Have you ever prayed about something and wondered why God did not answer your prayer the way you hoped that he would? Maybe you were dealing with an illness, or a family crisis, or a financial situation, or relationship woes. You prayed and prayed, yet the situation remained unchanged. As a matter of fact, things maybe even seemed to be getting worse. You began to wonder, "Lord, why won't you answer my prayer?" Well, I wanted to share with you a few things that I've observed about answered (or seemingly unanswered) prayer.
First of all, the Lord does things the way that HE wants to do them, which is not necessarily the way that WE want them done. And God does things according to his timing, not ours. For example, I can remember a time when I was dealing with a particular health issue. I wanted the Lord to heal me ASAP! But as I was praying and waiting on the Lord's healing (and it wasn't happening immediately), I began to really think about my body and how I had been treating it, and I realized that there were some changes that I needed to make to be a healthier person. So I kept on praying, but I also started eating better, exercising more, using healthier products, and THEN I experienced God's healing in my life.
My healing came, but it was not immediate. But, you see, if God had immediately answered my prayer and taken that thorn out of my side, so to speak, I probably would not have learned anything. I would not have changed my ways. I would have continued taking my vessel for granted. But God forced me to be patient, to endure discomfort for a while; and then as I waited, He taught me something more valuable than a one-time healing. He taught me a different, better way to live. He taught me to treasure my body, which is fearfully and wonderfully made. He taught me that I need to treat my temple in a way that honors God, and I can do this by being cognizant of what I eat, drink, and how I spend my time. The words in 1 Corinthians explain what I am trying to say: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." God had to remind me of the true meaning of this verse before he could heal me.
Sometimes we have to wait for our prayers to be answered because the Lord wants us to go through something in order for us to reflect and learn the lesson that needs to be learned. Our Heavenly Father is the best parent in the world, and He wants to not only rescue us, but to teach us so that we come out even stronger in the end. Job had to wait, Jonah had to wait, David had to wait, Abraham had to wait, I had to wait, and you will have to sometimes wait. So if your prayers have not been answered, maybe you need to start praying, "God, help me to be patient in my tribulation. Speak to my heart and let me know what changes I need to make in my life so that you can bless my situation and answer my prayer." And then when the Lord starts to reveal things to you, obey His voice and make the necessary changes. Wait on the Lord!
Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer."
Psalm 27:14, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
Psalm 62:8, "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah"
Isaiah 41:13, "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not: I will help thee."
Isaiah 43:2, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Now sometimes prayers will go unanswered because of sin. We live in a time when people want to have their cake and eat it too. Folks want all of the promises of salvation and answered prayer and heaven, yet they also want to fornicate, lie, steal, curse, get high, and live like the heathens around them. Well, God's Word says that you cannot have it both ways. If you are clinging to those things that you know are sinful and against God's commandments, you are not guaranteed God's care and protection. Your prayers may fall flat and go unanswered. Here are several verses that speak on this:
Psalm 34:15-16, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth."
Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
Proverb 15:29, "The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous."
Proverb 28:9, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."
God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does want us to strive against sin and not run to it. He will not bless those who willingly disobey Him. So if your prayers have gone unanswered, you need to be honest with yourself and admit if there are things in your life that you need to stop doing. You need to repent and turn from those sinful situations and ask the Lord to forgive you. Then the Lord's ears will be attentive to your cry. 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place."
Are those sins that you are still committing worth being separated from God? Are those worldly "pleasures" going to be there for you when you need a helping hand? I don't know about you, but I want to know that the Lord will be there for me at the hour. I want my tears to be important to God. I want Him to hear my supplications. I will not let anything separate me from the love of Christ.
And, finally, sometimes the answer to our prayer is "no." Perhaps there is something that we want but it is just not meant to be. In those situations we have to trust that God is in control and that His will and His way is better than what we had in mind.
I remember back when my mom was sick with cancer, I prayed for the Lord to heal her body, but instead my mom died. But even in that situation, I could still say, "Righteous and true is the Lord." You know why? Because I know that God is in control. If God decides that it is someone's time to die, than it is his or her time to die. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Either way blessed be the name of the Lord. We receive good at the hand of God. Shall we not also receive things that make us sad or that we don't quite understand? It is in those times of sadness or pain that we should draw even closer to God. For when we are weak, the Lord will give us strength. The bible even tells us this. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 it reads, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
It is usually when we are in the midst of our most troubling times that we will experience God's love and power in our lives. But, again, we have to have faith and believe that God is in control and rest in His help. And usually we gain our most powerful testimonies, words that will help somebody else, when we have to face hardships or pain and experience God's sufficient grace and strength. How can I help someone go through loss if I've never experienced it myself? How can I show how strong my faith is I've never had to endure anything unpleasant? Again, we have to trust and believe that God is in control, especially when the answer to our prayer is "no." We have to ask Him to give us peace, strength, and understanding. Then we have to believe that HIS way is the right way.
You will not always get everything that YOU want. Death, heartache, storms, and tribulation are going to be part of your life as long as you are here on earth. The question is are you willing to step out on faith and stay close to God no matter what?
And, believe it or not, sometimes "no" is the best answer for the situation. We just may not know it at the time. God sees the beginning, the middle, and the end. He never makes mistakes. We need to pray on our situation and include the words "Lord, if it is thy will" and really mean it. Then if or when the situation does not go according to OUR plan, we will be able to take comfort in the understanding that it must not have been the Lord's will.
Here are some closing verses that I hope will help you in your prayer life:
Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."
Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."
Philippians 4:6, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
1 Timothy 2:8, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."