“I’ve prayed and prayed, and God doesn’t answer.” How many times have I heard that from frustrated people? I have voiced the same complaint. Faith and hope beckon to me with peaceful smiles on one side of an abyss while disappointment sighs and resentment scowls on the other side. That last one snaps its fingers ordering me to join them. How am I supposed to avoid so much negativity and lean toward faith’s glorious promises in the midst of unanswered prayers?
The Bible instructs us to pray believing. For someone’s salvation, for the basics necessary to life, for healing. If I am to pray believing, then I am to be expectant each day. This may be the day! And if God does not answer this day with “yes,” then I am to carry on peacefully and joyfully, persisting into tomorrow with the same prayer.
What about the complaint that I opened with? If God promises to answer our prayers,if He promises to give us the desires of our hearts, especially if we desire the salvation of someone, why doesn’t He? Is it His fault – does He not keep His promises? I can think of three possible answers, and I’m sure there are several more.
1. One of God’s promises regarding answered prayers comes from Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Ah, there’s a condition attached to that promise. Is Jesus my delight? Is joy and peace in Christ a way of life for me? Or do I run to Him with my petitions when I need help but otherwise don’t give Him a whole lot of thought?
Evaluation Question 1: Do I really delight in God’s presence in my life every day? If the answer is no, God has no obligation to answer my prayers. He often does anyway, but He doesn’t have to.
2. God also promises to say yes if you pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14). That’s not a magic formula. “In the name of Jesus” is not to be used in the same fashion as “Abracadabra.” “In the name of Jesus” indicates that I know He has all the authority, and I have none. He has all the wealth and power in the universe and beyond. I am weak and penniless by eternal standards. When I come to Him with my requests, I must acknowledge that my own account is worthless.
Evaluation Question 2: Do I realize that I’m asking God to benefit me with funds from His bank, that I have no riches of my own other than what He chooses to give me?
3. Give it time, yes, more than you want to give. So many of our prayers hinge on someone else’s will. God is not going to override that. Otherwise, humans would be robots. But He does know how to bring someone around to His way of thinking. Let Him work it out. Persuading people to change their minds takes time. It requires offering them a series of choices and letting them learn from the consequences of each decision. It depends on the individual’s stubbornness as to how many choices must be offered before the person “sees the light.”
Evaluation Question #3: Am I willing to give God as much time as He needs to put everything in place so my prayer will be answered? If the answer is “no,” if I’m not willing to keep praying–for decades if that’s what it takes–then how much do I really care?
Don’t think I’m a pointing a finger at you. I’ve had to ask myself the same questions. After twelve years of prayer for one person, I get discouraged. Then I remind myself. God is God, and I am not. I return to my knees, and when I rise to my feet, my peaceful heart is ready to move on with the tasks of the day.
And maybe today is the day when Jesus says, “Yes.”