Writing a blog on prayer is tricky. Before I begin, I want it to be clear that I am a firm believer in prayer. I also want you (as a reader) to know that I raise questions solely for the purpose of opening up discussion about things we have always assumed to be true.
When one looks at prayer, it is quite ridiculous. You are speaking to someone you cannot see. You are requesting something from someone you cannot touch. It is like you are having a conversation with an imaginary friend and everyone around you thinks you have gone crazy. So when you are trying to defend prayer, remember those things.
We praise God when he answers prayers and we curse him when he does not. Non-Christians assume answered prayers are just due to the normal cause and effect of the world and unanswered prayers are further evidence that God does not hear prayers.
If we take the Bible at face value, we should be able to pray and heal people. We should be able to pray and cause miracles. We should be able to pray and accomplish anything to which we set our minds. But there is one small problem: most of the time we see nothing but unanswered prayers and a few answered prayers.
I’ve had people tell me that. I’ve had people tell me that I can accomplish anything with prayer. I’ve gone to conferences where they preach “Prayer is powerful.” I’ve been there. But I’ve also been trapped in a pit of unanswered prayers. I’ve been trapped in that place where I can’t figure out why God answers some prayers and not others. And not only has it made me feel like less of a Christian, it has also made me feel like less of a person.
It is hard to carry on a facade of faithfulness in a pit of unanswered prayers. People ask how we are doing and we say, “Fine. I just gotta keep praying.” In reality, we want to say, “I’m tired of God not answering my prayers.”
Some are quick to argue that God does answer all the prayers, just not the way we would expect it. That is a fine explanation to give to a mother who prayed unceasingly when her child was rushed to the hospital after what turned out to be a fatal car accident. What do you say to that mother? God needed him? The mother needed him. It was God’s will? God’s will is destroying that mother’s faith. What do we say to the unanswered prayers? Perhaps it is better to say nothing. Because when God doesn’t answer prayers, we don’t know what to say, either.
I am disturbed by how comfortable we have become with the cliche answers we give to the question of, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”
In God’s time…
His will, not ours…
Maybe He did answer it, just not in the way you thought He would…
Just keep praying harder…
How do these help? These offer no comfort, no satisfaction, and no encouragement.
We have read countless books on prayer. There are even books on prayers to pray so that God answers your prayers. I find this a little absurd. “No wonder my prayers haven’t been answered! I’ve been forgetting to say, ‘In Jesus’ name!'” I wish it were that easy. I wish there was a formula that would always lead to answered prayers. Unfortunately, I have not found that yet.
What I want to say to you is this: You are not less of a believer if you doubt why God hasn’t answered your prayers. You are not less of a believer if you are angry at God for not answering your prayers. You are not less of a believer if you find yourself in a pit of unanswered prayers.
However, knock down the facade of faithfulness when you are really wanting to curse God for the answered prayers. Seek out your community to pray for you and with you. Will God answer then? I do not know. I wish I did.
When you are in your pit of unanswered prayers, just keep forging through it. There is not much else we can do. It is far better to trust in the maker and sustainer of all things than in ourselves. So continue. If you’re like me, you don’t have much faith that your prayers will be answered. However, keep praying. Keep hoping. Maybe you’ll get out of that pit of unanswered prayers.