I think we all have them. Times when we have prayed for something and felt like God did not hear us and/or is not answering our prayers.
My 10 year old son experienced this and in a conversation after dinner last night shared with me his hurt around this very subject. He said to me ” Mom, I just feel like God does not answer my prayers” and he started crying. This broke my heart and my brain raced as I tried to come up with the right answer. I immediately prayed a silent prayer “God please help me answer this with your spirit and not mess up my kid” ( that is a topic in of itself left for a later discussion, lol) . After all, I knew this really was not merely about the prayer being answered … but it came down to the fact that he felt like if God did not answer his prayer that meant he did not love him. A very real and raw moment. Although this came from my 10 year old child , how often even as adults we all have this same question, this same hurt, this same reality.
“How come you don’t answer my prayers, God?”
First off and most critically I had to address the most important matter at hand … GOD LOVES YOU! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” John 3:16. No matter what our feelings may tell us we must rely on the truth of God and not how we may feel about Him or how we may feel He feels toward us. An answer to prayer or lack thereof is in no way a measuring stick of His love for us. If we take the bible at it’s word and believe what it says … it tells us that God loves us. We are His creation. He knows every hair on our head , he knows our every thought , and He longs to spend time with us. So even if we feel upset with God or hurt we can proclaim His truth that no matter what He loves us. No where in the bible does it teach us that if God does not answer your prayer than means He does not love you. That simply is not true and comes from only the enemy. So let’s recognize it for what it is and make the choice to believe in His truth that He loves us.
Secondly we talked about what it is that we pray for. I used an example that I could pray for a convertible sports car to show up tomorrow morning and probably would wake up to find no such car in my driveway .(bummer!) He laughed at this and said ” Well, yah Mom … that makes sense “. But I challenged him … sometimes we pray for something that might seem like a perfectly legitimate need to us but God has a wisdom that is so much greater than ours. What it is that we are praying for may be asking for a sports car of sorts . A good example of this might be someone praying to get out of debt. God is a God of miracles and He undoubtedly could perform a miracle to release someone out of debt. But ultimately and most likely the reason why that person is in debt is because of a problem in their lives which requires healing. Simply taking the problem away will temporarily alleviate the symptoms of the problem and since the root cause of the problem still exists the same symptoms or even worse will come up again and again and again. How many times have we witnessed this or even experienced it in our own lives? Consequences are an important part of building our character and through the pain that consequences bring we can heal, learn, and grow. This is much more important than temporarily alleviating our situation. Fortunately, God knows this therefore He would never answer a prayer that would cause us more harm at the cost of our character even if that means we may have to go through some growing pains and struggles. The bible does teach us if we ask we shall receive and many do not have because they do not ask but we have to be careful because it also teaches us … according to His will. We are to bring our prayers to the Lord but God can not deliver that which is not in His will or in other words goes against His character. First and foremost it goes back to the fact that He loves us and anything that He does for us is out of that love. Probably one of the most mature things we can do as Christians when we ask God for something is to trust Him in that if it is something that is not meant for you ,maybe even harmful to you and not part of His plan/will in your life it may not come to pass. But we can rest assure if that is the case that His plan is the best plan , yes … better than ours , even though we may try to convince Him otherwise.
Another dilemma in prayer is that sometimes we treat God like a Genie in a bottle and think we can say a prayer and “poof” it will be done. Prayer takes faith … Jesus tells us in Luke 17:6 that ” … if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains.” Faith is something that is built over time. Sometimes we give up all too easy and don’t stick with it. I personally know people who have prayed for years for family members to be healed of addictions, illnesses, and/or finding God. Sometimes it is not that God is not answering our prayers but that it is not in His timing … right now. He may be working on an aspect of our lives that is ultimately more important and if we are praying for someone else He may be working on that in their lives. As the saying goes “A delay is not necessarily a denial” . Don’t give up , keep praying – that is what faith is all about.
Lastly , I had to be honest with my son. God is a God of mystery too – sometimes there will be things that we don’t understand. I have seen parents with sick children pray for their child to heal and their child suffers and dies … and I can’t understand why. There is a lot of suffering in this world and unanswered prayers around such suffering that I can not explain. But I know that does not mean that God does not care or that He does not love us … that His will sometimes will elude us , it will crush us emotionally, and we will want to scream “Why God , why?” but even in the midst of that we can hang on to the fact that He does love us and He is there and someday we will have a greater understanding. In the meantime – we can take that frustration, that anger, that hurt directly to Him … one of the worst things we can do is to hide from God when we feel hurt by Him … He is God , He can handle it and we really can’t hide anyhow. Take it to Him … yell, scream, cry … whatever … He is your God , a God of relationship.
Will all our prayers get answered ? No. But (not to sound too cliche or hokey) just as the song by Garth Brooks goes ” some of God’s greatest gift’s are unanswered prayers”. Someday we will have the big picture … until then keep praying and keep trusting in Him. It’s a journey well worth traveled.