We live with unanswered questions.
Things we wonder about but never understand sing an unending drone tone in the back of our minds. Little things almost unrelated to the question will bring the unanswered question to the front of the mind and, turn it over how we might, no answer is found. Something distracts us and we go to whatever is next hoping that we will understand it. We don’t want to think of things without answers, problems with no solution, dilemmas that defy our wisdom, and life-riddles that we cannot seem to solve.
Believers in the Lord Jesus also live with unanswered prayers.
It is not a secret nor is it a shame that we have prayed for things and not received them. It is just a fact of life—of Christian life.
This fact itself is an unanswered question. The Scripture, even the words of Jesus, could not be clearer or less ambiguous. In Matthew, Mark and several times in John, Jesus said something to the effect that all we have to do is ask and we shall receive. Later James and John qualified this promise by adding the provision that you must ask according to God’s will.
But “God’s will” is really not an answer to the problem of unanswered prayer.
When we have prayed for something that clearly is the will of God and there is no answer, does that impugn the character of God?
The enemy, who is the accuser of the brethren, will certainly seize the unanswered question with an accusation that God is not really to be trusted. He does not deal evenhandedly with people: some people get answers to prayer and others do not.
This accusation that God is not really good and doesn’t necessarily tell the truth goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was a lie then and it is still a lie. Perhaps that is why the highest moments of glory in the Old Testament seemed always to feature a song about the eternal goodness of God—“The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”
Come to think of it, this is still the theme of worship.
It is Satan’s business to falsely accuse God as well as us. But Satan is and always will be liar.
So what do we do about unanswered prayer?
When Jesus said “Ask!” He was really saying, “Ask and keep on asking.” In other words:
- Don’t give up on prayer!
- Have faith in the Character of God the Father, “He knows our needs!”
- We are in God’s hands and He is not all perplexed at what to do next.
- Examine the unanswered request to see if it is consistent with the Word of God.
- Search your heart and place your motives before the Lord for His approval. You may be surprised at what the Spirit reveals.
The reasons for unanswered prayers may be many:
- It is out of God’s will for us.
- It is delayed waiting on God’s time.
- It is denied because of danger God sees that we do not see, or perhaps
- It is denied because God has something better for us.
Meanwhile, remember all the answered prayers, recount the faithfulness of God, and recite the promises of God.
These things build your faith while you are waiting for the answer to come.
You’ll find your answered prayers far outnumber the unanswered ones.
Psalm 35 NIV
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. … Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. … I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. …O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. …. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
John 14:13-14 NIV
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
James 4:2-4 NKJV
Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
1 John 5:14-15 NIV
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.
Lord Jesus, the Bible says Your ways are higher than mine and that they are past my capacity to understand. You do not administrate the universe within the limits of my mental powers. I will trust You with the things I do not understand. There is so much that I do understand; these things will sustain me when I am tempted to doubt You. When prayers go unanswered, I will fill those days remembering the many, many prayers that have been answered. Trusting and waiting will be my acts of faith. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
We’ll Talk It Over
Words and Music: Ira Stanphill
1. Tho’ shadows deepen, and my heart bleeds,
I will not question the way He leads;
This side of Heaven we know in part,
I will not question a broken heart.
We’ll talk it over in the bye and bye.
We’ll talk it over, my Lord and I.
I’ll ask the reasons – He’ll tell me why,
When we talk it over in the bye and bye.
2. I’ll trust His leading, He’ll never fail,
Thru darkest tunnels or misty vales.
Obey his bidding and faithful be,
Tho’ only one step ahead I see.
3. I’ll hide my heartache behind a smile
And wait for reasons ’til after while.
And tho’ He try me, I know I’ll find
That all my burdens are silver lined.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved