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The Problem of Unanswered Prayer

posted Jun 17, 2014, 11:54 AM by First Baptist


Last week, I asked whether you consider prayer a duty or a delight. In other words, is it an obligation (like flossing your teeth at night), or something you truly enjoy and look forward to?


I’d like to stay with the subject of prayer and address the issue of unanswered prayer. How’s that for a topic?


Years ago, during “testimony time” at the church I was attending in Minnesota, a gentleman excitedly told the congregation how God had answered his prayer to “close” on a particular sale. As he was relating his story (giving glory to God), I looked over at a young couple who had recently lost a child to cancer.


I wondered how they were processing this.


Surely they had prayed fervently for God to heal their child. Why didn’t He? Was their faith inadequate compared to the salesman’s? Didn’t God care about them as much as He cared about him? Is there any rhyme-or-reason to how God answers prayer? It sure doesn’t seem like it sometimes.


The Bible is filled with examples of unanswered prayers. As I explained a couple of Sundays ago, there’s an entire category of psalms called Psalms of Lament, which are basically prayers that God has not yet answered (and it remains to be seen whether He ever will).


Another example is the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” that he asked God three times to take away (II Corinthians 12:7-8). Then, of course, there is Jesus’ request in the Garden of Gethsemane that “this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:36-38).


What about YOUR unanswered prayers? Surely you have them.


Here’s the key thought:


Regardless of how you might feel, or how things might appear, for the child of God, there is NO SUCH THING as an unanswered prayer. It’s just that our Father in heaven, who is perfect in wisdom, reserves the right to answer our prayer in the best way and at the best time.


So, the problem of unanswered prayer is really a problem of waiting . . . waiting on God’s answer. While waiting, God wants us to keep praying, or what one theologian refers to as “hanging on.”


“Hanging on” can be incredibly difficult, but there are three reasons why God might want us to persist in our prayers:


1)      Having to persist in prayer purges our selfishness.

2)      Having to persist in prayer purges our immaturity.

3)      Having to persist in prayer purges our tendency toward ingratitude.


And so, my dear brother or sister, I encourage you to trust God with your seemingly unanswered prayers. Your answer is coming; His timing and way is perfect.


Pastor Dan