I recently talked to a man who told me through tears that he had prayed for God to take away his desire to sin, but God had not done so. Why would God not agree to such a request? Is the only answer because we are not praying right? What a depressing thought if obtaining requests depends on perfect prayer!
Four Stories of “Unanswered” Prayer
I. Job, after incredible losses – Job 30:16-31
Job lost his children, wealth, possessions and health. Such extreme losses cannot be measured. In his misery, he was praying (verse 16). He is in great anguish because he does not feel heard. It can seem like God is unfair and not paying attention. We must look at the whole story of Job. What Job received after suffering was a better understanding of God. God became much bigger and Job himself became much smaller in Job’s perceptions as a result of suffering. This opportunity of suffering proved Satan wrong! Job did remain faithful! What would Job have been like if God had immediately restored his fortunes in response to Job’s prayers?
II. King David, regarding his child – 2 Samuel 12:15-20
Was David’s son not restored to health because the king did not pray correctly in some way? There is no evidence of this! Though David had sinned, his prayers were apparently pure and right. Yet David did not get what he wanted because it was not God’s will. God had something more important in mind! (We do not know everything that God sought to accomplish by the child’s death, but certainly it shows the horrendous consequences of sin, often bringing suffering to the innocent.) God did not prevent the child’s death, yet he is still a good God. God is not just working in the physical realm, he also works in the spiritual! (In what ways could the child have been blessed after his death?)
III. Jesus, in Gethsemane – Matthew 26:36-46
Jesus himself experienced a kind of “unanswered prayer.” He asked to have the cup removed from him; he did not get it. Jesus was very grieved, distressed, sorrowful and troubled (verse 37). There is no way to communicate what Jesus was feeling or going through! No one has ever been more innocent than Jesus! How did God not immediately give in so that Jesus would not have to hurt for one more second? God’s plan of salvation was accomplished and we are offered eternal life because God did not “give in” to this part of Jesus’ prayer.
IV. Paul’s thorn in the flesh – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
When Paul says that he prayed “three times” about this thorn in the flesh, it perhaps means a complete, full number of times that he had prayed about this. Whatever distress Paul was experiencing (physical, emotional, etc.), it was indeed painful. We have such a tendency toward pride, stubbornness, and seeking our own will. Paul said this happened to keep him from being conceited. What would happen if we immediately obtained everything that we prayed for? What kind of mess would we make of everything?
Conclusion: Matthew 10:30-31
We must trust that we are valuable to God. May we keep praying and not lose heart!
–Robert Lee, 8-13-06, p.m.