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Prayer Discipline and the Problem of Unanswered Prayer

QUESTION: Prayer Discipline and the Problem of Unanswered Prayer


While unanswered prayer might represent something especially difficult for the severely mistrusting person, we all need to wrestle to the ground the problem—sometimes the huge problem—of unanswered prayer. The promises of Jesus are disconcerting: “All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you” (Mark 11:24). In addition, Jesus told us that our heavenly Father, like our earthly fathers, longs to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). Unanswered prayer can be a huge stumbling block or even the rocks on which faith is shipwrecked. Broadcasting mogul Ted Turner said that he lost his faith when the tsunami of prayer offered up for his terminally ill brother yielded only frustration and ended in fatality. Unanswered pray left him cynical about Christianity.

So how shall we understand this as we practice prayer discipline? How are we to understand the Holy Spirit as God’s abundant answer to our prayers—even those prayers that go “unanswered”? Margaret Manning, with some help from Craig Barnes, pointed to Jesus’ provision of a key anchor for our lives, the Holy Spirit:
    First, what God promises to us through the answer of the Holy Spirit is the promise of God’s presence with us in and through all the circumstances of life. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as the comforter, the one who comes alongside of us. The promise of God’s presence with us sustains us, even when God says “no” to our specific requests. Moreover, God is the answer to our prayers. As M. Craig Barnes, former pastor of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. explains, “To receive Jesus as Savior means recognizing him as our only help. Not our only help for getting what we want. But our only true help.”1

Prayer Discipline and the Good Gift of the Holy Spirit
This “good gift” (Matthew 7:11), the Holy Spirit, hovered over the chaotic waters and created the world filled with beauty and blessing (Genesis 1:2). This same good gift raised Jesus Christ from the dead and raises us to newness of life (Romans 8:11). The gift of the Holy Spirit is the depository of hope that we too can rise from the ashes of the most crushing events and circumstances. . . . “God longs to give to each one of us the supernatural power that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, today and in our lives right now!”2

The spiritual anchors we have from Jesus are linked together. We have his words, his “great and precious promises” (1 Peter 1:4), and we have his Spirit, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). And the link between them is disciplined prayer.

Rendered with permission from the book, Navigating Your Perfect Storm, Dr. Bob Wenz (Biblica, 2010). Compliments of Dr. Bob Wenz and his ministry, Renewing Total Worship. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Margaret Manning, “The Problem of Unanswered Prayer,” A Slice of Infinity, September 2, 2008, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, (accessed May 3, 2010.) Quote of M. Craig Barnes from When God Interrupts (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 124–125.

2 Ibid.

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What do you think?
We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

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