Unanswered prayer is one of life's most frustrating mysteries.
It's especially painful when it involves asking for something that would be a good thing, like healing for a family member or friend who has a fatal illness, a job when you're out of work, or the happy resolution of a relationship problem.
If there's anybody who knows about unanswered prayer, it's single people.
So we find ourselves asking, "Why not, God? If you're really kind and good, why didn't you heal my relative, or help me get that job, or help me find a mate?"
As much as I'd like to floor you with my intellectual brilliance about why some prayers are answered and others aren't, it would only be speculation at best. Only God knows for sure, and as they say, "He ain't tellin'."
But we can know God's true character for sure, because he reveals it to us in the Bible. We're not dealing with a capricious, stingy being. The Bible tells us that God does listen to our prayers and takes them very seriously.
Here are a couple possibilities you may want to think about, if you haven't already. These are by no means answers--but maybe they'll lead to answers if you ask God for understanding in your own situation.
We'll all pretty confident we know what's best for ourselves and that we can do a whiz-bang job of running our own life, if God will just be kind enough to do what we tell him. Some folks, it would seem, never get over that egotistical notion.
Looking backwards, we can often give a sigh of relief that God didn't answer some of our prayers the way we wanted. But right now, in the present, we think we've got a pretty good grasp of things.
Uh-huh. Like we're going to be wiser than somebody who not only knows the future, but controls it as well?
We think scientists are pretty arrogant when they act like they're smarter than God, but we can't even recognize that same attitude in ourselves.
When a good person dies unfairly, why do we forget everything we know about heaven and assume that we're the lucky ones because we're still alive here on earth and they're "gone."
If heaven is our home and our goal, aren't they really the one who's better off? Sure, grief is natural and necessary, but that's when our Christian beliefs and faith in Jesus Christ should kick into high gear.
And maybe time is a relative concept in heaven. Maybe the years and years that a widow waits here on earth to join her deceased husband are only an eyeblink in heaven. The passage of time, and everything else, will be very different there.
If you're wise, or you want to be wise, sooner or later you come to the shocking conclusion that you've done a pretty thorough job of messing up your own life, so now you're going to give up and let God take a try.
Some of us take longer to reach rock bottom than others. Some of us reach rock bottom but are still too stubborn--and stupid--to give up control. Then there are those sorry souls who reach rock bottom and think that's as good as their life is ever going to get.
Acceptance of God's rule and obedience to his ways doesn't assure
a luxury condo and a problem-free life. Christians don't stand a
better chance of winning the lottery than nonbelievers.
But a Christian's guarantee of eternal life with God
makes the lottery look like chump change.
Unanswered prayer will remain a mystery until we reach heaven. But the fact that Christ loved us enough to die for us means that a hundred years from now, you and I will look back on unanswered prayer as a moot point.
Today it's a thorn in our side, but from the perspective of
eternity, unanswered prayer is just another step on the journey that
brings us back home to God, the final and best answer to all prayers.