Picture this: you feel like you’re supposed to go do missions work in South America. You might even say you feel called to it. The only problem is, you don’t have enough money to go. So, of course, you set yourself to praying; asking God to provide funding. You may even ask your friends and family to pray for funding too.
Weeks pass. Months pass. You raise some money, but not enough.
What happened? Were you not called to missions work after all? Should you have prayed more? Used different words?
Your story probably isn’t exactly like this, but you may have something similar. Many of us have resounding stories of answered prayer that move us. But we also have those mysterious prayers that just seem to fall empty.
It’s no surprise, then, to hear people say, or even feel yourself, that God hasn’t answered your prayers. In fact, as we become more intellectual as a society, more practical and action-oriented, God’s perceived lack of “answering prayer” seems to indict His nature, even His very existence.
But, though we rebel against the idea, God doesn’t always work the way we want Him to. Just because we don’t see Him immediately answer our prayers in the way we expect doesn’t mean He isn’t working in our lives.
There are probably more than four reasons God might not have answered your prayers, so consider this a primer to remind us all of His wisdom, mercy and ultimate understanding.
1. Stones and Snakes Aren’t Good For Us.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (Matthew 7:9-10).
Often, we want things that will ultimately be bad for us. And we like to use God to get what we want, the way we want, when we want.
If we truly believe God only gives good gifts, then His response to our desires are what’s best. The question is, best for whom? As Christians, our lives are tools God uses to accomplish His mission of bringing good news to the world. This sacrifice, this giving up of ourselves and our desires, moves us to pray, “not my will, but yours be done.”
Are you willing to sacrifice your desires for God’s desires?
2. He Has, We Just Don’t Like the Answer.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but incredibly challenging.
We can swallow God not giving us what we ask for when we’re asking for a Ferrari, a new house or for our favorite team to win the big game. But it gets real when our health, or the health of someone we love, begins to fail, or when we’ve been looking for employment for months and the bills are due. These are the moments when God’s answers are hard to accept. So hard, that we reject His answer.
But our prayers should be reminders of our trust in God and His wisdom, of our belief that nothing is happening that He is not aware of, or even allowing.
Trusting God is an admission of our limited perspective. God is good. And He is the giver of good gifts. Trusting Him through His answers that don’t make us feel great provides us an opportunity to show that we can love and trust Him despite the hurt from painful circumstances.
After all, that’s the way He loves us.
3. We’re Unavailable.
This one is funny because these days we are so connected. Smart phones. Social Media. Email. We allow anyone to contact us anytime, anywhere—except God.
God speaks to us in many different ways, but sometimes we just don’t want to listen. What ways do we really allow God to contact us? Is it just the one hour on Sunday morning? Do we approach prayer ready to listen, or are we too ready to dominate the conversation, asking for what we want and expecting Him to immediately deliver? Do you have time with God’s Word on a regular basis?
Sometimes we can feel God trying to get through to us, but we screen His calls. That moment when you were going to take lunch to read the devotional you’ve been putting off for days, but instead head to lunch with the gang. God’s call just got screened. The preacher offered a suggestion to set your clock for 10 minutes earlier so you can spend a few minutes reading God’s Word every morning. You set the alarm with good intentions, but when the alarm goes off you slam on the Snooze button. Call screened.
Other times we’re just too busy to notice when God’s trying to talk to us. We’re all trying to do the best we can with our schedules. There’s so much to manage. Jobs, relationships, ambitions, ministry, the list could go on. In this case, it’s not that we’re screening God’s call, we just don’t really have time to talk.
The Bible tells us to seek the Lord where He may be found. Perhaps the simple reason God has not spoken to you is because you won’t take the time to listen.
4. Silence is Golden.
Time and time again in scripture we see that God is not in a hurry. For 400 years, the Israelites prayed for the deliverance that God gave them through Moses. God is the master of time and therefore the master of timing. Even Jesus knew this.
Periodically, we’ll hear Jesus say “his hour had not come,” and the scriptures often mention events happening “in the fullness of time.” We often treat God like a vending machine, expecting Him to instantly answer our prayers. But sometimes the lessons we learn while waiting are better or just as important as what we asked for.
Trusting God is in control, that He is good, and that He gives good gifts means trusting that His timing makes better sense than our timing. So if God is silent, pray for His peace. Pray for His will to be done. And pray that He gives you the kind of faith that will wait.
Antwuan Malone serves on staff at Legacy Church in Plano, Texas. He is passionate about engaging, encouraging and empowering young Christians to make their mark on the world in the name of Jesus. He blogs at Candid Christianity and can be found on twitter @antwuanmalone.