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Hear the Silent Message in Unanswered Prayer
Do unanswered prayers mean that God doesnít care, or worse, that Heís not even there?
by Whitney Hopler, Contributing Writer
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Pete Greig's new book, God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer, (Regal Books, 2007).
Youíve prayed repeatedly for God to intervene in a situation close to your heart Ė but all your requests have been met with silence. Youíve prayed with great passion and faith Ė yet still, God doesnít answer. Do unanswered prayers mean that God doesnít care, or worse, that Heís not even there? When youíre heartbroken over His silence, it can seem that way.
But God has a message to send you through the silence. Hereís how you can hear Him, even when He doesnít answer your prayers:
Be honest. Admit your disappointment, frustration, confusion, doubt, sorrow, anger, and any other feelings you have about the fact that you havenít yet received answers to your prayers. Donít be afraid to express yourself completely to God, without shame or pretense. Pray about every concern you have. Ask God hard questions.
Seek God Himself instead of just His miracles. Understand that, although God sometimes does choose to perform miracles for certain purposes, He often decides not to do so. Believe in the truth that a miracle is always possible, but remember that miracles are rare by definition. Check your motives to make sure youíre not just vying for a miracle, but instead are seeking to grow closer to God. Donít expect God to be like a divine vending machine who dispenses miracles on demand. Love God Himself more than what He can give you.
Be willing to accept ďnoĒ as an answer. Consider carefully whether God has truly not answered your prayer, or whether He has answered it, but chosen to deny your request. Ask God to give you the strength to accept His will, even if itís contrary to your wishes. Realize that your power to choose Godís will over your own preference is a significant opportunity to grow in faith and maturity. Remember that Godís wisdom is often beyond human understanding, but He is always working out the best for you from His eternal perspective. Ask God to help you learn the valuable lessons He wants to teach you through your suffering, so that suffering will ultimately lead you to greater joy.
Ask yourself if youíre expecting God to spare you from the normal consequences of living in a fallen world. Acknowledge that, in our fallen world, suffering is common for every human being. Expect to have trouble in this world, as Jesus predicted we all would. Discuss your situation with some faithful friends and honestly consider whether God is asking you to pray against your suffering, or whether He simply wants to give you the grace to endure it with Him alongside you.
Ask yourself if your understanding and expectations of God are wrong. Seriously consider whether youíre asking the wrong thing of God based on an unbiblical set of expectations. Make sure your prayer life reflects Godís character and His promises in the Bible. Talk with someone you trust about whether or not he or she thinks your request is sensible.
Ask yourself if your motives are selfish. Donít covet anything, seek something thatís inherently sinful, or insist on something and try to manipulate God to get it. Feel free to express your desires openly to God, but always with the overriding desire to fulfill His purposes for your life. Ask God to help you approach Him with pure motives, genuinely wanting what He wants for you.
Ask yourself if you want an answer enough to keep praying. Donít give up. Pray about the situation regularly and ask God to help you persevere until He is ready to give you His answer about it.
Ask yourself if there is a secret sin you need to confess. Understand that disobedience may block your prayers from being answered. Find a Christian friend you trust and confess any sin you havenít yet confessed. Repent of that sin by turning away from it and turning toward God. Pursue healing for wounds that keep you tied to sinful thought or behavior patterns. Ask God to give you the strength to forgive or apologize to people to whom you need to do so.
Ask yourself if youíre trying to find answers in situations where you need to simply trust instead. Realize that if youíre doing everything right, but your situation still doesnít make sense, you can still hold onto God like a hurting kid embracing his or her father. Stay connected to God and keep trusting Him while you go through your current challenges. Know that your challenges are not in vain because God will use them to make you a better person.
Adapted from God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer, copyright 2007 by Pete Greig. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com
Pete Greig is an author, church planter, and one of the founding leaders of 24-7 Prayer, a British charity that has grown in six years from a single night-and-day prayer room into an international, interdenominational Christian movement committed to prayer, mission, and justice. A popular speaker, he has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people on five continents. His books, which have been translated into a number of languages, include: Awakening Cry, The 24-7 Prayer Manual, Red Moon Rising: The Adventure of Faith and the Power of Prayer, The Vision and the Vow: Rules of Life and Rhythms of Grace, and Practitioners: Voices Within the Emerging Culture.
Copyright 2006, Crosswalk.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.