Apparently there is a new book out on why prayers are unanswered. I haven’t read it, but according to the reviews I saw, which have covered only part of the book, it begins with the normal suggestions. Prayers may be unanswered due to sin in your life, or perhaps a thorn in the flesh, or perhaps insufficient faith. Sin is simple to deal with by confession and repentance, not to say it’s easy. But I think most people start there and try to confess every little thing that comes to mind, and don’t find that things change. As to a thorn in the flesh, unless God tells you that’s the deal, I have my doubts. That was a very specific answer to a specific prayer and I’m not sure we are meant to generalize to that extent. And we can all ask God to increase our faith, right?
So here is the typical scenario offered and I would like to look at a real life example of how God answered. I think we forget that our prayers are not limited in time. It is quite possible for you to see an answer to a prayer years later instead of right at the time it was prayed. The situation is the loss of a parent. Whether it is by an accident or cancer or something else, the parent is sick or injured and the kid prays for them to be healed and they die. The question is nearly always, how could a loving God allow that to happen? Well, I would have to answer only with another question, will you trust Him to still be with you anyway? I think we seldom get answers to our why questions, though in time, perhaps we can see ways that He brings good out of evil.
A friend of mine lived this question, losing her husband when she was 35 and in the middle of raising 4 kids. It seemed entirely too much at the time, sending the kids into tailspins, depriving the youngest of any memory of his father, requiring them to be uprooted from the home they had been comfortable in. The kids, many years later are still recovering, only recently really beginning to talk about their memories of their dad. How could God do that to them? But then again, what if that was always the intended length of that man’s life? Was it cruel of God to give him the joy of a wife and kids, knowing he was destined to die young? Or was that a blessing?
The answers came even before all the desperate prayers for help from God in this case. Some years before, when child number 3 went to school, the wife was led to go back to college herself and complete the degree she never had time to pursue. By the time this happened she was finishing her teacher training and was able to go straight to work and support those kids. Is that not an answer from God? No, he is not destined to be healed, but I will be with you. You will have a roof over your heads and you will not go hungry. I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand how this can be called an unanswered prayer. Looked at this way, it was not only answered, but answered in advance.
Isn’t God always asking us to trust Him and to have faith that He is working, even when we do not see it? Perhaps we need to go to Him and ask Him to show us at least in part, how He was working in some of the difficult places in our pasts. I think it is safe to say, that we seldom see these things from God’s perspective. I was bullied in elementary school. Would I have been as understanding, as concerned for the feelings of others if I had not? I was single until I was 35. Would I have understood the challenges of those who are single as well, if I had married at 25?
My friend and her children are still healing from all they went through. But pay attention to what I just said. There is healing taking place in their relationships to God and to others. In the long view, this may be bigger than if their husband/father had been pulled back from the brink physically. In God’s view, the best and most complete healing for him, was to bring him home. And then He set to work on things rooted in generations past, that were affecting the kids.
If you think God did not answer your prayer, ask Him for eyes to see how He did.