Reflection: When God Isn’t Answering Your Prayer

By Lau Jue Hua, Singapore

Most of us have been taught that prayer is the first thing to do when we are in trouble. While it is sound advice, there is a possible pitfall. When we view prayer as a problem-solving technique, we lose sight of God’s intended purpose of it—as an instrument of intimacy between Him and us.

If we see prayer as the panacea for all our troubles, we expect God to solve all of our problems. Broke up with your girlfriend? Pray. Come to blows with your best friend? Pray. Parents don’t understand you? The answer is . . . you guessed it! Pray.

This glib and superficial advice that we Christians often give one another in times of trial and discouragement may tempt some to give up their faith when they have prayed and received no answer from God. They end up discouraged and defeated. Perhaps, God doesn’t exist or He doesn’t care.

So, what can we do if we doubt God in our times of need and when He is not answering our prayers? We look to a biblical example, the story of a man who is driven nearly to despair because God seems to refuse to respond to his prayers.

Read Psalm 77.

In Psalm 77:1-3, we can clearly tell that the psalmist is going through intense affliction and doubt. Many Christians don’t like to admit that such emotions are a normal part of the Christian experience. But this excerpt from the book of Psalms stands as testimony to the contrary.

The psalmist clearly knows how to approach God in times of affliction. He uses the approaches of prayer and meditation. Even so, his pain is unabated and even compounded by God’s apparent failure to answer his prayers.

On the brink of losing his own faith, the psalmist desperately reflects on and remembers past blessings and God’s goodness (Psalm 77:5-6). But in verses 7 to 9, we see that he is still plagued by questions and he falls into the next level of despair in which he doubts God.

Then in Psalm 77:11-12, the psalmist underwent a radical rethinking of his crisis of doubt. This paradigm shift came about as he called to mind one of the most fundamental truths of Scripture. It is the truth that God cannot change. As the apostle James puts it, “Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God is absolutely reliable and dependable and His love and mercy toward us never change.

The psalmist’s doubts were not yet answered at this point, however he had a mindset shift. As such, he learns to put God at the center of his prayers instead of himself. Similarly, by meditating on Scriptures that speak to us about God, our prayers become God-centered, we open ourselves up to thinking biblically. When we start by praying about God, we start with the fact that God knows no limits, removing all limitations from our thinking and our prayers.

But why was God silent to the psalmist’s cries? Think about this, if God always respond instantly to our cries for help, we would remain spiritually immature and be mastered by our feelings and moods. Our prayers would always be self-centered rather than God-centered. By deliberately allowing the psalmist to go through a time of trial, doubt, and despair, God moves the psalmist to a deeper level of faith, growing him spiritually stronger and wiser.

In his closing verse the psalmist exclaims, “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). This sentence describes the relationship of God to His people like that of a Shepherd with His flock.

A shepherd always has a goal in mind for his flock. If a shepherd leads his sheep to the mountain pastures, it’s because he wants to accomplish something there. If he leads them beside the water, he has a reason for doing so. If he leads the sheep out in the midst of wolves, it’s because he wants them there.

Whenever we are in the midst of suffering and we feel abandoned or neglected by God, we need to remember that He is our Shepherd and we are always in His protective care. Have faith in God for He leads you through times of trial, doubt and despair to ultimately make you stronger. Let God’s unchanging qualities be the bedrock of your prayers.

YMI Note: This reflection is based on the Discovery Series booklet When God Isn’t Answering Your Prayer by Ray Stedman. Read the Discovery Series booklet here.

7 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    This was a timely message for me. Thanks for sharing it. I was in extreme need of a miracle a few weeks ago. As the days ticked down and the deadline came and went, I received no miracle. To say I was devastated, doesn’t even really cover it. It broke my heart. I was extremely upset with God over it.

    Even now I can still feel the sting of disappointment. A few weeks on though, I am starting to realize it’s not the end of the world. I still do need a miracle by the way. The area of my life that was in uncertainty is still in uncertainty. And so, please pray for me.

    In the meantime, I am trying to accept the fact that God is still in control and that there is a reason for everything that happens to us. This article was a good reminder to me of just that. Thank you again!

    Reply
  2. tina
    tina says:

    I fell in love with a guy and i truley felt god put him in my life for a lesson for me to help him he was from prison a buglur and a herion addict i fell hard and love him still and feel that god still wants me to help him see after 2 yrs he fell back and has to go to court for the same thing i feel like i failed but i still feel in my heart he is here for me to help i love him but im lost i pray god lets him be free so i can be stronger to hellp him because i did learn from this that i need to speak my mind and not give up like i did on him i want to finish helping him change and be the man i love and know not this false person he falls to i pray for help and feel that its not over i have a chance but then i get where i say he has to pay yet again for his mistakes yet i want to try to help him i love him and pray pray pray to god to let me and him have one more chance so i can do this job i do truley feel is for me and why we met the way we did i dont know if this is a lesson for me or him but i want to have a second chance to love and be a family with him and help him be a better person i dont know if i make sence i do have a hard time explaining things i hope you get the idea and god will help you see what im saing what do i do to feel good not worry and trust in gods plan when i want it to be what i feel because my soul says to believe i can help him and be together with the one i love and god he dont really believe in god he bellieves in gods but i dont put people down for what they believe in im sorry i hope you can help my confused self dont know what to do

    Reply
  3. min xiong
    min xiong says:

    my grandmother pass away morn than 10 years,few years ago 2 unbeliever relatives pass away,pray to God for salvation to all relatives and friends in Malaysia,ask in the name of Lord Jesus,amen

    Reply
    • min xiong
      min xiong says:

      not forgetting family idol worship members to receive Lord Jesus be their personal savior,pray & ask in the name of Jesus,amen

  4. min xiong
    min xiong says:

    we need the power to overcome all difficulties,pray and ask according to his will,not my will,in the name of Lord Jesus,amen

    Reply
  5. min xiong
    min xiong says:

    2nd April,church prayer meeting,may brothers and sisters be blessed,be save,be glorify,be truth,be honest,be honor,be protected,be filled,be grace,be love,be gentle,be kind,be lifted,pray and ask in the name of Lord Jesus,amen

    Reply

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