And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.1 John 5:15
Have you ever prayed for something with the intensity of Hannah’s prayer for a child, only to be met with utter and complete silence? Spending days and nights petitioning the hand of God to act on your behalf in regard to some specific matter. Pleading with Him, trusting fully that with a simple command he could completely change your situation, only to see the situation get worse? How do you respond when you have unanswered prayer?
We’ve all been there in a state of confusion or doubt, left wondering and trying to piece together understanding. I know I have.
I was frustrated with the knowledge that God could have done the impossible but chose not to answer my prayer. I struggled with the acceptance of God’s sovereignty. Grudgingly I held my fragile faith together while trying in my human ignorance to understand God’s omniscience.
Sweet friends, frustration does not have to be our answer to God’s seeming silence. There is however hope in unanswered prayers.
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What Causes unanswered prayer?
We serve an all knowing God. He was present before time and he will be at the end of time. We pray based off of our limited human experience, but if we are honest, and recall every prayer we have ever prayed, we don’t want God to answer all of our prayers.
We have to learn that if I were to demand that God answered all of my prayers, the way I pray them, I would be living a life of less. He knows the plans HE has, I can only pray from the limits of my humanity. There are several scriptural truths to remind us that an unanswered prayer can in some instances be a huge blessing for us. I’d like to highlight a few.
Truth 1: We don’t always know what to pray for
The bible says in Romans 8:26, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
In this passage of scripture we are told that we won’t know what we are supposed to pray for. Now don’t get me wrong, we know our current needs, we know our desires, we know the things that God placed on our hearts, and we should be bringing those things to God, but we must understand that through grace we get the Holy Spirit as a translator who changes our broken fragments of desires and magnifies them into requests that line up with the will of God in our lives.
Truth 2: God’s protection is found in unanswered prayer
God is good. This is a fact that we must be sure of. We must repeat it, and remember that though we live in a world of choice, and full of sin, God is victorious over it all, and he can take our choices and make them submit to his will, turning them for our good.
In the same way, when we pray for things that may harm us in the end, he is graceful to keep us from that thing. Because he is not bound by time, he sees what traps we may walk into if he allows that thing which we desire so much at this moment to remain in our grasp.
Have you ever prayed for direction in a career move or position, only to find out later that the move was not only a fleeting passion, but completely wrong for you? I have seen this happen in my own life with relationships, school choices, and career choices.
In each situation, I cried out to God in my frustration, wondering why he hadn’t answered as I wished, and in each of those situations as time turned to wisdom, I saw that his withholding was not to keep me from good, but to protect me from a desire that was less than his perfect plan.
If we believe the promise of Psalm 84:11 to be true, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Then we must also be sure of the opposite, if he withheld it, it was not for our good.
Truth 3: We aren’t praying big enough prayers
God is God! He knows all, sees all, is ever present. He was there at the beginning and will be there into our future and beyond. He has plans that he wants us to participate in. Plans that can only be accomplished through Him, in His power. Plans that we cannot even begin to fathom or imagine. He is a God of overflowing abundance. We are told in Ephesians 3:20 that he can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
I keep a prayer journal, a book that I can write down my hopes, dreams, desires, and fears to God as an extended memory, and occasionally I will read back over it. I do this to remind myself of all the things God has brought me to and through.
I am particularly astonished when I am reminded of prayers that were asked out of a basic need, but were answered based on a perfect God. Greater than I could ever imagine. I’ve found that in these cases God not answering my prayer to the letter of my request meant that I received a promise much greater than my human vision could have dreamed, and I am so very grateful for this.
How do we deal with unanswered prayers?
Sometimes our prayers that are left unanswered are delays instead of an outright no. Responding to God with praise and worship for his faithfulness to us should be our posture. There are a few ways that we can pass the time waiting for God’s answer.
Be expectant of God’s Voice
God desires relationship with us and he speaks often. Sometimes its regarding the big decisions in our lives, but in order for us to be sure of his voice in the big things, we must tune into His voice on the little things, in the little moments. This builds trust.
Changing our understanding of how our conversations with God work, opens our hearts to find so many new ways that God is speaking to us. Whether it be in dreams, in visions, through studying his Word, through others, in worship or in the Spirit. Our confidence grows with each new encounter of God’s presence when we are completely devoted to being expectant of his voice.
Remove distractions that keep you from hearing God’s answer to your prayers
Sin is the number one separator between us and God. Because there is no sin in Him, He cannot inhabit the place where sin is, it grieves the holy spirit. The enemy uses this separation to fill us with guilt to keep us separated. What’s interesting is God already knows, so it’s not like prayer is going to stop him from speaking to you because he already knows what you have done. He is just waiting for you to say it in your own words.
Another major distraction that keeps us from really tuning in to what God has to say is the voice of others. Who are your friends, who or what are you spending a majority of your time with/on. What we put into us is what will come out of us. The chatter of other voices is like trying to fine tune your radio with your cell phone close to the receiver, it becomes difficult to get a clear signal.
Praise him in advance of his answer
The bible says that God inhabits the prayers of his people. He delights in our thanksgiving, in our praises and our acknowledgement of him in our life. As he delights in our devotion, he begins to reveal pieces of the journey he wants to walk with us! As we praise him in advance we prepare the atmosphere for which he can reach down and light our next steps, an atmosphere where he can whisper words of love over our hearts.
Prayer is our means of communication with our Father in heaven, but we must remember that conversation is a two-way street. We present our requests to God and he answers with a response based on his infinite knowledge. Keep this scriptural encouragement in mind when the silence seems deafening, know that he is God, he sees all, he knows all and he cares for you.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Hearing Gods voice can be tough if you aren’t prepared to receive the message. My prayer for each of us is that we would be constantly positioned to be wrapped in the Lords words for us! Try these techniques and let me know how they work for you! And remember as always, he’s provided the grace you need to grow in this practice! Be bold in that grace!