How To Cope With Unanswered Prayer: The bulk of this post is from a website and magazine called “Just Between Us“. I found it useful so I wanted to share it with you. The reason is, lately I have struggled with the problem of prayers that seemingly go unanswered.
(I know little to nothing about the website this post comes from, nor its owners, so I encourage you to visit it for yourselves if you would like to know more.)
I very much do NOT want to find my faith diminished, or start to question God. In my heart that hasn’t happened but in my mind I sometimes hesitate when praying nowadays and I think of how I’ve prayed before but (in my own experience) “nothing happened”.
But how do I know nothing happened? I’m not God!
Daily I remind myself, God is supreme, unmovable, perfect, and he cannot err. He surely hears me, I know that, so if the answer to my request doesn’t come in the way I expect, or at the time I expect, that is no reflection on God. It’s just that I don’t understand his ways sufficiently to TRUST in Him.
Anyway, the article below might help some of you:
The Hurt of Unanswered Prayer
BY SHELLY ESSER | JBU EXECUTIVE EDITOR
“Just Between Us” Magazine
Are you feeling the hurt of unanswered prayer? As you wait in silence, trust that God sees it all – and if He’s withholding an answer, He has a reason.
A while ago, I received an email from a woman I met: “It’s been years since you added my daughter, Betsy, to your prayer list. I want to thank you ‘muchly’ for the wonderful answers of a restored relationship with her…and best of all seeing her come back to a strong faith in God!”
I had prayed for prodigals every Tuesday, primarily because of the burden I had for some of my own daughters. I gladly added her daughter to my list, as I had many others. While I rejoiced in her wonderful news, I mourned about my own unanswered prayer. For a moment, I ashamedly cried, “Lord I started this prayer time at your prompting on behalf of my daughters. How could you answer her prayer and not mine!”
Instead of being filled with joy, there was a sting of sorrow.
What is it about unanswered prayer that hurts so much? Why is it so soul-wrenching? I think it’s because it directly attacks our belief system and view of God and how much we trust Him.
Ultimately, it can pose an incredible threat to our faith. But had God NOT answered my prayer? He had!
It just wasn’t for my child. I can’t agonize over it as it gets me nowhere. Rather, I need to keep on my knees and not lose heart. I need to worship Him despite what I can’t see, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).
And that’s what we hold on to.
Otherwise, we can so easily fall into the comparison trap. “He must not love me as much as Betsy’s mom or He would have answered my prayer too.” Or we secretly wrestle with what haven’t I done to gain God’s favor too?
Those feelings can gnaw at the very core of our soul – plummeting us into despair and discouragement and a “why even bother praying?” attitude.
The Damage We Can Do
If I’m honest, there have been times I have thrown up my hands, in my heart, and refused to pray on because it felt like my prayers were deficient. What that did, however, was only break down my fellowship with God resurrecting a huge wall.
I thought I had to protect myself from the hurt and disappointment that God’s silence brought. As a result, my trust in God began to die a slow death with every unanswered prayer.
Answered prayer falls within the many “mysteries of God” category. There is simply no human understanding as to why He answers one person’s prayers and seemingly not another’s no matter how hard or long they both pray.
Perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong: we see ‘answered prayer’ according to our own finite short-sighted perspective.
Because of the hurt that can develop with no answer month after month and even year after year, we can find it safer to pray as few prayers as possible.
But we’re led back again to our trust issue with God. Will we trust Him or won’t we?
Author Lysa TerKeurst says: “God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time.” God sees it all and if He’s withholding an answer, He has a reason—and that’s where our trust comes into play.
Even when I continue to see my unanswered prayers met with a painful silence — He asks me to pray on — and more importantly to seek the companionship with Him that is at the heart of prayer.
Philip Yancey put it this way:
“If our sole focus is only on unanswered prayer, our faith will be shaken and even threatened because we will not always understand the time table of God. It is the companionship of God that will carry us through as we will cling to WHO we know God to be not WHAT we expect or think He should do. If your faith is hinging on an answered prayer, then every time an answer doesn’t come in the way you expect it, you’ll lose a little piece of it. Our lives of faith have to be anchored to God Himself, not our answered prayer.”
As I thought about the hurt in my heart that day after that excited Mom shared her answered prayer with me, I knew I needed to let God heal the hurt. And that started by being honest with Him about my inner anguish and disappointment.
After I got up off my knees and washed my face, I made the choice to see my unanswered prayers as divine opportunities to trust in God’s sovereignty and perfect timing and to continue worshipping Him—even in the silence.
Because ultimately this life of faith is all about companionship: it’s about a relationship with a PERSON who knows far better than me what timing is best!
The author of this post, Shelly Esser, is currently the Executive Editor and has served as editor of ‘Just Between Us’ for over 30 years.
I think one of the most difficult to accept unanswered prayers is for physical healing, knowing God can heal at any time. If God lets you suffer infirmities for a season, you might come out of it with a testimony of God’s faithfulness, but what if God lets you die as happened to a friend of mine, convinced until the last minute that God would heal him? The answer must be that it isn’t the end of the story, that God will make it right in the resurrection, but I’m still disappointed. Or perhaps God took his failings more seriously than I did considering his teaching influence and took him out a time of maximum benefit for the church? Now I know in part, but eventually I will know clearly, just as I am fully known.
It caught my attention that the article’s author had been praying for prodigals, but this is a particularly tricky thing to do. It is good to remind God of our burden for our prodigal sons and daughters, but God loves them even more than we do and does not have to be reminded to act on their behalf at an opportune moment. But even then, they can’t be prayed into the kingdom of God; they have free choice, even if it is most of the time encumbered by Satan’s deceptions.
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that” (1 John 5:16 ESV). What is the sin that leads to death except willful sin, grieving the Holy Spirit? Perhaps this is the reason there is so much more answered prayer among missionaries who bring the Gospel to those who have never heard compared to the West where we could easily web-search for anything that pleases us: we too often shrug at what God has made available. God may yet answer prayers to bring back those who shrug as the Gospel, but for a while he may turn to be their enemy and fight against them (Isaiah 63:10).
I have struggled a lot over this one too – why are people not healed, why do they die, even when they and all around them are praying in faith for healing? But at the end of the day, I know that God is good and answers prayer, and that HE alone is infallible and righteous – so what we do not understand has to be laid aside. That goes for many other things that at the moment we don’t understand.
Thanks for posting this Tricia. I have several physical issues that have been with me for years. I have given significant amounts of money to various ministries, people in need and gifts, and have not rec’d back more. On top of that, in my detox journey has had me re-examining my whole unBiblical prayer approach. The most important thing to me that Shelley said was that our relationship with the Lord is founded on companionship, not answered prayer, otherwise every time we perceive prayer has gone unanswered, it would affect our relationship with God. i don’t believe every unanswered prayer is simply a matter of God’s timing, but my relationship with God must be founded upon love for, and trust in Him. Scripture speaks numerous times of testings from the Lord. In honouring, trusting, and loving God we can’t lose regardless.
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Thank you for saying that. If truth were known, many people struggle and even lose faith because God doesn’t appear to address their needs, but as you said, it’s about more than receiving answers, it’s about trust.