We're talking about the problem of unanswered prayer:
If God is in control and God really listens to our prayers and if God loves me, why doesn't He answer my prayers the way I want?
In previous blogs we've seen, 1. because God is God and we are not...2. because God has a better plan to bring Himself glory.
Today, one more.
3. Because He wants our best.
Just imagine going diamond shopping with an expert in diamonds.
I mean, this guy knows it all. And you look, and you look, and finally you come down to two options. And you, you have a hard time deciding, but you pick one over the other. On your way home you ask your friend, what do you think? What do you think about my buy?
And he says, it’s nice if you like a fake.
How would you react?
You’d say – why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you stop me? Why did you allow me to choose what is cheap instead of what is really valuable?
God loves us. And the thing is, He’s an expert in life. He created us. He knows all. So he knows what is best for us. We, on the other hand, have a real hard time figuring out and choosing what is most valuable. Given a choice between our comfort and God’s glory, most of the time, we’d choose our own comfort. Given a choice between pleasure and holiness, most of the time, we’d choose our own pleasure. And so when God doesn’t answer our prayers, we struggle. Man if God loved me he’d give me this. He’d let me do that. No, we’ve got it all wrong. It’s because God loves you that He’s not answering your prayer. He’s not going to let you buy the cubic zirconium.
God loves us so much He's willing to sacrifice our comfort and our pleasure so that we can really have what’s best.
But slow down you say, how so? How does unanswered prayer work for my good?
One and this is so basic, but it's often good that God doesn't give us what we want because what we want right now isn’t what’s best for us.
Picture being Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers. If you were Joseph, you might be praying, God just get me back to my family, get me out of slavery, right now. But God doesn’t do that. And it’s a good thing...because in the end what happens? After having been falsely accused, thrown in prison, left for dead, Joseph ends up being second in charge of all of Egypt. If Joseph did pray to be freed from prison and sent home, it's a good thing God didn't answer that prayer the way Joseph might have wanted at the time.
Two, unanswered prayer is good for us because it keeps us humble, and it teaches us to depend solely on God.
Paul points this out over in 2 Corinthians 12:8. Paul here is talking about an unanswered prayer. He had a thorn in the flesh. And he says, "Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me." Paul could have said, God don’t you care? I’ve served you all this time, and this is what I get? But he doesn’t. God says look I want you to be weak so you rely on my grace and on my power. And so Paul instead of complaining about his weaknesses, decides to boast about them, because this weakness, this unanswered prayer, puts God’s power on display.
God doesn’t always answer our prayers right away because He wants us to be persistent. He wants us to depend completely on Him. Jesus when he talks about prayer, often talks about just this, persistency. God wants us to pray without ceasing, to pray always and not faint. If we are responding to unanswered prayer correctly, we don’t give up. We get on our knees and go back. Then we get on our knees and go back... and you know what, that’s good for us. It’s go to be forced to your knees time and time again.
Listen to George Mueller. He writes, "One or the other might suppose that all my prayers have been…promptly answered. No; not all of them. Sometimes I have had to wait weeks, months or years, sometimes for many years….During the first six weeks of year 1866 I heard of the conversion of six persons for whom I had been praying for a long time. For one I had been praying for between two and three years; for another between three and four years, and for another above six years; for the fifth above fifteen years; and for the sixth above twenty years…In one instance my faith has been tried even more than this. In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether in sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressures of my engagements may be…two remain unconverted…But I hope in God, I pray on and I look for the answer…"
You know human nature. What happens when things are always easy? We often get proud and we often get lazy. God doesn’t want that for us. He wants our best. He wants us to completely depend on Him.
Three, unanswered prayer is a trial, it’s a test of faith, and we know what Scripture has to say about how good trials are for us.
James 1:2-4, "Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may perfect and complete lacking nothing."
Unanswered prayer is one of these various trials, so you could say consider it all joy when your prayers go unanswered because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. You know by not answering your prayer God is promoting your spiritual good. Waiting on God produces spiritual strength. He’s teaching you to endure. And if you do that, you’re going to become more mature in Christ.
Remember George Mueller? He learned to rejoice when his prayers were not immediately answered because of his complete trust in the wise purposes of God. George took unanswered prayer as a sign of God’s love because by doing so, God was strengthening Mueller’s faith. That’s how we should view unanswered prayer – it’s a sign of God’s love.
Four, and we’ll stop here, unanswered prayers are good for us because we rejoice more when our prayers are finally answered. As someone has written, "The more prayers and searchings of heart come between our needs and our supplies, our afflictions and reliefs, the sweeter our reliefs and supplies thereby made to us."