What to do when prayers seem to fail.
Have we missed God’s answer?
What if a simple answer from God is not possible?
There should be a way forward.
Importantly, please read the introductory article, “Prayers of request” to this subsection of the website before going on. It presents an overview of why and how we pray.
And look, it may be best if you read all of the articles in this subsection – before putting any of their guidance to use. That approach will ensure you do not take any of the Bible-based advice out of context, which might weaken your results.
(To read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
One of those articles, “Prayer methods” in this subsection, explained how to improve the likelihood of getting positive answers to our prayers of request.
This particular article firstly explains how to evaluate unanswered prayers, that seem to us to have a ‘just cause’. And finally, it suggests what we can do when a prayer, that seems reasonable, is genuinely overdue?
2. CHECK FOR OVERLOOKED ANSWERS
It is certainly true that some prayers, and their answers from God, can just be plain overlooked by us. In the interests of continuing the growth of our Christian faith and belief in God, it is a very good idea to check out the results of our past prayers. This particularly applies to beginner Christians.
So, as suggested in the opening article, “Prayers of request”, it is a great idea to use a prayer journal. Prayer requests should simply be ‘stated and dated’ as such in our journal. Then of course we need to regularly track God’s responses to those requests.
It is also important, once again as in any relationship, to offer thanks to God when requests are answered.
3. CHECK FOR UNEXPECTED ANSWERS
Looking back occasionally over past prayers is necessary if we are to fully understand what God has actually done in answer to our requests.
Very importantly too, we must look closely for unexpected or alternative answers to our prayers. These may only become noticeable through the passing of time, if we do actually follow up on prayers.
Due to our human nature, it is not unusual for us to have impractical expectations when we do pray. We just do not have the benefit of God’s all knowing ability. So it should not be surprising that God’s answers to some of our prayers will differ from the outcomes we had hoped for.
We come to more easily understand why prayers have been answered in unexpected ways as we mature in our thinking and knowledge over time. Again, this has nothing to do with wishful thinking, or desperately trying to explain away unanswered prayers.
4. IS THE TIMING RIGHT?
Now, I mention again and again through this website, that God knows absolutely what is best for each of us. And in the case of timing his answers to our prayers, we must trust that he alone knows when it is best to answer each of them.
In other words, God may have not answered a prayer simply because it is not the right time to do so. As such, we do need to have patience sometimes. And we do need to examine the issue of timing for ourselves.
5. DEALING WITH UNANSWERED PRAYERS
So how do we deal with prayers, that we believe have a ‘just cause’, but have genuinely gone unanswered for lengthy periods?
5.1 A simple answer is not always possible
A major piece of advice is: when things are not working out on an issue that is ‘big time’ in our lives – despite our continued prayers and waiting in vain – then it is appropriate to accept that a simple answer from God is not possible.
In circumstances where a prayer just seems not to be working, what we need to do firstly is to ‘sacrifice’ our concerns. I mean we accept that the prayer cannot be answered in its current form. After all God does know best.
We must accept that!
5.2 Hand over the issue in trust
Then we must hand over the whole issue to the Lord in faith and trust.
With as much confidence you can muster, tell the Lord you are doing just that. That is, putting the matter into his loving hands, allowing him to deal with it through his ‘grace!’
And, at ‘the end of the day’, there really is no value in stressing ourselves unduly over any issue.
Sure, what I am talking about here is a ‘place’ of deep faith and also accepting just what power we all have at our disposal as a result. Again, I am talking about ‘trusting in God’.
Essentially, what is called for here is faith and patience.
5.3 He does not let us down
I will ‘go out on a limb’ and state that when you actually do look back on the situation ‘after the dust has settled’, you will know that you have not been let down by our loving God. At the minimum, you will know that.
If you can get your mind to that place mentioned above, and just let go, then God will truly bring about the best possible option for all concerned. That is what God knows will best suit your life/ faith journey.
This prayer of faith and trust also relates to the article, “God’s helping hand”. Although it may feel risky to just leave these things up to God rather than ask for (or expect) specific outcomes, God is obviously in a position where he knows better than us. And that refers here to what is best for all concerned in the long run.
6. WHEN WE ARE ‘OUT OF SYNC’ WITH GOD
It also appears that – as with God cutting us adrift temporarily when we disobey his ‘leadings‘ and act wrongfully – he may not always assist as strongly as is possible. That is particularly so if we wilfully follow a way of life that we know he forbids (i.e. wrongful or ‘sinful’). And look, our inappropriate behaviour should be clear to us. He will make sure of that!
We must try our hardest to live ‘faithfully’.
Our own behaviour then can itself be a reason for unanswered prayers.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to his prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
[1 Peter 3:12]
I do not believe, even then, that he cuts anyone completely adrift in life. If you know in your heart that ‘sin’ is the reason for your unanswered prayers, then it may be time to rethink your life. Probably, like me in my past, you will work out that confessing your failures to God, changing your ways, then again moving forward in life with him is the best decision.
I mean getting back ‘in sync’ with him, and live faithfully! The “Journey of faith” section (see the Menu bar above) contains guidance on this stuff. Try reading “Sound faith” and “What does faith offer us?”.
This is the last article in the subsection, “Prayers of request”. Those types of prayer are useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they can lead to smoother, more contented and purposeful lives if we use them appropriately. Secondly, they can help build our Christian faith, i.e. as a result of recognising our loving God at work within our lives in this manner.
This and the articles before it, will hopefully lead to greater success in your prayers of request.
I will say at this point though, that there is more to prayer than just asking for stuff from God. For example, prayer has an important role in enhancing our one-on-one relationship with him. You see he does wants us to love him more and more as time passes. Continue to the next article, “Mature prayer”.
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