine aid and forgiveness. So if he were to rely upon his own actions, he would be destroyed! So this is what those who have knowledge of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى look upon, and this is what has caused them to give up hope of attaining any good from themselves, and made them put all of their hope in the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
But if you were to look at the status of the majority of people, you will find them to be the exact opposite of this! They examine the 'rights' that they have upon Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and they ignore the rights that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has upon them! And because of this, they have cut themselves off from Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and their hearts have been sealed up from recognising Him, or loving Him, or being eager to meet Him. And this is the height of ignorance that a man can have with regards to his Lord, and even with regards to himself." 
3. A Delay in Response is a Trial
When the response of a du'aa' is delayed, this is a type of test and trial that is inflicted upon the servant. This necessitates his being patient during this trial. So a person should realise that, just like his entire life is a trial and test for him, so too is this delayed response. This is just one of the many trials that he has to face if he eventually wishes to enter Paradise and please his Creator.
As Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says:
"Every soul will taste death. And We test you, with good and evil, as a fitnah (trial). And to Us you will return." [Sooratul Anbiyaa', 21:35]
So both good and evil is a test, a fitnah, for us, to see whether we are patient when afflicted with evil, and whether we use the good that we have been given properly.
4. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is the Most-Wise
Of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى many beautiful Names is al-Hakeem, or The Most-Wise. So to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى belongs the greatest wisdom; all of His Decrees are Wise. When He gives, He gives with wisdom, and when He prevents, He prevents with wisdom. As Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says:
"Perfect (or Complete and All-Encompassing) Wisdom." [Sooratul Qamar, 54:5]
So it is possible that what a person desires is not wise for him to have. And because of this, he is not granted it, or it is delayed until such a time that it is suitable for him. It is possible that the du'aa' might be responded to at a later time, due to factors that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى alone is aware of. For example, a couple might pray for a child, and their du'aa' is not answered for a number of years, since Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows that it would be better for them to be blessed with a child at a later date.
So the believer accepts the Divine Wisdom of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and does not cause a delay in response to swerve him from the true eemaan in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
5. The Matter Might Bring Evil
Following up from the last point, it is possible that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows that a certain matter, although apparently might appear to bring good, in reality will lead to evil consequences. So, a person might desire to have money, and in his heart he feels that he will spend this money for the sake of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and yet Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows that if this person were to be given money, he would spend it in haram ways, and that it would ruin his eemaan. So he would become like the one that is mentioned in the Qur'aan:
"And of them are some who made a promise with Allaah (saying): 'If He bestowed on us out of His Blessings, then we will of a surety give charity, and we will surely become amongst the righteous!' Then, when He gave them of His Blessings, they became miserly (in spending for the sake of Allaah), and turned away, averse (out of arrogance). So because of this He punished them by putting hypocrisy in their hearts, until the Day when they shall meet Him, because they broke which they promised Allaah, and because they used to lie (to Allaah)!" [Soorah at-Tawbah, 9:75-77]
So beware, O Muslim, of getting angry, or complaining, against Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Decree, for it is possible that the matter that you so desire might be the very cause of your destruction!
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله, the master of spiritual diseases and their cures, writes:
"The Divine Decree related to the believer is always a bounty, even if it is in the form of withholding (something that is desired), and it is a blessing, even if it appears to be a trial, and an affliction that has befallen him is in reality a cure, even though it appears to be a disease! Unfortunately, due to the ignorance of the worshipper, and his transgressions, he does not consider anything to be a gift or a blessing or a cure unless he can enjoy it immediately, and it is in accordance with his nature. If he were only given a little bit of understanding, then he would have counted being withheld from as a blessing, and the sickness as a mercy, and he would relish the trouble that befalls him more than he relishes his ease, and he would enjoy poverty more than he enjoys richness, and he would be more thankful when he is blessed with little than he is when he is blessed with a lot." 
Note that a believer does not ask for problems and trials, but when they occur, the true believer relishes them more than he would an apparent blessing, because he realises and expects the great reward that he will obtain through his patience and perseverance.
6. Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Choice is Better than the Choice of the Servant
This is a great secret that very few people appreciate or implement in their lives. For verily, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى is more Merciful to His servants than a mother is to her child, and He will only Decree for them what is best for their needs in this world and the Hereafter. So even when a trial or tribulation afflicts a Muslim, this is better for him than it not having happened.
So, O servant of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, next time your du'aa' is not answered, ask yourself: "Is it not possible that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows that this matter which I am asking for is not for my benefit? And is He not the Most Merciful of all that have mercy? So, in this prevention of my du'aa' being answered, there might be great good for me!"
Just like a parent must not fulfil all the desires of his child since some of them are harmful for him, so too - and to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى belongs the greatest example - must a person realise that not all of his du'aa's are really for his benefit. And once a person truly and fully realises this, that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى cares for him more than he cares for himself, then he has gone a long way towards perfecting his eemaan.
The great sage and ascetic Sufyaan ath-Thawri رحمه الله said: "Verily, when He withholds, He actually gives, because He did not withhold on account of miserliness or stinginess, but rather He looked at the benefit of the servant. So the fact that He withheld is actually His choice for the servant and His excellent decision." 
7. Man does not Know the Result of His Du'aaa'
This is another factor that a person should take into consideration, and that is that he does not know the consequences of any du'aa' that he makes. It is only Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, the 'Aleem, the Knower of All, Who knows the result of a person's du'aa'.
Ponder over the story of the youth that was killed by Khadir عليه السلام, Moosa's عليه السلام teacher. Without a doubt, the youth's parents must have suffered greatly at his death. Yet, Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knew that, had the boy lived, he would have caused great distress and hardship to his parents. Therefore, it was Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Mercy that the youth was not allowed to grow up to harm his parents, for had he done so, and turned to disbelief, the grief caused to such pious parents would have been worse than the grief of an innocent death.
"And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and We feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief." [Sooratul Kahf, 18:80]
Therefore, it can be seen that a person's knowledge of good and evil is relative, whereas Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى knowledge is infinite. So a person should resign himself to the fact that His Creator knows the actual consequences of his du'aa', and as such his Lord's decision is better than his own.
8. Trials Bring One Closer to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "The greatness of reward is based on the severity of the trial. And if Allaah سبحانه و تعالى loves a person, He tests him, so whoever is pleased (with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى), then he will have the Pleasure (of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى), but whoever is angry, then he will receive the Anger (of Allaah)." 
So the fact that a person's du'aa' is not responded to is a trial from Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and this should make a person optimistic that he is from amongst those whom Allaah سبحانه و تعالى loves. Such a test should make him increase in his patience and draw him closer to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
9. Something Hated Sometimes Brings Good
When a person's eemaan is strong, then he will realise that everything that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed for him is good, even if he does not see the wisdom behind a certain Decree. So, when an affliction befalls him, he will know and realise that hidden in it is great good and benefit for him. As Allaah سبحانه و تعالى states:
"For it is possible that you hate something, yet Allaah places in it a lot of good (for you)." [Sooratun Nisaa', 4:19]
And Allaah سبحانه و تعالى also stated about jihaad:
"Fighting is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it. And it may be that you dislike a thing even though it is for your good, or that you like a thing even though it is for your evil. And Allaah سبحانه و تعالى knows, whereas you do not know." [Sooratul Baqarah, 2:216]
So when a person realises that something that is disliked might cause or lead to something that is desired, this will ease for him the fact that his du'aa' has not been responded to, and sow in his heart the patience that is necessary to overcome this matter.
Ponder over the wise statement of Sufyaan ibn 'Uyaynah رحمه الله, who stated: "What the slave detests is better for him than what he loves! This is because what he detests will cause him to increase in his du'aa', whereas what he loves will distract him (from worshipping Allaah)."
10. It Causes the Believer to Reflect on Himself
When a person's du'aa' is apparently not answered, it causes him to contemplate his life, the good and the bad. It causes him to examine his du'aa', and why he is making it. It causes him to examine his life, and what he wants with it. It causes him to examine his money, how he earns it and how he spends it. It causes him to examine his good deeds, and how few they actually are. It causes him to examine his evil deeds, and how numerous they are. It causes him to turn to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى in repentance, and change his lifestyle. And these effects only occur to the true believer.
So this delay in response is actually a cleansing experience and a purification for the Muslim, for it forces him to re-examine his relationship with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and try to strengthen it. And had his du'aa' been responded to immediately, then this examination would not have occurred, nor would any extra good come out of it. But in this delay, a person, as it were, finds himself, and this, in and of itself, is a great blessing from Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
11. The Du'aa' Might Actually Have been Responded To
We have already mentioned the hadeeth in which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم guaranteed that a person's du'aa' will be accepted. However, the 'acceptance' of a du'aa' might be in a manner that is not apparent. It is possible that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى will give him the reward of his du'aa' on the Day of Judgement, and this reward will be more beloved to him on that Day than the response of his du'aa' in this life. It is also possible that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى blesses him with something else that he did not ask for, as a result of his du'aa'. Lastly, it is possible that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى averts an evil that was predestined for him because of his du'aa'.
So when a person realises this, then how can he despair at his du'aa' not being answered? Does he not realise that the response of the du'aa' is guaranteed by Allaah سبحانه و تعالى? Perhaps the du'aa' has been responded to in ways that he does not see, but of a surety, if he is performing du'aa' properly, it must be answered.
12. The Du'aa' Might be Weak
Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim's رحمه الله quotation concerning the relationship of du'aa' with the Divine Decree has already been given above. Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله mentioned that there are three possibilities with regards to the du'aa' and Divine Decree.
Firstly, it is possible that the du'aa' is stronger than the Decree, and thus repels it permanently.
Secondly, it is possible that the du'aa' is weaker than the Decree, so the Decree occurs, but the du'aa' causes it to soften a little bit.
Thirdly, they be equal in strength, so each one prevents the other from acting. 
Therefore, a person should examine whether the du'aa' is fulfilling the conditions for the acceptance of a du'aa'. He should see if there are any impediments that prevent his du'aa' from being answered.
13. The Manifestation of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Names and Attributes
The fact that a person's du'aa' is responded to or not is an indication and manifestation of many of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Names and Attributes.
Of these Names is: al-Mu'tee (المعطي) (the One that Gives), al-Maani' (المانع) (the One that Withholds), al-Hakam (الحكم) (the One that Judges and Decrees), al-'Adl (العدل) (the All-Just), al-Kareem (الكريم) (the Ever-Generous), al-Hakeem (الحكيم) (the All-Wise), and many others. Whether a person's du'aa' is answered or not, all of these Names, and more, are manifested in Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Decrees. So when He gives, He gives out of Generosity, and Wisdom, and Justice, and when He withholds, He withholds out of Power, Wisdom, and Justice. So a person should keep the Names and Attributes of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى in mind when his du'aa' is not responded to, for in this is a great manifestation of these Names and Attributes.
14. The Perfection of Worship
Finally, one of the greatest benefits and wisdoms of a delayed response is that it perfects a person's worship and eemaan of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. And this is the very purpose of creation! So when a person's du'aa' is not responded to, let him ponder over the ways that this increases his eemaan and sharpens his servitude to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and perfects his humbleness to the Creator. Some of the ways that this is done are as follows:
i. Waiting for a Response:
When a person eagerly and anxiously awaits a response to his du'aa', this necessitates a strong hope in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and an optimism of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Mercy and Blessings. This feeling is, in and of itself, an act of worship, and the longer that the response is delayed, the stronger these feelings become if the person wishes to continue in his du'aa'. In this way his eemaan is strengthened without him even realising it!
ii. Showing One's Need to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى
The essence of worship is to humble one's self before Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and realise one's extreme need of Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Help and Mercy. And when the response to a du'aa' is delayed, this increases this awareness, and a person realises that there is no one besides Allaah سبحانه و تعالى that can help him, or respond to his du'aa', so his eemaan in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى increases in this manner. Simultaneous, with this realisation comes the awe and meekness that is required in Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى presence,as also humility and humbleness, for a person realises his own weak and fragile nature.
Had every du'aa' of a person been answered immediately, this would lead to arrogance, and cultivate a feeling of self-sufficiency and conceit! It would cause the person to forget the relationship that he should have with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and, in fact, might even lead to him to think that he has a right upon Allaah سبحانه و تعالى to answer his prayers. If a person were to become so arrogant, then there would be no hope for him in the Hereafter, for no person will enter Paradise with an ounce of arrogance in his heart.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله said: "So the servant is always in need of his Lord سبحانه و تعالى, from every perspective. This because He is the object of his worship, and the source of all of his help. So no one can bring him any good except Him, and nothing can better the situation of the servant except His worship. And on top of all this, the servant is sinning, and there is no way that he can avoid this. So he is always in need, sinning, and he is in need of the One who always Forgives, the One who is Ever-Merciful, The One who always Forgives (al-Ghafoor) (الغفور) will forgive his sins, and the Ever-Merciful (ar-Raheem) (الرحيم) will show him mercy and bless him and be kind to him. So the servant is eternally between the blessings of his Lord and the sins of his soul."
iii. Pleasure at Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Decree
One of the most important pillars oilman is to be content with Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى Decree. This because the slave realises and appreciates that whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has chosen for him is for his own good, whether he can see this good or not. So there is a blind faith in whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى decrees, and a total satisfaction with whatever occurs.
Therefore, the delay in responding to a du'aa' is one of the opportunities in which a believer must display his contentment at the decree of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and not show anger or annoyance. The one who is pleased with Allaah سبحانه و تعالى as his Lord, and with the Decrees of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى in his life, will attain the pleasure of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى in this world and in the Hereafter, but the one who is displeased and angry, will only attain Allaah's سبحانه و تعالى displeasure and anger.
iv. Humility in Front of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى
When the response of a du'aa' is delayed, the believer becomes even more humiliated and humble in front of the All-Mighty. And this humility is one of the primary pillars of worship, for 'ibaadah is defined as 'the height of humility along with the height of love.' The three pillars upon which a Muslim worships Allah are: love, fear and hope; and humility is one of the ways in which this fear and love is displayed.
So this delay in response is in fact a means to draw out the servant's meekness and humility from his heart. Had the du'aa' been responded to, the servant would not feel such sincere humility, nor would he feel a need of being humble in the presence of the Divine One.
v. Enjoying a Private Conversation with Allaah
Amongst the many benefits of du'aa' is that du'aa' opens up a private channel between the servant and his Lord, as has been discussed previously. So the longer the response of the du'aa' is delayed, the stronger and more powerful this relationship and channel becomes. Finally, a stage is reached, by a very select and blessed few, in which the pleasures of this communication become more pleasing to the soul than the actual response of the du'aa' would be! So, a person actually wishes for a delay in response to his du'aa', since he knows that this relationship that he has with his Lord will not continue when his du'aa' is responded to. And the longer the delay, the longer his conversation and relationship will continue.
vi. Combating the Plots of Shaytaan
Without a doubt, Shaytaan stoops to all levels, and tries all plots so that a person will turn away from worship of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. And is there any opportunity greater for him to seize than when a servant's du'aa' is not answered?! For here is the servant, weak and humble in front of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, calling and crying out to him, 'O my Lord! O my Lord!' Yet, there is no response! So Shaytaan seizes this opportunity, and plants his whispers and seeds of doubt in the son of Aadam, until he thinks every evil thought about his Lord!
But the true believer, the one who is ever-aware and cautious of Shaytaan's plots, sees the dangers of this situation, and, instead of letting it be a cause of him going away from worship of Allaah, seizes it as an opportunity to attack Shaytaan and increase in his worship of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى! So he turns to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, again and again, and seeks refuge from Shaytaan, for he realises that his only hope for safety is through Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and his only refuge and haven is in Allaah's Protection! So in this intense battle between Shaytaan and the son of Aadam, the weapon that is used is du'aa' to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and the armour that is worn is seeking refuge in Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
These are only some of the benefits and wisdoms that the scholars have stated as regards which a du'aa' might be not be answered, or its response delayed. Without a doubt, there are far more benefits than can be imagined, but in these few pages, there should be a reminder for the believer, and a solace for the Muslim.
Furthermore, although the general rule is that the more pious a person is, the greater are his chances of being answered, this is not always the case. It is possible that a disbeliever, or an evil sinner, is responded to, and it is possible that the du'aa' of the most pious is not answered. So just because a person's du'aa' is not answered is not an indication that the person is not pious:
If even the Prophet's صلى الله عليه وسلم du'aa' was sometimes not responded to, then where do we stand in comparison to him? The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "I asked my Lord for three things, but He gave me two of them, and prevented me from one. I asked my Lord that my nation not be destroyed by a drought, so He gave it to me. And I asked Him that my nation not perish by drowning, so He gave it to me. And I asked Him that fighting not occur between them, but He did not give it to me." 
And this is a clear indication that not every single du'aa' of a person is responded to.
Additionally, these 'wisdoms' that are mentioned above should not be taken as an excuse to give up du'aa', for the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم explicitly prohibited this. The purpose behind these explanations is such that a person might be comforted when the response is delayed, and not give up the continuance of du'aa'.
In conclusion, it is appropriate to quote a lengthy passage form one of Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi's رحمه الله works, a passage full of wisdom and beneficial advice.
Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi رحمه الله wrote:
"I was once in a situation of distress, so I regularly made du'aa' to Allaah سبحانه و تعالى to relieve me from my distress, and to bless me with relief and freedom. Yet, the response seemed to be postponed, so my soul started getting agitated and restless.
I told it, 'Woe to thee! Consider your situation: are you one who is a maid-servant or are you a queen?  Are you one who is controlled (by Allaah سبحانه و تعالى), or are you the controller? Do you not know that this world is the place of trials and tests? And if you ask for something and it is not responded to, and you are impatient at this, then where is the test? After all, are not trials and tests merely the opposite of our own goals and desires? If only you were to understand this responsibility, then that which is difficult will appear easy for you, and the unbearable will become light.'
After it pondered over this, it quietened down a bit.
I then told it, 'I also have a second answer, and that is that you are asking (Allaah سبحانه و تعالى) your wishes and desires, but neglecting to ask yourself what it is obligated to do. This is the essence of ignorance, for it is appropriate for you to do the opposite, since you are a servant, and the intelligent servant strives to fulfil the rights of his master, knowing that it is not obligatory for the master to grant any desire.'
After I told it this, it achieved more peace.
I then told it, 'I have yet a third response, and that is that you have delayed the response, as you have blocked its path with your sins. So if only you were to open the path, the response would be hastened. Do you not know that the cause of peace is taqwa? [/8]
Have you not heard the statement of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى:
"And whoever fears Allaah, He will provide for him an escape. And he provides for him from sources that he never could imagine." [Soorah at-Talaaq, 65:2-3] ?
Have you not understood that the opposite also applies, (that if you are immersed in your sins, your matter will be made difficult). Woe to the intoxication of thoughtlessness that is stronger than all other intoxicants, and prevents the water that is desired from reaching the garden of one's goals!' 
So my soul realised the truth, and became content.
I then said, 'I have yet a fourth response, and that is that you are asking for something for which you do not know the consequences of. In fact, it might be harmful for you. Your example is that of a child, stricken with fever, and asking for sweets. The one in charge of you is more aware of your betterment than you are. Has not Allaah سبحانه و تعالى said,
And it is possible that you hate something and it is for your good." [Sooratul Baqarah, 2:216] ?'
After the truth became clear to my soul, it settled in its contentment.
I then said to it, "I have a final — fifth — response, and that is that this wish of yours will decrease your reward (with Allaah), and lower your status. Therefore, the prevention of the response is actually the increasement of your good. If you were only to ask what benefits your Hereafter, it would be better for you. Understand, therefore, all that I have told you'
It then replied, 'I have been grazing in the gardens of your response, and the understanding (that you have given me) has caused me to be ecstatic with joy!' 
So see, dear reader, how this great scholar, Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi, was able to transform the pain and anguish that his soul was feeling, into joy and ecstasy, only because of his knowledge and eemaan. 
 Paraphrased from Ighaathatul Luhfaan, pp. 97-98
 Madaarijus Saalikeen, 2/215-216
 Madaarijus Saalikeen, 2/215
 Recorded by at-Tirmidhi (#2396), Ibn Maajah (#4031) and others. Authenticated in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi, 2/286
 Ad-Daa' wad-Dawaa', p. 42
 Reported by Muslim (#2890) and others.
 Sayd al-Khaatir, Vol. 2, p. 291
 For more on Taqwa see: http://www.muftisays.com/forums/12-virtues/7703-fear-allah-wherever-you-are-taqwa.html
 The soul is feminine in the Arabic language, hence the feminine gender.
 This beautifully eloquent phrase requires some explanation! Basically, Imaam Ibn al-Jawzi is comparing one's du'aa' to the fruits of a garden, and the response of that du'aa' to the water that is needed for those fruits to grow. So the fruits (the du'aa') will only ripen if water is given to the garden. He then compares one's own heedlessness (in sins) to being intoxicated, and this intoxication prevents the person from realising that he is, with his own hands, preventing the water from reaching the garden, thus stating that sins lead to one's du'aa' not being answered.
 Dua: the Weapon of the Believer, pp. 163-179