Hindrances And Unanswered Prayer 11
LESSON 11: HINDRANCES TO PRAYER AND UNANSWERED PRAYER
Often, when a person is struggling with a personal issue, he/she may say something like this:
I have prayed and prayed about this matter, but I don’t seem to get anywhere.
Doesn’t God hear? If He is listening, why doesn’t He help? Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?
Many people often find themselves in that situation.
They believe in God and the Bible, and they attend church regularly.
They witness to their faith.
They know that the Holy Spirit dwells within.
But when things are tough and they pray fervently about something, God doesn’t seem to answer.
Or if He does answer, it’s in a way which they cannot perceive or understand.
In that situation, they become like a man and his motor car.
There was a time when his daughter was driving his car.
It was noticed that it was suddenly overheating.
The man's wife was called in to help.
She did what she could without too much success.
So here is a car. It looks good. Its motor is in excellent condition.
The tires are all pumped up to the right pressure.
There is plenty of gas in the tank and oil in the engine.
There are not even any squeaks.
They sit in the car ready to go and either we go nowhere or at best we move such a small distance, overheat and stop again.
When we find ourselves in that situation, how do we respond?
Do we say, ‘I give up. I don’t believe in motor cars.
I’ll walk. In fact, I don’t think motor cars have ever existed!’
Of course we don’t react that way.
We set to work to find out where the problem lies.
In the case of our car, it was a small radiator hose which had sprung a leak.
Once that was fixed, the vehicle purred off once more.
If we think that we are not moving ahead in God and that our prayers are not being answered, then rather than cease believing in the existence of God, it’s better if we took time to have a look to see where else the problem could be.
In doing that, we may be surprised to learn that the problem was never with God, but was with us.
The Bible and many others affirm that God is alive.
He hears our prayers and He wants to answer them.
When they appear not to be answered, we need to go back to basics and check out the fault-finding systems of our relationships with Him.
One day, a pastor’s wife decided to meet with two prayer partners weekly to pray for their church.
As they came together each week, they found they could get nowhere.
For six weeks the Lord directed them to Psalm 66:18 which says: “If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened."
"Us? With sin in our hearts!" thought those ladies.
"Well, the Bible does say in 1 Peter 3:12 that: 'The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' "
‘Sin in our hearts? Well, that would certainly stop God acting on our prayer,’ they thought.
As they waited on God they found that they had not been practicing any of the spectacular sins that we sometimes hear in public.
But God did expose matters of pride, self-satisfaction, critical thoughts and pretence on their part.
The prophet Isaiah said: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).
So many people cry out to God while continuing to cherish unconfessed sin.
And it is that sin which separates.
There are many references in the Bible that clearly state that prayer will not be answered if certain things are within us.
We need to look at these areas, but not in the sense of bringing anyone under judgment.
That is not our responsibility.
Only God is our judge.
But there is a need to develop a check chart whereby if, at this time or at some time in the future, we feel that we are not getting through to God, then we will be able to take it out, check through it and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal in which particular areas of our lives the problem might be.
Here is a non-exhaustive list (not in any particular order of priority) of sins that may hinder prayer:
The first area we need to look at is that of unforgiveness and criticism.
These two are linked because it is so difficult to separate them, and they are probably the most common hindrance to answered prayer.
The writer of Hebrews said: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no hitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews l2: 14-15).
Jesus said: "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).
He additionally said: "If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins" (Mark 11:25).
"If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).
If we do not have good, open, healthy relationships with everyone, then our prayer life is going to be hindered.
When we come to God in prayer, we come on the basis that our sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ.
He in turn asks that we forgive all others.
If we do not, He will not.
If we do not forgive, we develop a critical attitude, and that in turn leads to bitterness, resentment, animosity, coldness -- even hatred.
If we hold a grudge or maintain ill-will toward anyone, then God is closed off from us.
If there are unresolved issues between us and another, then we may pray all we like, but those prayers may go no further than the ceiling.
Forgiveness may not be easy.
But Jesus regarded it as so important that he did not ask us to forgive, He commanded it.
Many years ago there was a man called Hyde, who for a time worked as a missionary in India.
He was very careful with whatever he said in public.
No critical word ever left his lips. But his prayer life was slightly different.
One day as he knelt to pray, he felt a keen burden to pray for an Indian pastor.
He started to talk to the Lord about this pastor’s unfortunate mannerisms, of how cold he seemed to be.
But then a finger seemed to touch Hyde’s lips sealing them shut.
Mr. Hyde believed he heard the voice of God softly say to him, ‘He who touches that pastor touches the apple of my eye. ‘
So Hyde immediately cried out, ‘Father forgive me. I have been an accomplice of Satan. I have been an accuser of the brethren before you. ‘
Hyde begged God to show to him instead good things in this pastor’s life.
As they came into his mind, he prayed over those good things and started to praise God for this pastor.
Shortly afterwards, revival broke out in that Indian church.
One of the releases of that was that the blockage of silent criticism had been removed from Hyde’s prayer life.
In a world which is littered by protest signs, with our streets often clogged by demonstrators, with newspaper editors constantly seeking for something to pounce upon, and Parliamentarians throwing insults at one another, it’s so easy for Christians to slip into the unforgiving, harsh, critical spirit of our age.
We need to resist that lest we inhibit what God might be really wanting to do in our lives and through his church.
A Turkish soldier had beaten a Christian prisoner until he was only half-conscious.
As he continued to kick him he shouted, ‘What can your Christ do for you now?’ The reply? ‘He can give me strength to forgive you.’
A second reason for our prayers being hindered may be undiscipline.
The great dividing line between success and failure in many things, may often be expressed in just five words: ‘I did not make time.’
The reason we do not make time for particular things is usually because we do not consider them important enough.
They rate low on our priorities.
The apostle Paul challenged the Roman Governor Felix to consider the claims of Christ.
But Felix replied, ‘That’s enough for now. When I find it convenient, I will send for you’ (Acts
The problem is, for such matters a convenient time often never comes.
For the development of one’s spiritual life, a full diary often leads to an empty heart.
We can spend a great deal of time working in the kingdom of God, but give little time to waiting on the King himself.
The substitute for blessedness is often busyness which leads to barrenness.
We become too busy to love, too busy to share, too busy to care and too busy to pray.
We need to discipline ourselves to set our priorities in order.
God says: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).
A former British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once said that: "God is the friend of silence, because He speaks only when we are quiet."
David Watson was an English evangelist who, through his preaching, tapes and writing, exercised an internationally influential ministry.
A few months after he had had an operation for cancer, just prior to his death, he said:
"God showed me that all my preaching, writing and other ministry was absolutely nothing compared with my love relationship with Him. In fact, sheer busyness had squeezed out the close intimacy I had known with him."
The apostle Peter wrote that we need to be "clear minded and self-controlled so that (we) can pray" (1 Peter 4:7).
He later went on to say that self-control leads to perseverance and perseverance leads to godliness (2 Peter 1:6).
Without self-control, perseverance and discipline we will never set and keep to the priorities needed to develop the relationship with God which he desires for us.
The third area we need to check out is that of idolatry.
An idol is anything which takes the place of God as the supreme object of our affection.
While no Christian should ever have an image in their home before which they would bow down and worship, we may certainly have other idols, maybe even the homes themselves.
What takes first priority in our lives? Is it a husband or a wife? Is it our children? Is it our reputation and social standing? Is it career advancement, financial status or security? Is it ambition or just a desire to travel extensively overseas? Is it a self-imposed demand always to have the home, garden or car absolutely spotless?
Many centuries ago God said through his prophet Ezekiel: "These men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all" (Ezekiel 14:3)?
To which Jesus adds: "Anyone who loves his father or mother.., son or daughter... (much more than me) is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37-38).
If God is not absolutely first continuously in our lives, then our relationship with Him is impaired.
4. Broken Promises
The fourth area we need to touch upon, is that of broken promises.
In the Psalms we read: "Fulfil your vows to the most high ... I will deliver you..." (Ps 50:14-15)
The fifth area to look at is that of disobedience. John wrote:
"We receive from (God) anything we ask because we obey his commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:22-23).
Lives which consistently please God are those which consistently obey Him.
Jesus said: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you" (John 15:7).
As we both obey and remain in Jesus, then He moves powerfully into our lives.
If we will not, then He does not.
A woman who went to a prayer seminar testified as follows:
‘My initial reaction to the prayer seminar was “What good will it do?” I have prayed and prayed and it hasn’t done any good. I have been a Christian all my life. Now my husband’s construction company has folded, Leaving enormous debts. We have had to sell our home, liquidate our assets and also our young son has just undergone surgery. For some time I have been praying for what I wanted to happen. Suddenly, I saw something new. I had not prayed for God’s will to be done. So I said aloud, “Lord, I want your perfect will for me and my family.” That was it. I was to learn later that what was keeping my prayers from being answered was that I had never asked God for His will.
Now I am free. The whole load is lifted. The responsibility to straighten out this mess is no longer mine and at last I know peace. My husband’s debts are being paid. My health has improved. I was offered a job when I wasn’t even searching for one. This new train of events started once I totally surrendered my will in every matter to the will of God.’
'Not my will, Father, but Yours be done’ is often the opening prayer to seeing God answer and act in ways in our lives.
Therefore let us humbly come before Him again, but keeping in mind the words of Isaiah 55:8-9 where God says: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways...As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
‘Most Americans say prayers every day, even though no one knows why only some are answered.’
One of the most exciting stories in the whole Bible is found in 1 Kings 18.
The prophet Elijah was on top on Mount Carmel. Before him on the altar lay two bulls ready for sacrifice.
All morning the 450 priests of Baal had chanted, danced and begged their god to let fire fall from heaven and thus prove that he was greater than Jehovah.
The heavens were singularly unimpressed.
Nothing had happened.
When Elijah stepped forward he requested that the whole altar and the wood around be soaked with water, not once but three times.
When everything was drenched he stepped forward and called out to God to answer his prayer by fire.
Immediately the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water and even the surrounding soil.
Then: "When all the people saw this they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God' " (1 Kings 18:39)!
How exciting it is to find God dramatically answering prayer instantly.
It’s just as exciting when something like that happens today.
A Muslim convert to Christianity received a phone call as he worked in his government office, advising him that fire had broken out near his home which looked as if it would soon be destroyed.
He rushed home and had time only to remove a few of his possessions.
Then, unable to do anything else he stood outside his soon to be burned home, and while his Muslim neighbors who had been so hostile towards him watched, he raised his hands and his voice toward heaven and called out in a loud voice asking God to save his home.
No sooner had he concluded, ‘In Jesus name, Amen!’, than the thunder clapped and rain poured down from heaven extinguishing the flames.2
His persecutors were certainly impressed by his seemingly new relationship with the Almighty.
And we would be too.
How marvelous it is when God dramatically, supernaturally, instantly answers prayer.
On the other hand, here's a situation with another Muslim convert.
He had been caught by his neighbors who demanded he forsake his new found Christian faith.
So they commenced to torture him by cutting off his fingers.
Still he would not deny his new faith so they cut off his hands and tied him to a tree and left him overnight.
When they returned the next morning he was dead.
By the time the press arrived to report the story, the corpse had been hung from a tree and reporters were told that this person was so ashamed that he had left the Muslim faith that he had committed suicide by hanging himself!
What happened here?
Did this man or some of his new friends not pray?
If they did, did God turn a deaf ear and choose not to act?
Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:3)?
Didn’t Jesus say, "Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them" (Mark 11:24)?
Didn’t Jesus further say, ‘If two or three of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 18:19)?
Didn’t the apostle John record Jesus as saying, ‘The Father will give you anything you ask in my name’ (John 16:23)?
Because there are so many seemingly broad, sweeping, almost unlimited precious promises studded throughout the Scriptures can I not as some suggest simply ‘name it and claim it’?
If this is so why is it that we also read, see, hear and experience ourselves, with a degree of frustrating frequency that God does not seem to answer prayer?
Mind you, in this regard we’re in excellent company.
One of the finest men, the noblest of gentleman who ever walked the earth, was a fellow by the name of Job.
He was a totally deserving, God-fearing man.
And yet he went from prosperity to poverty, from riches to rags, from health to disease.
The greatest king Israel ever had was David. In the book of Acts we read that, ‘David was a man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13:22).
But when his baby was dying David lay on the ground and prayed and prayed and begged God for the boy’s life.
But God let the boy die.
In the New Testament there was Paul, the church’s greatest all-time missionary.
His ministry was full of words, works and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:12).
If anyone had a good connection with God it was Paul.
He did amazing things.
Yet when he asked God for a favor to release him from a troubling affliction, nothing happened.
Obviously God considered in Paul’s case that it was better he remained weakened and dependent rather than independent; that it was better that he remain humbled than healed.
For that matter, in any gathering of believers there are so many who have prayed to find a job, but still have found none. Prayer unanswered?
There are so many parents who have prayed for their children who won’t listen and who insist on treading wayward, dangerous paths through life. Prayer unanswered?
There are so many students who have asked God to help them with exams and yet they have tasted failure. Prayer unanswered?
There are so many people who have seen their loved ones struggle with disease and begged God for their lives but they have died. Prayer unanswered?
Some have seen loved ones killed in accidents after they have asked for God’s protection.
There are so many singles who have begged God for a spouse and yet in spite of the finest quality of their lives nothing has happened. Prayer unanswered?
There are so many children who have prayed for parents and yet the violence and abuse have continued. Prayer unanswered?
And there are others, who for years have prayed for spouses and other close relatives to come into the Kingdom of God and they are still outside. Prayer unanswered?
— How do we respond to this situation?
— Do we try to deny it?
— Do we try to ignore it?
— Do we try to bail God out?
Often times in the stunning silence of disappointment ceaseless questions reverberate around the empty chamber of our tired minds.
‘Why? What have I done? How else could I have prayed? Why this? Is there no answer?’
So the questions are put: "Why, 0 Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
"Why do you hold hack your right hand? . . . Why don’t you destroy my enemies?"
‘Does he who implanted the ear not hear?’ (Psalm 10:1) (Psalm 74:11) (Psalm 94:9)
Let’s touch on six of the most common reasons it may seem that God is not responding to our prayer:
The commonest cause for seeming unanswered prayer is sin somewhere on the scene.
When Israel’s army commander-in-chief, Joshua, was pleading with God for a military victory after the crushing defeat at Al, it was denied him (Joshua 7).
In the toughest way, God had to teach His people that more than anything else they had to be obedient to Him, otherwise they would end up as little more than a nameless band of ill-disciplined, plundering marauders.
Sin was in their midst and it had to be rooted out and dealt with.
And until that happened they could expect continued disaster.
Similarly, when King David begged with God to save his son, God seemed not to answer.
David had sinned.
He then tried to use prayer as a crutch to evade the consequences of his own sin. God would have none of it (2 Samuel 12:16-22).
Later he could say: ‘If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.’ (Psalm 66:18)
Isaiah said: ‘Your sin has separated you from God ... so that he will not hear you’ (59:1-2).
Sin separates and silences God.
It’s the first thing we always have to examine on our check list if prayer is seemingly unanswered.
A more subtle yet equally common cause for unanswered prayer is selfishness.
‘My God will supply all your needs.’(Philippians 4:19)
But a wants/wish list is not a needs list. James wrote:
‘When you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ‘ (James 4:3)
Simply evoking the name of Jesus in a prayer does not automatically oblige God to answer.
The question is, what are our motives behind the prayer?
We may ask God to help us get rich, so that we can help the poor.
But our real motive may be we simply like money, so that we can buy a luxury car or a second home.
We may ask God for good weather and say that we are praying thus to help farmers and their crops.
But our real motive may be that we only want to enjoy a good holiday.
We might pray asking God to bring judgment on sin because we know that God hates sin.
But our personal motive is to get at some sinners who are hassling us.
We might pray for a Prime Minister or a President, because the Bible commands us to pray for those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
But our real motive may be that we pray for them because they are members of our political party and we want to see them whip the opposition.
When we are younger we pray for members of the opposite sex that they might be saved because we know that God wants all people everywhere to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
However, our real motive may be self-centered because we want to marry that person.
We certainly have a tendency to try to avoid any form of suffering even though Paul encouraged otherwise.
‘We are to rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ (Romans 5:3—5)
But when was the last time we welcomed and rejoiced at the onset of suffering?
See how subtle our motives are!
If our motives are self-centered, then probably are prayers may seem to go unanswered.
Before bringing a request to the Lord, it's a good idea to ask? If God granted this request,
¨ would it bring glory to Him?
¨ Would it advance His Kingdom?
¨ Would it help other people?
¨ Would it help me grow spiritually?
A third reason for seemingly unanswered prayer and one which is so common is our own stinginess.
The Bible says: ‘If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.’ (Proverbs 21:13)
Many Christians love to quote Philippians where it says: ‘My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:19)
But that promise is placed within the context of generosity toward others.
We cannot expect God to be meeting our needs unless we are generous toward the needs of others.
The Bible is quite clear on this principle.
George Mueller was a man whom God used mightily through prayer.
It was so, in part, because whatever Mueller was receiving, he was constantly passing on to others.
The Bible is quite clear on this principle: "Give, and it will be given to you ... for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38).
"We receive from him anything we ask." (1 John 3:22)
What a marvelous statement!
But again that statement is in the context of generously giving to the needs of others.
If God knows we are not going to be generous toward others, not only will He not be giving to us, but He may not even be answering us.
He gives in proportion to the degree to which He can trust us to pass it on.
And the same may be true of the degree to which he is prepared to answer our prayers.
Last century for 60 years George Mueller housed and fed up to 2000 orphans at a time.
There were never any appeals.
There were no collections.
Yet he prayed in millions and millions of pounds. How could God answer such prayers?
We get a clue to the heart of this man through his death.
When he died there was just enough left in his accounts to pay for his funeral and no more.
In other words, God could trust this man.
None of the monies which God gave through him ever stuck to his fingers.
The next time we pray for God to be meeting our financial needs consider what is our record in the books of heaven regarding giving to God’s Kingdom.
A fourth very common reason for seemingly unanswered prayer is found in the area of relationships, especially within marriage.
If any husband or wife has a relationship with each other which is anything less than the best which God desires, then prayer is affected.
God will not be hearing and answering so clearly if that relationship is impaired.
The Bible says quiet clearly to husbands that they are "to be considerate toward their wives and treat them with respect as heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)
Husbands may be active in Christian work and admired within the church.
Wives may be devoted to the church and faithful in attendance and have a very good reputation.
But if we are out of sorts with each other so that our marriage is less than God desires, then deadness and powerlessness in prayer will result.
Husbands and wives need to bring the whole of their married life before God and allow him to sort things out.
A fifth reason for seemingly unanswered prayer is that of timing.
The writer of Hebrews said: "Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" (Hebrews 10:35-36).
To which James adds: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).
God is interested in bringing us to maturity and that process can seldom be accelerated.
When the promise of a child was given to Abram and Sarai (Genesis 15), it was many decades before that promise was fulfilled.
The timing delay was to stress and highlight the fact that the birth of the boy Isaac was no natural event.
It was supernatural as a special gift from God.
When the sisters appealed to Jesus because his friend Lazarus was dying, Jesus deliberately delayed. Lazarus died.
Was He being callous and uncaring? No.
The event was such that it wasn’t to be just a healing of Lazarus from sickness but that Lazarus would be called forth from death after he had been dead for days.
The delayed timing was meant to demonstrate that Jesus had power not only over sickness but over death itself (John 11).
There was a missionary's wife who had a growth on her thumb.
That growth was cut out by surgeons.
It was medicated by physicians. It was frozen by refrigeration experts.
It was herbalised by herbal specialists.
It was even de-demonised by specialists in deliverance ministry.
But nothing permanently removed that growth.
Then one day after 10 years, as the couple were struggling to discern whether or not God was calling us from our ministry overseas to come to Melbourne, something happened.
In a moment of jest when my wife asked her husband what would it take to convince me that God was in this call, her husband said, ‘If God would remove that growth from your thumb I would believe.’
She departed on a train journey to another country to take our children back to school.
Six days later when she returned, she reminded me of my jest.
I asked to see the thumb. She showed it to me and I claimed that she was showing me the wrong thumb.
She showed me the other thumb. We ran out of other thumbs.
She later told me that when I spoke those words, as she left me, immediately that growth started to slough off her thumb and was replaced by beautiful, new, baby-like skin.
For 10 years God had kept that growth there for a special occasion to speak loudly to me.
Wait for the timing of God.
But the sixth reason for seemingly unanswered prayer is the commonest and most difficult to understand.
6. Simply the Best
One of the most comforting verses in the Bible says: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).
To which Paul later adds: "God is working in us both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
In other words God is always looking out for what is in our own long-term best interest.
Some years ago American pop singer Tina Turner had a great hit.
In Australia it was even adopted as a national theme song for rugby league football.
The title of her song was ‘Simply the Best’.
That’s the way it is with God.
We ask for something yet he chooses not to grant it because he wants to give us something else which is ‘simply the best’.
When Peter, James and John were on the Mount of Transfiguration it is recorded how they suddenly saw Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-13).
They figured this was the best and immediately wanted to erect a shelter to stay right there.
But Jesus didn’t agree because there was something even better than this.
He descended down onto the plain and went to His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Certainly for us, not for him, this was something much better.
God often denies our prayer so that He can give us a better answer even though it may take many years for us to understand that.
Our problem is that we are down in the midst of circumstances and cannot lift our vision too high.
In 1994 during the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of allied troops on the shores of France, in the Second World War, two interviews were recorded.
One was of a former soldier who was fighting at ground level.
He said, ‘I was convinced that there was no way that we could possibly win the battle.’
The second interview was with a pilot who had been high overhead.
He said, ‘From my perspective I was convinced that there was no way that we could possibly lose the battle.’
Similarly, God always has a better vantage point than we do. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).
The ultimate issue at stake is not whether we get what we want when we want it but whether or not we will continue to trust in God and to believe that He is good and kind and generous and continues to want to give us the best.
Faith is not so much summed up in the answers God gives.
It is in our response to Him when He seems not to give answers.
When He chooses to remain silent, faith rests content.
If He seems to choose to say ‘No’, we need to remain grateful that He cares enough to give us such a tough answer.
In our infantile attitudes we need to remember that often we are too immature to read the road signs of life and too small to see what lies ahead.
The book of Revelation records the response of a people who entered into adversity.
It says that they cursed God (Revelation 1:22).
On the other hand in the Old Testament there is recorded the story of Job.
When God permitted Job to suffer so terribly Jobs response was: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).
And then it goes on to say ... "Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing." (Job 1:22)
What is the choice of our response to seemingly unanswered prayer?
Such is a God-given opportunity to grow in faith.
Stumbling blocks of doubt become stepping stones to great faith and intimacy with God.
The Psalmist asked the questions:
‘Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has his anger withheld compassion? (Psalm 77:7-9)
Then gives an answer: "I will remember the deeds of the Lord: Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago" (Psalm 77:11).
.... "as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more" (Psalm 71:14).
I'll close with this saying that a preacher once said:
"If the request is wrong, God says, "No." If the timing is wrong, God says, "Slow." If you are wrong, God says, "Grow." But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, "Go!"
Hybels, Bill. Too Busy Not To Pray. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998.
Robinson, Stuart. Positioning For Power: Kneeling Low In Prayer, Standing Tall In God. Kent, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 1998.