Prayer is something that most of us have to work at. It isn’t something that comes naturally to a lot of people, which can lead to a lackluster prayer life — especially when we feel like so many of our prayers go unanswered. We often grow discouraged because we feel as though our prayers have been wasted or don’t even make a difference at all.
Scripture tells us otherwise:
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
— Jeremiah 29:12–13
If scripture is clear that our prayers are always heard, why do we feel as though they are often unanswered? Mark Batterson has written many books and devotionals on prayer and has become a huge catalyst in changing my prayer life. He says this about unanswered prayer:
“I have a Deuteronomy 29:29 file that is filled with unanswered questions. It simply states that there are some mysteries that won’t be revealed until we cross into eternity. I don’t understand why my father-in-law passed away in the prime of life. I don’t understand why loved ones have lost babies. I have a lot of unanswered questions, and many of them derive from unanswered prayers.”
The hardest thing about praying fervently is enduring unanswered prayers. If you don’t guard your heart, unresolved anger toward God can undermine faith. Sometimes your only option is to trust because it is the last card in your hand, but it’s the wild card. If you can trust God when the answer is no, you’re likely to give him praise when the answer is yes. You need to press in and press on.
The truth is that there is never a prayer uttered from our lips or hearts that goes unanswered. There is always a response. It is either yes, no, or wait. I know one of the hardest ones for me is wait. We live in an I-want-it-now culture, and Christians aren’t always immune to that mentality.
But a “no” response can hurt just as deeply. My 51-year-old uncle, Greg, was fighting the battle of his life. Cancer had taken over his body for the third time in just seven years. Everything that could possibly have gone wrong did. Greg was the spiritual glue of our family. He was God fearing, intelligent, wise, kind and loving. Every person that ever came into contact with him, was impacted for the better. He lived and loved in a way that all of us should want to strive for. So, for us as a family, we all desperately wanted healing. People were praying around the clock and all over the world for his healing. We laid hands on him, were on our hands and knees and pleading with God for a miracle. As the weeks dragged on and Greg’s body grew weaker, the faith demonstrated by my family did not. We remained steadfast, clinging to the Lord with every fiber of our being, knowing that God could touch and heal Greg at any second if he chose to. And though he wasn’t, we continued to trust in his perfect plan — trusting that, even though the pain and suffering seemed so unnecessary at the time, it was all going to be used for his glory. Knowing that, even if God chose not to heal him here on this side of heaven, the ultimate healing would be coming, and that’s the kind of healing God gave him. Not the healing on this side of eternity, but the kind that would take his life and bring him face to face with his Savior.
The grief was intense. The mourning was almost too painful to bear at times, but knowing that God heard our prayers and had another plan for him was the only thing that kept us going. It would have been easy for our family to lose hope, question God, or even be angry at him for not healing Greg. What kept us going during this dark time was the trust that we have in him and his perfect plan. He knows things we don’t. He has a plan that is far better than our wildest dreams.
So whether the answer he gives is a yes, no or wait, we must continue to pray and continue to trust him. If you’re at the point of praying a prayer of surrender, you must continue to lean in and trust him, you will find that he’s still here with you. You will experience his grace flowing over you, and he will carry you. So keep praying and keep trusting.