Unanswered Prayer – Unheard Answers
Are you experiencing unanswered prayer? Does God turn a deaf ear to some of your desperate pleas for healing, finances, or protection? We all experience irritation when our best efforts to communicate result in an unsatisfactory response -- or worse, no response at all. We wonder, “Did you ever receive my message?” When we pray, we often equate the lack of immediate tangible results with God rejecting our prayers. In James 5:13-16 we are urged to pray earnestly with the promise of “powerful and wonderful results.” Why would God emphasize the importance of prayer and then choose not to respond with a joyful answer?
When answering prayer, God responds first to our attitude, much as a parent responds to a precious child (Psalm 103:13-14). Our childish actions and attitudes frequently affect a prayer’s desired results. Unforgiveness (Mark 11:24-25), selfishness (Proverbs 21:13), doubt (Matthew 21:21-22), greed (James 4:2-3), pride (2 Chronicles 7:14-15), and stubbornness (Zechariah 7:11-13) hinder God’s desire to answer prayer.
Unanswered Prayer – Unexpected Answers
Prayer is not a casual one-sided conversation. It is not “back-up insurance” guaranteeing a life free from pain and struggles. Prayer is actively acknowledging God as the source of all power and trusting that His answers, whether expected or unexpected, will accomplish greater things (Isaiah 46:9-10; Isaiah 64:4).
Matt and our daughter, Jackie, both musicians, became close friends. As a drummer, he would play back-up whenever she sang with the worship band. Matt’s deepest desire was to teach God’s Word and perhaps enter the ministry. Their common interests drew them closer. As a high-school junior, Jackie hoped to attend the same out-of-state university as Matt. Then, Matt was diagnosed with advanced lymphatic cancer. Jackie says, “I had great faith that God would heal Matt. He had such a passion to be a pastor, teaching others. I knew God wouldn’t take his life because Matt could make such a difference in this world.” She prayed for his healing.
In September of Jackie’s senior year, Matt died. Jackie responded with anger and disbelief with God for seemingly not answering her prayers: “Initially, I blamed God. Later, I blamed myself, thinking I didn’t pray hard enough, or maybe I accidentally missed praying one day.” Following graduation, Jackie began attending a Christian university. Through friends, she began releasing the pain and grief locked inside, eating away at her in solitude. “Once I actually voiced my suffering to another, the healing began, and I experienced God’s love and strength again” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
Matt had taught all of us that he valued his eternal relationship with God more than any temporary life he had on earth. We had all prayed for Matt to live, and God answered with a wondrous “YES!” (John 11:25). In the last semester of our daughter’s junior year in college, she met Michael. “I was first attracted to Mike’s intense love for God. I knew God was accomplishing His plans in all our lives.” Today, Michael serves the Lord, teaching and sharing God’s love with intense passion. And when Jackie sings of God’s greatness, her devoted husband, Michael, accompanies her on the conga drums (Jeremiah 29:11).
Unanswered Prayer – Understanding Answers
Sometimes, God will answer, “No” to our desperate prayers. Any delay or unexpected outcome must not dishearten us. What is God’s true purpose in answering our prayers (John 14:13)? What does God want to complete in us through prayer (John 16:23–24)? God wants us to bring our every need to Him as He answers (yes or no) according to His character and will. God will never grant requests contrary to His will. While receiving a “Yes” usually makes us happy, God never promised us happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances. God wants us to have everlasting joy -- especially when He responds, “No, it will be done in My time, not yours. No, I will reveal My glory.”
In Luke 22:41-44, Jesus agonized over the events leading up to His death. In fervent prayer, His greatest desire was to give preeminence to God’s will, not His suffering and pain (Hebrews 12:2). When we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), God always responds, and every answer brings joy.