The Issue of Unanswered Prayer

I love to teach and preach on prayer!  My library is filled with books about prayer and I would guess that I read at least one or two articles and blog posts every week on the subject. As any believer would likely know, the Bible is filled with literally dozens of truths and promises related to prayer.  Philippians 4:6 is one of my favorites: “be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  My wife loves Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” Psalms 81:10 is a favorite as well – “I am the Lord thy God, . . . open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.”  All of those are blessed promises from our loving Father!

The issue for so many of us, however, is what do you do when you prayed in faith and God did not answer?  That is a fair question!  For me, the question is answered in a proper understanding of the word faith.  

Faith is a multifaceted word. It is not blind, but is based on its focus, or what many call its object. The object, or focus, of faith is God!  Because He is our God and because He is Almighty, we come to Him in prayer.  In fact, He invites us to do so. We know that He cares about us and about our needs (“casting all your care on him, for he careth for you” I Peter 5:7).  We know that He is good (“for the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations” Psalm 100:5).  We also know that God invites us to pray, over and over and over again.  He tells us what to pray (think of the Lord’s prayer) and how to pray (with thanksgiving and with fasting and with holy hands and so forth).  As a result of these truths, we pray in confidence.  We know God is able to answer our prayers and He is the one who has told us to pray. We know that He has answered many prayers for us and for others. We read about miracles and marvel that He has such amazing power.  So, we pray in confidence.  And I would suggest that we should always pray in confidence, even when we aren’t sure whether we are asking for the right thing or not.  Confidence is an important part of praying in faithI.

There is another side to the word faith, however.  Faith is not only a matter of confidence but also a matter of trust. The first word assures us that God is able. He is Almighty. The second word, trust, assures us that He is good.  For instance, I can confidently pray for healing, knowing that my God is able to heal. He may do it miraculously or use medicine to heal me, but prayer is vital to the process.  I can pray about all my needs, confident that He has promised to take care of me.  He is really that powerful!  Remember when he fed Elijah at the Brook Cherith? If He can take care of Elijah, he can certainly take care of me and you.  The second word, trust, is as essential as the first one and is just as much a matter of faith. For instance, I can confidently pray for healing and simultaneously trust that God is good and may have other plans.  After all, we do live in a sin-cursed world and sometimes sickness is the way we exit time and enter eternity.  We can confidently pray for a wayward son or daughter, while simultaneously trusting God to continually work in their heart and life.  We know that God will never force us against our will, but will gently and patiently work in a heart, even over an entire lifetime.  When we are praying, He is working.  That is confidence.  And when we are praying, we are in good hands.  That is trust.  Both are an essential part of faith.

You find both truths in one of the classic stories of the Bible – the three Hebrews facing Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace.  They expressed confidence when they said “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of your hands, and he will” (Daniel 3:17).  That is an amazing statement of confidence in God!  The next verse, however, reveals their trust.  “He will deliver us,” they said, “but if not . . . we will not serve thy gods” (Daniel 3:18).  Can you see here how the two work together?  They always go together!

Can I invite you to pray about everything?  Pray as confidently as you are willing to pray, and trust God as you do. He is good and He loves us and He is “working all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28).  It is always hard when you and I feel and face the effects of the curse of sin in our lives and in the lives of those whom we love.  In the middle of it all, keep praying! 

What are your thoughts? How can I pray for you? I would love to hear from you . . .

Thanks for reading.

Your sincere friend,

Dave Young

4 thoughts on “The Issue of Unanswered Prayer

  1. I shared this with my husband and children last night. This was simple but profound. I have prayed many verses of Scripture back to the Lord because I know He can do anything. That is praying in faith. But in order for me to persevere in prayer, I need trust that my Father knows best, and He is at work even if I have to pray about something for the rest of my life. This was a tremendous help to me.


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