Even if you feel your prayers
aren't being answered, God
is still right by your side.
When we ask God for something (whether it’s healing for a loved one, world peace or a parking space), it’s because it’s important to us. So why might God give us something as trivial as a parking space, when a loved one’s cancer isn’t healed?
We don’t always get what we ask for, no matter how ‘good’ we believe our cause to be. This is hard to accept—but beware of the term ‘unanswered prayer’. Just because we don’t get what we want, how or when we want, doesn’t mean God doesn’t hear and isn’t responding in some way.
Accepting that there is a God is a huge leap of faith in itself. Once there, we can accept that God is massive, made of love and purity, all-powerful, and far beyond our human understanding. Therefore, we must also accept that we can’t really understand what God’s up to. Like the butterfly that beats its wings in Brazil and causes a tornado in Texas, we can’t know what part we play in God’s great big universal plan.
As painful as it is, sometimes God doesn’t seem to answer our prayer because the answer we really need is ‘No’, or because God is teaching us something. Wouldn’t life be weird (and chaotic) if everyone got everything they asked for? Watch the movie Bruce Almighty!
Sometimes we can look back and see how God drew us closer through ‘unanswered prayer’—that what we ended up with was more valuable, and was, in fact, the answer to prayer of a different sort.
Unanswered prayers will include things that aren’t God’s will (that your enemies will die, for example!) or things we think we want, but which won’t be good for us (like winning the lottery). Remember that God’s will comes before our own needs and wants; that’s why the Lord’s Prayer says, ‘Your will be done’.
What about people who persevere in heartfelt prayer for a sick child, only to watch that precious child die? It’s hard to explain that away as a lesson. Why didn’t God step in? What did the child—or the parents—do to deserve it? How could God be so cruel? The answer, of course, is that he isn’t. And this ‘unanswered prayer’ is almost impossible to explain. All we can do is remember that when Jesus asked God to spare him before he was crucified, that prayer wasn’t answered (it was answered in a different way: he was resurrected three days later.)
We can’t always understand what God is doing—if we could, would we really want him to be our god? No matter what difficulties or even tragedies you may face, turning your back on God because of ‘unanswered’ prayer isn’t the right response. Usually, we are closest to God when we turn and sob onto his shoulder, and let him comfort us in our pain.
Nothing will be perfect until we’re united with him after this life is over. Until then, let’s not stop talking to God in prayer.
Pray: “Lord God, you know what’s best for me. Remind me to talk to you often in prayer, and help me to pray only for what is your will. Give me patience, and help me to remember that your thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Help me to understand that my prayers may not always be answered in the way I expect. Amen.”
Look up what St John said about prayer
Look up a Bible passage about God’s higher purpose
Read reasons why prayers may be unanswered
Watch the video clip God is a DJ: we may never know when God intervenes
Watch the music video God Will Make a Way
Watch the music video You are God Alone
Read the internet article The Gift of unanswered prayer by Jerry Sittser (Jerry lost his wife, mother, and 4-year-old daughter in a car accident)
Read the book When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer, also by Jerry Sittser
Read the book Prayer – Does it make any difference? By Philip Yancey
Read the book Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey
Read the book God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer , by Brian McLaren and Pete Greig
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