Have you ever prayed and had your prayer go unanswered?
I reckon this is one of the most common ‘complaints’ I get. We’re told to pray and everything will be okay. But, most people say “God’s not interested”, “He isn’t listening”, or “He doesn’t answer.”
God always answers our prayers. He does so with one of three responses: Yes, No, and Wait!
We never have a problem with prayer, or God, when we get the answer ‘yes’. But that could be because we get the answer we want.
We mostly have a problem with the answer ‘no’. That could be because we rightly recognise we’re not always wise enough to know exactly what to ask for.
And, we almost always have a problem with the answer ‘wait’. Waiting doesn’t give us anything concrete. We don’t get what we ask for, we get ‘wait’, which could mean ‘not yet, that’s for later’, or ‘wait for circumstances to change’, or ‘even you’ll never get it unless you learn patience’.
Our problem with prayer usually isn’t with God’s answer, it’s with us.
When we ask God for something we do so with very mixed motives. It could be pure selfishness, or it could be ignorance or it could be a lack of wisdom in working out what’s best to ask for. None of these even needs to be deliberate selfishness or ignorance. It could be these things are just a product of ourselves.
So, how do we find a way around this and understand how God always answers our prayers? How can we be satisfied with His answers?
In Luke 11 Jesus says,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
What Jesus does is point us to the basis of prayer from God’s point of view. It means, God will always give us what is best.
Most of the time we don’t get what we ask for because we don’t ask for the best. A rich young man provides a good example. He asked Jesus what he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus said, “Sell all you own, give it to the poor then you’ll have treasure in heaven, then come follow me”.
You can read it in Luke chapter 18.
Sadly the rich young man didn’t do that. He took what he thought was best and settled for something far less than the best God had for him.
Keep praying. You might not like the answer. Be assured, God’s offering you the best of everything.
As C.S. Lewis puts it, “We are far too easily pleased” by C.S. Lewis
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
–C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1949/2001), 26.