I don’t believe that God always answers prayer. Before you object, let me explain. I’ve often heard it said that an unanswered prayer “really is an answer; it’s a ‘no’ or a 'wait.'" I get that. I just don’t always agree with it. I’ve prayed for many things that I KNOW were within God’s will, but the requests weren’t granted. Yet the Bible says, “If any of you asks anything in prayer according to God’s will, you will have it.” (I John 5:14-15)
So what do you do with that? Well, the answer (for me) was to change my perspective. I stopped looking at the Bible as a “contract” between God and me. I decided to stop quoting certain verses, then saying dumb things to myself and others like, “God’s honor is at stake here. He’s got to do this.” No...He doesn’t. Reminder: He’s God, we’re not. His honor is never at “stake” because His honor is always perfect. We simply don’t understand Him, and in some ways, we never will. I’m okay with that. God doesn’t owe me anything, the least of which is to live up to my grandiose expectations.
So, when God doesn’t say “yes,” that doesn’t always mean that it’s a “no” or “wait.” It just means that He was silent... for reasons I can’t understand. Again, He has a right to be silent, because He’s God. Does that mean He doesn’t love us? Nope. Does it mean He doesn’t care? Nope. It just means that sometimes, He chooses not to answer.
When my daughter was little she would often ask if she could drive the car. I would say, “No, but someday.” But she would persist in asking. I eventually stopped answering her question because there was no longer a good reason to answer. She couldn’t really understand the basis for her own question, so how could she understand the answer? Did I love her less? Not at all. I just realized that she needed to mature more before we could have a productive conversation about driving.
I often hear people do this with regard to singleness. Someone will say, “I’ve prayed for years for a mate. Why hasn’t God answered?” And then some Christian leader will say something like, “When you’re committed to being the right person, God will send the right person,” or some variety of similarly dumb statements. (I know, I’ve said my share of them over the years). And yet, I’ve known people who were committed to “being the right person” for 60 years, and they never married, even though it was one of their deepest desires.
Be honest. You know them too. Does that mean they were “deficient” in some way. Of course not. That’s ludicrous. It just means they never married; nothing more, nothing less.
These days I try to be more truthful. I don’t tell people that if they fast and pray and give and sacrifice and worry and fret and beg...that God will someday send them a “soul mate.” I don’t tell them that He has to get them hitched. I don’t tell them...because it’s not true.
Should they quit praying? No, I wouldn’t advise that. But neither should they give up and check out on following God because He hasn’t given them everything on their wish list. I see far too many people doing this, often in their 30’s and 40’s. They say, “God let me down. He’s proven to be untrustworthy,” then they go off and live a lifestyle they later regret. I think the Church is partially responsible because we often seem to teach that God must do what we expect Him to do.
When they discover that it doesn’t always work that way, the logical conclusion is to just give up--“The big Guy just can’t be trusted."
We unwittingly create this kind of end result for far too many single people. Anyway, here’s my point. The essence of following God is this: do it because you love Him, and don’t expect anything in return (including a cancer-free life, a big house, a great job, beautiful children and a cute wife or hot husband, or vice versa)! That way, if you don’t “get” one of those things, you won’t be devastated.
Love Him because He fulfills you. Love Him because you know that He cares about you more than anyone else ever can or will…and the things on your wish list do not, and will not, change that. My calling in life is to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul; then love others. That doesn’t change when He doesn’t meet my expectations. In fact, I’ve discovered that my “wish list” tends to diminish the more I love Him with no strings attached. Indeed, eventually it just doesn’t matter that much.
Paul asked God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Though we don’t know what the thorn was, God didn’t say “yes.” God didn’t say “no” or “wait” either. He simply said, “My grace is sufficient. “I’m everything you need. You’ll be fine.” Paul believed that, and it was enough.
That’s really all we can (or should) say sometimes, isn’t it? His Grace is sufficient. It’s not a “no” or a “wait,” it’s “Keep trusting Me. Keep loving Me, and keep letting Me love you, even when you don’t understand me...especially when you don’t understand.”
Friends, that’s a high and holy privilege. It’s much better than playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with the Almighty.