Summary: A look at how to handle situations in which it seems like our prayers are not being answered.
What Do We Do With Unanswered Prayer
Now, it’s been a few years ago now, but I still think most of you may remember a song by Garth Brooks called unanswered prayers. In the story of the song, the main character runs into his old high school sweetheart at a high school football game. He has since moved on and married, but he begins to think back at what had transpired back in the day. Apparently, when he had dated this girl, he had prayed that “God would make her mine.” He had prayed and promised God he would never ask for anything again.
As he searched though the memories and tried to think of the good times, it turned out that she wasn’t as perfect as he thought back then. He began to relish in the fact that he had made a good choice by marrying his wife and not his old high school flame. Then, he breaks into the chorus with this declaration:
Sometime I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs
That just because He may not answer doesn’t mean He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
How many of you can relate to the words of that song. Maybe you prayed that a certain so and so would be your lifelong partner and it did not work out, and now that you look back on it, you can see that God knew what He was doing. Maybe you prayed for a certain event to happen and it didn’t, but you came out OK on the other end. Unanswered prayers are a part of life, but do they always turn out better in the end? Maybe you have prayed for a family member or friend to get well from a disease or ailment and it never happened. Maybe you are praying for a solution to a financial situation that never seems to end. Maybe you have been praying for someone to come to Christ and they just seem to keep getting farther and farther away. What do we make of unanswered prayer as Christians?
First of all, if you struggle with not getting your prayers answered, you are not alone. Just two weeks ago we talked about the fact that David was having trouble getting through to the Father. Moses prayed to enter the Promise Land, but he died just before crossing the Jordan. Jeremiah lamented in the Old Testament that God had covered himself with a cloud and was not responding. Then, in the New Testament, we come across the same problem with the apostle Paul. Let’s pick up his story in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Let’s turn there or follow along on your sermon notes.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made more perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I would love to make the promise to you this morning that all your prayers will come about in exactly the way you wanted them, but that would not be the truth. David did not have all his prayers answered. Moses did not have all his prayers answered. Paul did not have all of his prayers answered, so guess what? There will be times where your prayers may go unanswered. What do we do when this happens? I believe we can develop a strategy, a plan of attack so to speak, from Paul in this passage to help us survive when our prayers go unanswered. Let’s ask the Lord to bless our time.
Strategy #1: Don’t Give Up Too Soon
There was once a little boy named Timmy who had a brother named Tommy. Tommy was known to torment his little brother Timmy more than a few times. Little Timmy did not get discouraged however. Every night, he would tell his mom he was going to bed and saying his prayers. His mother happened to hear Timmy’s prayer one night. This is what he said. “Dear God. I thank you for helping me make it through another day. And please make Tommy stop throwing things at me. By the way, I’ve mentioned this before. Amen.”
This boy knew some things about prayer that we need to learn! Namely, he knew not to give up praying because something was not happening. If our prayer is not answered right away, we must not get discouraged and lose hope. It’s OK to keep asking God to bring something about or take something away. God wants to hear the burdens of our hearts and He never tires of hearing our voices. Sometimes, we just need enough determination to say, “God, I don’t know when you are going to bring an answer to this, but I am going to keep praying until you do.