FAITH & REFLECTION — Surveys have revealed that 86 per cent of the North American population believe that God answers prayer. Yet, one of the most common (and I believe legitimate) concerns people speak to me about is the matter of unanswered prayer. Some of what is shared is naïve and presumptuous, but much is valid, perplexing and heartrending.
There are several biblically stated conditions for prayer to be answered. Faith is prerequisite. It would be absurd for us to speak to someone if we don’t believe they are there! Hebrews 11:6 says, “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists…”
Like any other successful form of communication, there must be relationship. The Lord’s prayer begins with “our Father” not, “whoever you are!” or “hey you!” Nevertheless some, perhaps even many, prayers seem to remain unanswered.
There was a devout Christian lady whose husband, though a very fine man, consistently rejected Christ. She prayed faithfully and fervently for him to come to faith in Jesus. Then one day, on his way to work, he was killed in an automobile accident. The lady was devastated…her prayers were unanswered and her husband had left this world without preparing for the next.
Weeks later, as she sifted through the contents of her husband’s totaled car, she came across the business card of a man she had never heard of. Out of curiosity, she called him.
The man was pleased to hear from her and explained that he had only known her husband for 30 minutes. His car had broken down on the freeway and her late husband had picked him up. He told the widow that he had shared the gospel of Christ with her husband. He added that her husband had prayed to receive Christ as his Savior.
There are two considerations here. The first is, that God will not always answer our prayers in the time or in the way that we may expect. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). We just don’t have Him figured out! We must learn to wait on Him and continue to trust in Him.
Second, we need to have a fundamental understanding and acceptance of the fact that God is good and is by nature benevolent rather than malevolent. This allows us to simply and perennially expect Him to provide for us in this world and guide us into the next. A comprehensive understanding of life’s details and circumstances may be desired, but are not required.
I currently have a few unanswered prayers myself, but I believe that God is too wise to make mistakes and to loving to be unkind.