Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question. There are aspects of our infinite God that we cannot and will never understand. Faith in Jesus means trusting Him even when we don’t understand.
“Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is our belief that God always answers prayers, but not always in the way we want him to. We do not expect to satisfy everyone with our response on this page, nor is that our intention. However, we hope that what we’ve written will be an encouragement to you, and will be a step forward in developing your faith in your just and loving Father.
Why are some prayers not answered as we’d hope?
The journey will bring us closer to Jesus;
- As we wrestle with unanswered prayer, we are also pushing into God, learning more about Him and ourselves in the process. Dealing with this challenge in a personal and honest way refines us and leads us to the Father.
- In his excellent book on unanswered prayer God on Mute, Pete Greig describes this situation:
“God is enjoying the way we are wrestling with Him in prayer through this process. To put it another way, He may consider our wondering and questioning more important than the relatively simple act of supplying us with an answer” (Pete Greig, God on Mute, p.175).
They do not line up with God's will for our life;
- God knows every part of our lives, including all the potential outcomes of our prayers. While from our viewpoint the answer to prayer that we seek may seem best, perhaps God knows better. Take comfort that your Father who loves you beyond measure knows what is best for you and is always working for your good to help you see the best realised in your life.
“And 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).
Prayers can be delayed by the spiritual;
- As humans living in a fallen world we are surrounded by spiritual warfare. As our trust and love for Jesus grows, the enemy seeks to put an end to our faith. Let’s equip ourselves with the full armour of God and stand strong knowing the insurmountable strength of the rock on which we stand.
“It is entirely possible, therefore, that some of our prayers currently remain unanswered, because of direct satanic resistance. Our lives may also be attracting specific spiritual attacks because of the stand we are taking for Jesus, and if this is the case, there may be some encouragement in understanding that it is not God who is letting us down.” (Pete Greig, God on Mute, p.209).
God is answering with silence;
- Dealing with silence from God can be particularly painful. However it provides an opportunity to put faith and trust into action and rest in His promises even when we cannot feel His presence. No matter what, He is always with us, and His silence always has a purpose.
'"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."' (Isaiah 55:8-9)
There is mystery to God;
- Our understanding of the world is too limited to be able to comprehend all the facets of God. His infinite wisdom will sometimes mean that He does things that we cannot understand, but that is where faith comes in. Embracing the mystery lowers our resistance and allows God to shape our hearts and lives, which He will always do for our good.
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?” (Job 11:7-8).
What is God doing?
When we pray, the most common responses God will give are a yes, a no, not yet, or silence. Are we accidentally misreading the situation and thinking God is absent, when perhaps He has just given an unexpected answer? Of course we always hope that God will say yes to our prayers, but His infinite wisdom may mean His will may be different to our expectations.
Being unable to see what God is doing can be incredibly difficult. However, holding on to that mustard seed of faith that He is working for our good is vital to thriving in the face of difficulty.
You can read our statement of faith regarding prayer here.
There are so many reasons why our prayers may not be answered as we would expect. This list barely scratches the surface, but we hope this provides a springboard for you to reach a new understanding of God’s heart for you and your situation.
If you are desperately searching for answers that you just aren’t seeing, Philippians 4:7 is our prayer, that:
‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:7).
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