Unanswered prayer is a big issue for people who are accustomed to getting answers when they want them.
Perhaps we have unrealistic expectations for quick solutions to all our problems. If we approach God on these terms, we’ll be in for a surprise. He doesn’t operate on our time table and He teaches many valuable lessons in His waiting room.
Where does our thinking break down?
We humans are fallen beings who rejected God’s very good earth for one that is under a divine curse characterized by a sin-suffering-death cycle. Because of our rebellion against the Creator, we live with far less than the “very good” world our loving Maker first provided and far less than the world He will one day give to us (Revelation 21:1-5). Knowing this truth should protect us from misguided expectations about prayer.
Yet while life in this cursed world is lived in the reality of our fallenness, we must insist by faith to live with a deeper, hope-filled recognition that Christ redeemed us from the curse… by being made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)! He secured for us a future place of “no mores”– “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
With this in mind, I am concern about three interrelated practices among Christians:
- How we talk to God (prayer)
- How we believe God speaks to us (revelation)
- How we talk about God (testimonies, God-sightings)
We must to do a better job guiding new believers in these three areas. If we leave them to trial and error, they’ll experience many frustrated detours on the journey. Shouldn’t those who have been on the journey much longer guide those who are new to it? Shouldn’t we teach them: How to pray? How to hear God’s voice? How to testify to His work?
In his recent book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey confessed that, “most of his struggles with the Christian life come down to two themes: Why God doesn’t act the way I want Him to, and Why I don’t act the way God wants me to.”
On the matter of unanswered prayer (why God doesn’t act the way I want Him to), we have all been perplexed. “I readily confess” Yancey wrote, “that I tend to view prayer through a skeptic’s lens, obsessing more about unanswered prayers than rejoicing over answered ones.”
The late Martyn Lloyd-Jones acknowledged that, “Of all the activities in which the Christian engages, and which are part of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much perplexity, and raises so many problems, as the activity which we call prayer.”
Yancey concluded that, “Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God.”
“In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”
(See also: When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer:…by Gerald Lawson Sittser).
See: “Deep thoughts about prayer”