Why Some Prayers Go Unanswered
Scripture is full of promises about answered prayer, about asking and receiving. Yet some of our most fervent prayers seem to go unanswered. Friends die of cancer, marriages come apart and people lose their jobs despite repeated pleas to God that these things won’t happen.
The problem of unanswered prayer is one people have been dealing with for as long as people have prayed. There isn’t an easy explanation, and it’s an issue we won’t fully understand this side of Heaven. However, here are some reasons that theologians have posited over the years.
God Knows Better Than We Do
God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He loves to give us good things, but He’s in charge and He knows what’s best.
If we are parents, think of the requests our children make. Often we refuse them because their desire would not be good for them or because we have something better in mind. Sometimes what they want would interfere with what is best for someone else.
Children sometimes don’t understand why we act as we do. As God’s children, we cannot always expect to understand God’s actions.
God Does Not Remove All Suffering
One of the most difficult questions of faith is why we suffer. There’s no easy answer. Yet Jesus suffered, and surely we cannot expect suffering to always pass us by. In Gethsemane, Jesus fervently prayed to be spared what He was about to go through. He was not spared, and as a result, salvation came to the entire world. Our suffering will not accomplish as much, but who other than God can say what the result might be?
Some Requests Are Not Compatible with God’s Universe
If two opposing athletes pray in faith to win their contest, which prayer will be answered? At least one of them will not.
Also, God will not take away someone’s free will in order to answer another person’s prayer. We may pray that our boss won’t lay us off, but God will not take away their free will to make that decision.
Sometimes the Answer Is Not What We Expect
Sometimes the answer is “No” or “Wait.” Sometimes the answer is entirely different from what we expected. For example, someone may pray to get the home they had made an offer on but wind up in a different living arrangement that turns out to be better. We must be open to an answer to prayer that takes an unexpected form.
Prayer Is More Than Asking
God is not a cosmic vending machine. We can’t insert our prayers in the coin slot and be certain that what we want is going to come out. Prayer is a vital part of daily worship, and it builds a relationship.
We should talk to God about all aspects of our lives. We should revere Him, thank Him, confess to Him and express our fears and frustrations to Him. We should also ask Him for blessings in this world, but we can’t expect those always to be delivered exactly as we anticipate.