As a young Christian I was perplexed why some of my prayers went unanswered. Have you ever experienced the frustration of a prayer that went unanswered? As I’ve grown in the Christian faith, I’ve learned there may be a number of reasons why our prayers seem to go unanswered.
I find it fascinating that although Jesus’ disciples asked Him to “teach them to pray” that Jesus never mentioned the topic of unanswered prayer. Jesus had the conviction that,
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
So what happens when our prayers are not answered? Perhaps one of the reasons is that we’re not abiding in Him – God answers our prayers but it may not be the answer we’re expecting. We see one small part but God sees the whole picture.
Aren’t you glad that God has not answered some of the prayers you’ve prayed in the past? It’s like the story, of a married couple, both 60 years old, who were celebrating their 35th anniversary. During their party, a fairy appeared to congratulate them and grant them each one a wish. The wife wanted to travel around the world. The fairy waved her wand and poof – the wife had tickets in her hand for a world cruise. Next, the fairy asked the husband what he wanted. He said, “I wish I had a wife 30 years younger than me.” So the fairy picked up her wand and poof – the husband was 90.
If our prayers don’t turn out the way we expect we may come to three erroneous conclusions:
1. God is not powerful – a cursory reading of Scripture refutes this statement.
2. God doesn’t love us – again the corpus of Scripture reveals this is not true
3. I’m not faithful enough – Satan can use this to put a load of guilt upon us. You must realize that the reason God answers your prayers is not because of the effort of your prayers but rather it is because we come in the name and authority of Jesus.
If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:14)
It is not because of your efforts that you are accepted by God, but it is because of what Jesus has already done on your behalf. Many times we pray to change our circumstances when God is using your circumstances to change you. Oswald Chambers emphasizes this aspect of prayer,
To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. (My Utmost for His Highest, August 28)
This can be especially challenging because we may hear from well meaning Christians that if you just pray hard enough God will answer your prayer (the way you wanted it answered). They believe that faithful people don’t get sick – the corollary to this myth is that if I am sick it’s because of sin. This is what the disciples believed in John 9 when they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus responded,
“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:3)
The myth that goes with this is that God will always bring healing if you just get the right prayer. Why didn’t someone tell Timothy or Paul that truth so they could have been healed? Paul prayed three times that God would remove his thorn in the flesh but God did something better.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Remember that God knows what He’s doing. Reflect upon the prayer of an unknown confederate soldier,
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was give life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for—but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
The Apostle Peter who endured a great amount of suffering gives this wise advice,
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:19)
May we always live with eternity’s values in mind.
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
Follow me on twitter: rickhiggins5