Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered, and that can be confusing and painful.
It’s often said that God does answer each of our prayers: with ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘wait a bit longer’.
In a message in The Word for Today published on 31 July 2009, Bob Gass offered more insight.
The Prayer God Answers
'You ask but do not receive...' (James 4:3 NKJV)
Pastor Jerry Sittser writes: ‘What would happen if all our prayers were answered? I thought about my early years when I was ready to conquer the world, with or without Christ. The group I led grew, I was riding a wave of success, everything I touched turned to gold. Eventually the ministry levelled off and lost momentum. Thank God it did... I'd become insufferably proud, a self-appointed expert. What would've happened if my prayers had been answered, our group had continued to grow and our programme had continued to receive recognition?’
James says, ‘You ask but do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.’ There are certain prayers God won't answer for your own good.
Sittser continues: ‘Your cause may be right, but you may still be wrong; manifesting pride, gloating in victory, punishing wrongdoers with excessive severity, and excusing sin. The great hazard for people on a crusade is... they become blind to their own faults. They fight for civil rights but treat janitors like second-class citizens. They uphold standards of Biblical sexuality, but show little grace towards their spouse. Unanswered prayer is God's gift... it protects us from ourselves. If all our prayers were answered we'd abuse the power... use prayer to change the world to our liking, and it would become hell on earth. Like spoiled children with too many toys and too much money, we'd grab for more. We'd pray for victory at the expense of others... intoxicated by power... we'd hurt people and exalt ourselves. Isaiah said, 'The Lord longs to be gracious to you... therefore He waits...' (Isaiah 30:18 NAS)
Unanswered prayer protects, breaks, deepens... and transforms.
Past, unanswered prayers — which left us hurt and disillusioned — act like a refiner's fire to prepare us for future answers.