if God doesn't answer my prayers?
I read this question, I imagine a genuine, earnest, exploring
spirit in conversation with me. You have journeyed to this Web
site in search of information. It may be that you will also encounter
inspiration. I will do my very best with your questions. I hope
your quest will lead you to more questions and deeper answers,
and to the Spirit of God who will fill in the better responses
between my lines. You ask: What if God does not answer my prayers?
you are like me, my prayers are what I call prescription prayers.
It is as if we expect God to be a Holy Pharmacist. I prescribe and
God is to fill it, to answer it. Sometimes,
so it seems, our prescriptions do get filled as we have requested.
Then, at other times, we do not receive our answers.
My own experience is that I have tended to grow more spiritually
(granted, painfully) with God's ultimate answers than with my answers,
even if occasionally they are one and the same.
one-liner reflections on my prayers and God's answers.
First, there seems to be no such things as a professional at
prayer. There are only beginners who pray by beginning again
and again and again. A second reflection: Maybe the most important
thing about prayer is simply to show up. Third, prayer is more
about the development of a relationship than about my answers.
It will be that unique, sacred relationship which will calm my
storms and lead me to the light, more than my receiving a quick
prescription. A fourth reflection: Prayer, the kind that shows
up again and again, the kind that prays through the foul weather
and not just in fair weather, that prayer leads the one who prays
to new awareness, new horizons, new visions of justice and peace.
The great saints of yesterday and today seem to be those whose
prayer life leads them to God, rather than to a response which
meets their needs. Are not our deepest needs the needs of the
soul? Enter, sole God.
Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey
look first at how we ask the question. I believe that God's grace
precedes our prayers, that in a sense, God's answer is offered
before we even ask. And yet, our asking is still important, because
that is the way we discover God's presence and God's desires
for us, the way we become receptive to God's presence, the way
we become open to God's guidance, malleable in the hands of God
as clay is malleable in the hands of the potter.
Another way of putting this is that I
don't believe God intervenes in response to our prayers in order to miraculously
change the circumstances of our lives, but rather that God responds to us through
the power of the Spirit working in us. In response to our asking,
God gives us God's self, and through us through the power of God's presence
in us we become the very agents through which God works in answer to
our requests. A statement by T.H. Williams expresses this same understanding
in a strong, eloquent way: "We show a lack of faith in God by a lack of
faith in ourselves as proceeding from God's creative act." So you, readers,
what do you think? I'd be curious to hear.
Rev. Margaret B. Gunness
God may answer our every prayer but not in the way that we hope. First, there
are many kinds of prayer; e.g., praise, confession, intercession, thanksgiving,
petition. Many of us think of the last as "prayer." But in the
case of praise and thanksgiving, we know by faith that God answers those
prayers just by receiving them. The others are trickier: God answers our
confession with His absolution, but we only know that in our heart if the
weight of guilt is lifted. If we truly confess and truly repent and if
we truly are committed to new behavior, we will know we have been answered.
we intercede for another for example for a friend undergoing
cancer surgery we can only pray and leave it in Gods
hands. If that person dies, we cannot assume that God has not
answered our prayer. For one thing, what was the nature of our
prayer? Did we pray that our friend would be cured and healed
and made healthy? That simply may not happen. Illness, aging
and death are all part of the human condition, and God does not
promise that He will exempt us; God promises, rather, that if
we allow Him to be present to us during such suffering, we will
know the light and the strength and the peace of His sovereignty
over us and all our situations. So perhaps when we intercede,
we need to think about another kind of prayer, for example, one
asking that our friends heart and spirit be trusting and
open to Gods presence.
it comes to petition, we are at the heart of the matter for many
of us. What
we must say here is that God answers our every petition but He
often says no. There is an old saying: "Be
careful what you pray for; you may get it." I will give
you a personal example: One night in 1986, I was drifting into
sleep when I prayed a prayer of petition; that is, I asked God
for something. What I said was, "God, cut me some slack!" I
was praying about finances, my personal finances and the finances
of my parish, which had been "land-and-building-poor" for
some 200 years.
was plenty of space for worship and classes, even for clergy
and staff housing, but not much cash with which to heat them
in winter (this was in New York), cool them in summer, and provide
all the other resources that would enable us as a parish to fully
utilize such gifts. Personally, my wife and I had enough to get
by, and we were far better off than most people in the world,
as are most Americans, but we had no savings, no extra, no cushion
or the wherewithal for some of the things we thought we needed
and surely wanted. So, "God, cut me some slack" was
my prayer that night.
a few months, my life and the life of my parish had changed dramatically.
My mother in Florida had become gravely ill and had died, and
as a result, I had some slack in my income, which meant little
at the time in the midst of my grief. Plus the parish had received
a bequest for several millions of dollars and was in a civil
war as to how to use it: for others or for ourselves. Dark clouds
lived over my life and the life of the parish for a long time
So sometimes God says no. It is always okay to pray for whatever we want, but
we should think a long time to make sure we really want it.
if God doesnt answer our prayers? Perhaps we are
being sent in a new direction, and that new direction may
be the answer to prayers we havent even thought of
Rev. William A. Kolb
experience has been that God does indeed answer prayers. The
trouble is I don't always like what He has to say. The majority
of my prayers seem to revolve around me in one way or another.
Usually, I have already figured out what I want, and I ask God
to provide it. Oftentimes my plan is not His plan, and His schedule
is not my schedule. Accepting His plan and truly putting Him
first is very difficult, but on the rare occasions when I am
able to do so, I find that I am always blessed.
have also found that many things interfere with my prayer life.
It is hard enough to find time to really talk to God, but it
is seemingly impossible to find time to listen. Yet, with God
all things are possible. I sometimes see a glimpse of the Light.
My personal experience has been that He was serious when He said, "Ask,
and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and
it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). I just need
to spend more time asking for the first things first and then
last point: Like most people, there have been times when I felt
God had abandoned me. How,
I wondered, could He turn His back on ME? When I have reflected
upon those experiences, I realize it was I who let Him down. God
was not there because I had pushed Him away. I was too busy.
I was focussed on the wrong things. I was allowing many other
things to come before Him. I was not listening.
my mind is clear and I allow myself to be receptive to His grace,
I find that I am answered.
don't believe many of us know the mind of God, particularly when
we are asking God for something. Most of the saints are not recognized
for their prayers of request, but for being able to hear the
still, small voice of God in their lives. Someone has said prayer
is more a matter of opening your mind than opening your mouth.
are many kinds of prayer. Some of them do not require an answer
from God at all, because they are occasions when we are simply
telling God what we feel. Table graces are an example; we feel
glad that God has blessed us by providing for our needs, so we
tell God how grateful we are.
there are times when we pour out our hearts to God. Sometimes
we are angry at a misfortune, or hurt by another person's thoughtless
words, or wracked with grief. At times like these, we sometimes
don't even know what to say. According to the New Testament,
when this happens, the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father for us,
using a heavenly language humans cannot even know.
like these can continue literally for years. Often we are so
focused on what we are feeling, we do not notice what is happening
to us. But I believe that we never pray deeply without being
changed. The change is not always profound; it is sometimes so
small as to be imperceptible.
I have prayed for a long time for something to happen, I sometimes
feel it is senseless to pray about it any more, that surely God
must be weary of hearing my requests again and again. Nevertheless,
over a long period of time, these encounters of God have changed
me. I have become bitter about God's failure to perform as I
wish; or I stop feeling the need for the thing I was praying
for; or I begin to see that the thing I wanted from God would
have been bad for me, and that God was wise to withhold it.
the case, I
believe that God is the Best Listener. God knows
exactly where I'm coming from, and I don't have to be pretentious
or summon up some holy effort. I have discovered also that God's
willingness to listen to my inmost secrets never ceases. That
in itself is the only answer God has ever promised to us. But
as we learn to revel in its extravagant spareness, it becomes
contemporary song has a line that goes, "And I wouldn't
know a burning bush if it blew up in my face." I think that's
true for most of us. I believe God always answers our prayers,
it just may not be the answer we want or one we're looking for.
Prayer can take on different forms according to the situation. Supplication
for me involves my ability to cope. I ask for strength and clarity. A quote
from Ethics by Spinoza: "Emotion which is suffering ceases
to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it."
First, I sort out what I can do about a given situation. Those factors out
of my control automatically fall into God's hands. Faith gives me the courage
to accept God's will. Often God's answers are available for me. However, my
own awareness is the conduit for God's messages.
God hears the prayers of everyone. Oftentimes, when someone does not receive
an immediate, favorable answer from God, he or she then assumes that God
either didn't hear the prayer or doesn't care to answer. Even the most
attentive and devout Christian has felt a touch forsaken by God at times
when life seems to be dealing too many hard blows without any abatement. In
fact, God is answering all of our prayers as He sees fit. Man
cannot ever assume that by merely asking God for something it becomes apt
or fitting for his situation. Our Father knows how our prayers must be
answered, and we must trust Him to make those decisions for us. By so doing
we strengthen our holy faith in God.