This week I am focusing on various aspects of prayer. I will offer theological, historical and practical perspectives on prayer. I hope this week (the first week of Pentecost on the traditional church calendar) will encourage you to enter into prayer both for a personal renewal and a renewal and growth of the Christian faith worldwide. Join me throughout the week for various thoughts and resources on prayer and living a more prayerful life.
Recently Tim Challies touched on the reality of unanswered prayer. From the local church prayer circle, the matter of unanswered prayer is a consistent query. Challies relates the struggle to the same one the disciples had following the death of Christ. He provides some helpful concluding thoughts:
They just needed to wait. It all became clear in time. And we often find ourselves in the same place. When we pray, and pray earnestly, and praying desiring God’s glory and fame, we know that he will answer and will give what we desire most. But we need to be patient. Like the disciples, we need to look to past, present and future with eyes of faith, trusting that in time everything will become clear.
Prayer is fueled by faith. This objective is most challenged, however, in the midst of unanswered prayer. When a loved one continues to suffer due to illness, we question if our prayers are being heard. When a son or daughter goes astray, we ask if our crib-side intercessions were received. When the potential employers continue to reject us, we wonder if God stopped listening. The realities of a fallen world filled with fallen human beings make us doubt that God even cares. Whatever the situation in life, we all experience the tension of unanswered prayers.
Whenever people have asked me what to do when you don’t feel like God is listening, I also reply with the same answer. Keep praying. God is listening. He has listened and he will continue to listen. We must recount the faithfulness of God, both in Scripture and in our lives. Turn not to despair, but to the hope. Trust that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Rely on the promises the Christ has made to his people, that he will never leave or forsake you (Matt. 28:20). In a journal or with a friend, recount the ways God has been faithful in caring for you. In this way we can put unanswered prayers in perspective. Lastly, don’t neglect to pray for others just because you may not see the answers to some prayers. Pray that your faith and love for others may continually be increased (Luke 17:5-10; 1 Thess. 3:12).
May the reality of unanswered prayer lead us back to our knees and remind us of a God who knows what we need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8).
HT: Tim Challies