Unanswered Prayer

Praying

Prayer is one of the primary vehicles of communication we have with God. Sadly it is often reduced to little more than a pre-meal blessing or a divine wish list of things an all-powerful creator, king God can do for us. We pray when we want something. We pray when we need something. We pray when it’s convenient for us. Our prayer isn’t a lifestyle. It rarely boils up out of who we are.

What strikes me is the vast number of “lifetime Christians” I’ve met over the years who are so uncomfortable praying that they can’t even bless a holiday meal when they are surrounded by family. I don’t mean to criticize them and my point is not that they are “bad Christians” but if you knew a couple that had been married for twenty years and the husband was uncomfortable talking to his wife when there were other people around, wouldn’t you start to wonder what was going on?

Prayer is not a public speech. It is not some magical incantation that requires us to craft each line perfectly. Prayer is a conversation. It’s time we take to focus our hearts and minds on God and to see His will and direction for our lives. Prayer is simply talking to God. You don’t need a formula. Talk to Him. Act like He can hear you.

In regards to prayer we have certainly all heard, and likely all said something about unanswered prayers. We throw that term around like it makes sense, like it’s a real thing. Recently I started thinking about it and something snapped. I don’t know what it was but I found the phrase appalling. It seems harmless. In fact, I’m certain most of the time people use it they do so without any negative intent or without any real recognition of what they are saying.

Unanswered prayers don’t exist. If they did it would mean that God heard our call and decided to ignore it. He just hit mute on His prayer phone and let our prayers go to voicemail. A voicemail He had no intention of answering. That is a reality I cannot and do not accept.

Now just because you pray doesn’t mean God is going to respond directly. Just because you ask Him for something does not obligate Him to give it to you or to give it to you in the way you asked or expected. God doesn’t work for you. He’s not the I Dream of Genie lady  just sitting around waiting to give us what we pray for. 

What bothered me about the phrase “unanswered prayer” is that it implies that if God doesn’t do what we want Him to, that meansHe didn’t answer. Couldn’t it just be that His answer was a “NO” or maybe not even a no, maybe just a “wait”. There are even more options. It could be a “yes, but it’s not going to happen like you expect.” 

What God does is not dependent on what we see. Sometimes it’s not until you look back years later that you see how God answered your prayer. The problem is not God ignoring you. The problem is we all have such limited vision that we are incapable of seeing the breathe of what He is doing andhow He is working. Imagine standing on top of a great mountain so high you could see hundreds of miles away but you could see only through a small hole in a sack placed over your head. That’s our vision. No matter how much we turn and look we cannot see everything. Truth is we are missing more than we are seeing.

God answers prayer. That’s what He does. That’s who He is. You don’t call on God without Him answering. That doesn’t mean you will get what you want. It doesn’t mean He is going to do as you say. The fact that nothing in your life seems to change even after you pray it does is not an indication your prayer was unanswered. It is an indication that God’s answer is not what you want or will present itself in a manner you don’t expect.

Stop saying “unanswered prayer” such a thing does not exist. If we start seeing that perhaps we can grow to realize that God is sovereign. He is in control. He has a will and that will isn’t subject to us. God does what He wants, when He wants, how He wants. As creator-king of the universe He has that right. What’s amazing is that He takes time to listen to our prayers, to hear our concerns, and to act upon them. Maybe not in the way or to the degree we want but He acts.