Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
In Part 1, I introduced this topic and question, Why won’t God answer my prayers? It seems unfair that many good people have asked, and pleaded over and over for God to answer a prayer. And sometimes it doesn’t happen.
The Apostle Paul introduced Christianity to Europe. He begged God three times for a particular ailment he wanted removed. But it seems there was no answer. I think this means unanswered prayer sometimes happens to the very best of Christians. When it does happen, we can’t explain why. And when it does happen, God has a higher purpose in mind.
In Paul’s case, God finally gave him an explanation: “He said to me, My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak” (2 Corinthians 12:9). What an amazing answer! It’s strange, I know—but sometimes God can do more through us by not answering our prayers, than he can by answering them. Sometimes his ‘no’ is better than his ‘yes’. It’s not an easy thing to say or understand. We may never live to understand why.
‘No’ Is Also an Answer
In any case, his ways are always the best. He loves us dearly. He is totally in control of our lives and knows what is best for us. Maybe we need to ask for understanding and acceptance of what he allows into our lives. Can you trust God that he’s giving you the best, for your life and for all eternity? Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
I think many people over the centuries have asked the question, Why hasn’t God answered my prayers? Some have even given up their faith in protest. But I like how Billy Graham answers:
So often we are inclined to think that the only answer God can give our prayers is ‘yes’. But we need to remember that ‘no’ is an answer also. ‘No’ is certainly an answer of love on the part of our Heavenly Father when we ask him for things which are not really for our good or for his glory. God does not always give us what we want—he gives us what we need. Just as a good parent does not grant all the requests of his child, God does not answer every request in the way we desire.
“God does not always give us what we want—he gives us what we need.” Billy Graham
I think that is a worthwhile answer. We may pray for prosperity, and sometimes financial stress is given. We pray for good health, and we end up with illness or disease. One thing we can be certain of is God makes no mistakes, even if we don’t understand what’s going on.
We may pray for another person, and don’t get the answer we want. Remember God has given each of us a free will. That person may not be listening to God. Don’t despair or give up—keep praying. Our Lord is more concerned for them than you are, and he wants to help them. In 1 John 5:14-15 we read, “We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure our prayers have already been answered”.
Do you want your prayers answered? You need to belong to God. Put him first in your life. This is not an easy issue to understand, as God is bigger than our minds can comprehend. He makes no mistakes, though at times we may question his wisdom. What about our motive? James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”.
Keep Praying—Don’t Give Up
A lady named Angie sent a message on an internet page: “I feel that sometimes I’m afraid to pray because when I pray for something to turn out good, it turns out bad. This happens so often that I won’t pray for family and friends, because I’m afraid that God will do the opposite”. Sometimes God says ‘yes’ quickly, or ‘no’ quickly, and sometimes he makes you wait for the ‘yes’. But nonetheless, keep praying. Don’t give up.
There are hard times we go through which have a strange way of answering prayer. One day the British journalist and Christian Malcolm Muggeridge was being interviewed on TV. He was an old man looking back on his life. “The thing that strikes me most is that suffering teaches me so much. Not success, not happiness, not anything like that. The only thing that really teaches us about life is suffering and affliction.” What a profound understanding Muggeridge had—like the apostle Paul who realised his prayers were answered in the darkness of pain, sadness and despair. We learn many things in the sunlight, but we grow best in the darkness. A lesson not easily learned or accepted.
I want to say again that God does hear every prayer, even the ones he chooses not to answer. No prayer is entirely wasted, for even unanswered prayer may be used by him to draw us closer to him. Most of the time our prayers are selfish. But God has a bigger view of our life. We focus on answers—he wants us to focus on him.
Do you recall the experience of Job from the Old Testament? He lost his home, his fortune, his children, his health and reputation. Everything that was precious was taken away from him in the most tragic of circumstances. When he finally hit the bottom, he was enraged, wishing he was dead. And yet this remarkable man said, “God may kill me, but still I will trust Him and offer my defence” (Job 13:15).
Job wasn’t very happy about life and he blamed God for his misfortunes. But underneath the anger and pain was a solid foundation of faith in God. It was almost like he said, I don’t understand this at all, but I’m hanging onto you, Lord, and I’m not going to let go. In the same way, hang onto the promises of God when you feel he has not answered your prayers.