One of the most difficult tests of my faith is when prayer goes unanswered. – At least the way that I wanted it to be answered. It’s easy for me to think that God is behind the blessings I receive in this life; it’s harder for me to accept that sometimes God says no. James 1:17 tells us that every gift is from God. So if every gift is from God and the gift is not arriving…I would have to conclude that for some reason God decided to withhold that gift.
Over the past few months I have prayed that a young woman would have no brain tumors…and God said no. I prayed for another woman to have a positive pregnancy test..and God said no. I prayed for a little boy to have no loss of hearing…and God said no. I prayed with consistency, earnestness, and boldness…and my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling and fall onto the floor.
I trust God and I know that He is good and that His ways are higher than mine. But I was losing confidence in the purpose and the effectiveness of my prayer requests. If God answers according to His will, what is the point of bringing our requests before Him? Does God really intervene when we pray? Or is prayer simply an empty exercise designed to keep me in a close relationship with God? What is the purpose of prayer?
Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.
– Oswald Chambers
Many of us treat God as though he is some sort of a cosmic magical genie. We throw our prayer requests at Him and expect Him to grant our every wish. Although it’s hard to accept, we need to understand that God always has a reason when He says no to our requests. I just couldn’t see any reason…so I opened my Bible and decided to dig further. And these are the things that I was reminded of.
- Sometimes God says no because He is saying yes to something better. He is God and He knows what is best and what will bring us true joy. Sometimes He says no to steer us in a different direction.
- Sometimes God withholds a yes because He knows it will grow us spiritually. This is one of the primary ways He awakens our need for Him, grows our dependence on Him, shapes our character, and draws us closer to Him.
- Sometimes God is not saying no. Sometimes he is saying not yet.
- Sometimes God says no because His purpose has already been set. He is in control and has determined the best course. God’s ultimate plan is that every person would be positioned to know Him and come to faith in Him.
- Sometimes God says no because others may come to faith by observing the steely faith of someone who remains steadfast through trials. We each have a story and our stories impact one another. All of our stories are part of God’s story and He is the Author and Finisher of our faith – not me.
- Sometimes God says no because we are experiencing the testing of our faith. Unshakable faith comes from having our faith shaken. Faith untested is no faith at all.
So do our prayers make a difference? Unequivocally – yes. YES. YES. YES. While there are some things that are predestined by God, other things are not. There are many, many things which can be influenced through our prayers. God shapes the world through the prayers of His saints. If we knew the impact that our prayers have…I think we would pray more.
You do not have because you do not ask God. – James 4:2b
Why aren’t we asking? Prayer has wings and it can lift you above your circumstances. It is the cry of the heart during our darkest hour. Prayer ushers in God’s power and presence. Prayer makes things happen. Prayer is a reminder that we are not God.
My dear friends, There is a reason when God has allowed or prevented something from happening in our lives. It’s not because He doesn’t love us or desires to hurt us. It’s not because He didn’t hear our prayers. He is constantly working to accomplish things for good on our behalf…and we may never learn why until we reach Heaven. Fight to trust the Lord. Stay with prayer until it gives you even more of God.
When I was thinking about prayer it reminded me of an analogy I learned when I was a young girl. Somehow it still resonates with me in my older years.