Summary: God always answers our prayers but sometimes in ways we do not expect. God responds to our prayers in four ways; No, Slow, Grow and Lets Go!
WHAT ABOUT UNANSWERED PRAYER?
An overweight businessman decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet very seriously. He changed his driving route to work in the morning to avoid passing by his favorite bakery. He even prayed that God would help him to loose weight. One morning, however, he arrived at work carrying a gigantic coffee cake. His coworkers scolded him, but he replied "This is a very special coffee cake – God wanted me to have it." He explained. "I forgot and accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window were a host of goodies. I felt this was no accident, so I prayed, 'Lord, if you want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes give me a sign, let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery.' And sure enough," he continued, "there it was. The eighth time around the block, there it was!"
Have you ever wondered why God doesn't grant every prayer we pray? As a pastor this is a question that I get asked all the time. The question goes something like this; "the Bible says ‘ask and it will be given to’. I keep asking so why haven't I received anything?" Lets look at this verse:
Matt 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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 good gifts to those who ask him!
Have you ever heard someone say something like this; “I’ve been praying for my husband to stop drinking, and he hasn’t stopped.” “I’ve been praying for a job, but I can’t find one.” “I’ve been praying for my wife’s depression but nothing has changed.” “I’ve been praying for guidance, but no guidance has come.” I have spoken to many people who wrestle with this - the agony of unanswered prayer. How does God respond to our prayers?
1. God Says NO - the request is wrong
God answers prayer in a number of different ways. The first is with the answer NO. In verse 11 it says that God gives His children GOOD GIFTS. If we ask God for a fish, He will not give us a snake. But what happens when we ask for a snake? There are such things as wrong or inappropriate prayer requests. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray He told them:
Matt 6:9 "This, then, is how you should pray: "`Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In prayer we seek that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Sometimes we just don't understand what God's will is for our lives.
Remember the time when Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus to the top of a high mountain. Suddenly God’s full glory descended upon Jesus. The three disciples stood back in awe as they saw the transfiguration. They were so taken with this that Peter asked
Matt 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters -- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
In other words, Peter asked “Jesus, allow us to build shelters up here, and we’ll just live up here the rest of our lives, and we’ll bask in your glory.” God’s response to Peter was, in a word, NO. He said He would not grant that request. There was work to do and His plan was not to stay up on the mountain basking in God's glory. The answer was NO. Sorry Peter, wrong request.
One time James and John went to Jesus, and asked if they could make reservations for the best two seats in heaven.
Mark 10:35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." 36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
Jesus answered by saying NO. The request was wrong. Another time, Jesus and the disciples were traveling through Samaria. He sent messengers ahead to prepare a place to stay but the request for help was denied.