Summary: There is no such thing as "unanswered" prayer, but God sometimes responds in ways we don’t expect.
“5 Answers to Prayer” -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
(Note: The outline for this message came from an article in the Christian Reader Jan/Feb 02 issue)
We pray, and God answers. Every time. But sometimes we wonder if God is really listening. We may feel like the Verizon guy, wandering around asking, “Can You hear me now?” God hears, and responds…but His answers are much wiser than our prayers. Here are 5 ways God replies when we pray:
Answer #1: “No, I love you too much.”
A soldier once complained to me, “Chaplain, I prayed and God didn’t answer.” My comeback: “Yes He did--He said ‘No’!” There is no such thing as “unanswered” prayer. Sometimes we ask for the wrong things. There are many thirsty people panting after the wrong kind of water.
C.S. Lewis recognized that if had God given him everything he’d asked for, his life would have been a mess! The most loving answer God can sometimes give is “No.” to our requests. “Father knows best”--He knows exactly what we need and He has our best interests in mind.
Why then does God allow suffering? When someone we know is sick or injured, isn’t it God’s will that they be well? Life is a mystery, and God isn’t obligated to explain His purpose (plus we may not be capable of understanding the reasons)…but it’s comforting to know there is a “why”, there are reasons for God’s negative response…and we can assume His “no” is motivated by love and a far greater grasp of life than we’ll have this side of eternity.
When the Apostle Paul compared life on earth to life in Heaven…he concluded that life with God “is better by far” (Phil 1:23). We often see death as life’s greatest loss, when it is life’s greatest gain and victory, a promotion to glory. Paul also had a negative response to a prayer. You’d think God would say “yes” to anything Paul wanted! We don’t know the specifics, but Paul had what he called a “thorn in the flesh” (II Cor 12), which he prayed repeatedly about, asking God to remove to no avail (I think it was probably his mother-in-law!). God responded, not by giving Paul an explanation, but a promise: “My grace is sufficient for you.” This strengthened Paul’s faith and gave him hope. God may want to build our character and compassion for others through hardship.
King Hezekiah asked for more life when God told him he was about to die, and God agreed…and the king lived to regret his request! We should assume that God is not withholding anything good from us. When He says “no” it’s because He loves us too much. If we’re wise, we’ll want God’s will, not ours.
Answer #2: “Yes, but you’ll have to wait.”
Nobody likes being put on hold. Thankfully Heaven doesn’t have voice mail that is re-routed endlessly:
”Press 1 for health concerns; press 2 for financial difficulties; press 3 for decisions; press 4 for help in temptation …Your prayer is important to us, however all our angels are busy at the present time; please stay on the line and the next available angel will respond to your prayer request….Our computers show that you have already prayed once today. Please try again tomorrow.”