This week I want to consider the dilemma of unanswered prayer.
You are most likely familiar with the promises in the Scriptures about prayer – such as:
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. – Matthew 18:18,19 ESV
For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:21 ESV
Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7 AMP
Yet sometimes when we do all these things as best we can, much to our dismay, prayers aren’t answered the way we hoped.
The first thing I think of is that this is one of life’s mysteries that we will never fully understand. We have to learn to accept the mystery and not be discouraged from praying because some prayers aren’t answered in the way we’ve asked. Keep on praying, seeking and knocking! God is with us no matter what.
The second thing I think of is Paul’s thorn:
The extraordinary level of the revelations I’ve received is no reason for anyone to exalt me. For this is why a thorn in my flesh was given to me, the Adversary’s messenger sent to harass me, keeping me from becoming arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 TPT
It’s clear that whatever Paul’s thorn is, it was from our adversary the devil. God wasn’t the author of it, but He did allow it because it was helping Paul to stay humble and dependent on Him.
Paul goes on to say:
For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians: 10 ESV
Last but not least, I think of the example of the example of Jesus in Gethsemane:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39
Wow. Really not the answer He was hoping for. Yet he didn’t let it derail Him. He embraced His Father’s loving will and trusted He knew best. For Jesus the cross was unavoidable for our sakes. It’s also unavoidable for us.
I’ve been extremely blessed to be a part of a faith-filled praying community for many decades. Many prayers have been answered for many people, and I’m testifying that my own body and soul have been healed sometimes as a result of them as well. But there are also a number of prayers we have prayed for a long time, faithfully, yet in those cases prayers were not answered the way we hoped.
- So, we continue to trust in the goodness of our God, to hope for the future, and to persevere in prayer.
- We embrace the weakness that suffering creates as a blessing that keeps us leaning on our beloved, dependent on Him, so that His strength can be seen and perfected in our weakness.
- We go to the cross in the midst of our sufferings and emerge with resurrection life on earth sometimes now, fully in the life to come. We remember that we won’t have everything in this age, our ultimate hope is in the new heavens and new earth where sorrow and suffering will be no more.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
Prayer is never wasted!
With love and prayers,