The subject of unanswered prayer is not something that can be dealt with in just a page or two of writing. It takes a whole lifetime of experience, and even then we will not fully understand. As a Life Group we are going through The Prayer Course hosted by Pete Grieg (cofounder of 24/7 Prayer). Today’s thoughts are some of his observations in session 5 of that course. It can be found at prayercourse.org. The course and his book ‘How to Pray’ are both excellent resources and I encourage you to explore more deeply than we can here.
I am sure that we have all prayed and felt at times that God has not answered. One of the most asked questions in life, and most difficult to answer is “If God is all loving and all powerful why does he not do something about. . . .?” Pete Grieg sites three reasons why we may not get the answer we want. God’s World, God’s War, God’s Will.
God’s World : We live in a world governed by the laws of nature and this is needed to maintain stability and order. C.S. Lewis said ‘That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behaviour of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of Christian faith….’ However it would be unreasonable to expect God to answer the prayer for a nice fine day for a wedding at the same time as a prayer of a farmer for rain, or indeed we must recognise that both sides cannot win at football even though fans of both sides want to see their side win!
God’s War : We are in a spiritual battle, and there are principalities and powers opposing God. Sometimes our answers to prayer may be delayed, but we acknowledge that we have read the book, the bible, and God wins the final battle. Until then we have to exercise faith.
God’s Will : Sometimes our prayers are simply not God’s will. I am sure we are all sincere in what we ask for but we must acknowledge we don’t have the full picture, but God does! So our prayers maybe opposed by the laws of nature, the enemy, or by God himself but one thing we must remember is that God’s silence is not God’s absence. Even if we appear not to receive an answer to our prayer we can still choose to exercise faith in God and as this is repeated we become full of faith and our character gains faithfulness. ‘Faith is God’s gift to us. Faithfulness is our gift to him’
If our prayers were always answered positively then prayer would become the logical thing to do. It is when our prayers seem not to be working that we must continue to pray. That is faithfulness. Prayer can be both challenging and exciting, and God’s silence can help us grow. Romans 5 :3-5 (NIV) we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Even Jesus knows what unanswered prayer is like. Talking about all believers, Jesus prayers in John 17 :23 (NIV) May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Has that prayer been answered yet? In the garden before his betrayal Jesus asked his father for another way, but the prayer of relinquishment is the most difficult prayer to pray, Luke 22 :42 (NIV) “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
In Psalm 91 :15 (NIV) God says about the writer of the psalm He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. At the times of our deepest need and God seems silent we just want him to helicopter us out of our situation, but sometimes he parachutes in to be with us even if we don’t recognise his presence, he will bring comfort and guide us through .