Monday, July 19, 2010
30 days of prayer in the home -- Day 27
Unanswered prayer? Part I:
Have you ever been mystified because your prayers were not answered in the way you thought they'd be at the exact time you expected? This subject -- akin to why God allows us to suffer at times -- is a) larger than the scope of a few blog articles and b) one that I'm sure others are more qualified to speak to than I am. However, I would like to throw out a few thoughts as a starting point for study.
What are some reasons why our prayers might not be answered exactly as we envisioned?
1) God is a loving Father. Fathers must sometimes say "no" or "not yet" to some of their children's requests. Any of us who are parents have been faced with choosing what is best for our child in the long run versus what our child wants in the moment. How much more does our Heavenly Father, who is all knowing and all wise, have our eternal best interests at heart?
Once, out of the blue, my husband was offered a job doing exactly what he loves to do, along with a large salary and a big signing bonus. The more we prayed about how much we wanted this job, the more circumstances pointed us in another direction. My husband declined the offer, and we moved to another town for family and spiritual reasons. Less than a year later, the company that had made the offer was re-organized, and the position my husband would have taken was eliminated. What had at first appeared to us to be "a dream job" probably would have been a nightmare if my husband taken it. We also have many other reasons to be thankful that we were directed down another path. Our Heavenly Father always knows what is best!
2) Our Heavenly Father cares about our attitudes and relationships. Sometimes, our prayers are hampered by sin that we have not dealt with either in our hearts or in how we treat others.
James 4:1-3 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
I Peter 3 teaches husbands to be considerate of their wives so their prayers will not be hindered.
Mark 11 tells us, "Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe you will have it. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in Heaven will forgive your sins, too."
James Chapter I teaches us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."
This calls for prayer in itself. We can ask God to show us anything in our hearts and our lives that would hinder our relationship to him. Generally, we tend toward one of two opposing poles: 1) We are oblivious to our own faults and blame God and others when things don't go as we imagined they would or b) We assume that if a prayer is not answered in the way we thought it would be that it is because God is angry with us or disappointed with us. If we tend to be either under-sensitive or overly self-condemning, we will need help from God and, perhaps, from godly friends to help us put things in true spiritual perspective.
Likewise, we must be cautious about presuming that we know exactly what God is working out in our or another person's life. Job's friends, for example, sought to comfort him when he experienced a string of tragedies. They ended up being poor counselors, because they assumed they knew exactly why Job was suffering, and they voiced their theories in lectures. They failed to give Job true support. They placed undue blame on Job. God was not pleased with their presumption.
There is a time to lovingly confront others about sin in their lives, provided that we stick within scriptural guidelines for doing so. Though we are called to help each other, we must do so with gentleness and humility. Many a sensitive soul has been burdened because someone said to them, "Your prayer wasn't answered because you didn't have enough faith or because you must have some hidden sin in your heart." Oftentimes, when we say or even think such things, we are making a judgment that we should not make. Sometimes, we do so because we don't know what else to say to someone who is hurting. In such cases, it is better to listen and give a hug or pray with the person than to offer a hasty platitude.