To understand why God doesn't always answer our prayers, we have to start by understanding that to understand why God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want we have understand we are not always going to fully understand why God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want.
How do you like that?
Or let me say it another way, if we are really going to come to terms with why God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want him to, we have to understand something very basic: God is God and we are not.
We’re not always going to understand everything about the way God works because He is God.
His thoughts are way above ours. He can see the whole puzzle at once. We can only see a part. He is perfect in wisdom. We are not. He understands absolutely everything. We have a hard time understanding the simplest thing.
I’m not trying to be overly simplistic here, but this is important: It should not be surprising to us that we can’t fully understand everything God does because we’re not God.
As parents you know your children have lots of desires, and most of the time, they really want you to fulfill those desires. You say no to them and they get upset... sometimes they get really upset. You try to explain it to them, and yet there are times when they just can’t understand your reasoning.
Why? Maybe...because they are children.
They don’t know as much as you do.
I remember taking my oldest daughter to the doctor a number of years ago. I could see the fear well up in her eyes. She hates shots. She begged me to take her away. She couldn't understand why I didn’t. If I had answered her cries the way she wanted, I guarantee momentarily she’d have been pretty happy, she would have thought I really loved her; but in reality, by not answering her cries, by forcing her to receive the shot, it meant I love her more, not less.
We don’t trust God fully because we can fully explain everything He does, we trust God because we know who God is.
With my daughters, there are times when I have to say no to them, and they don’t understand it, so I stoop down and try to gently explain my reasons to them. And God does that with us. He doesn’t always say look, I’m God you’re not, end of discussion. We’re going to see there are plenty of reasons in Scripture why He does what He does. But and here’s the key, I also know with my daughters that’s it’s not really helpful for me to stoop down and explain absolutely every decision I make to them, because McKenna’s only six and Cambria’s only four and Caitlyn is only two.
Sometimes you are in the grocery store and you’ll see parents with their children and the child really wants a candy bar, they always have those just at eye level for children, and the dad or mom says no, and the child begins to argue. They go back and forth, back and forth, no, yes, no, yes. And the parent gets down and tries to have a conference with the child explaining all his reasons. Then when that doesn’t work, they start making threats. "I’m going to leave you at the grocery store."
Don't you want to go over there, and say, "Look, you are the parent. And you are the child. That’s it. End of story."
That may be a bit rude, but it’s really important that children understand that. There are times when you are not going to have time to explain everything. When they are running out onto the road and about to be run over by a car, you are not going to have time to sit down and have a conference about why you are yelling no, don’t do that. And really it’s not even beneficial for them to always have to have an explanation for everything because if you are always sitting around having to explain why you did what you did, then neither of you are going to be able to move forward to do what you need to do.
And you know, in our relationship with God, it’s not harsh for Him to say, "I’m God and you are not." It’s helpful.
Look, if I try to be God, I’m going to tire myself out because I can’t be God. I don’t know all the stuff He knows. I can’t understand all the stuff He does. And so I need to focus on being who I am, a creature. And I need to remember the fact that though I can’t understand everything He is doing, He does because He’s God and I am not.
As one writer explains, "It should fill us with joy, that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world. Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures He has made. Our own path through life is dark and devious, beset with difficulties and dangers. What a comfort it is that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness, and to those who love God, He causes all things, whatever be their present aspect or apparent tendency to work together from good."
Let me be real practical here. When you are on your knees and you are struggling with unanswered prayer, you need to remind yourself who God is and who you are. Great example of what I mean over in Psalm 22.
David is struggling with unanswered prayer. And he cries out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are my words of groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; and by night, but I have no rest." When God didn’t seem to answer David’s prayer, he struggled, it hurt, but notice what he does next, "Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In Thee our fathers trusted, they trusted and Thou didst deliver them. To Thee they cried out, and were delivered; In Thee they trusted and were not disappointed." He begins to reason to himself, he remembers who God is, and although he may not completely understand what God’s doing, he found hope when he remembered who God is.
When our prayers aren't answered the way we like, we should learn to do the same!