God, Why Are My Prayers Not Answered?

Jan 19, 2019

The single most important conversation you could ever have is the one you have with God. We call this prayer. Studies have shown that you and I--as women--talk to God more frequently than men do and hold with absolute certainty belief in God.

We know the value of prayer. We pray because we want to know God...and because knowing God improves our wellbeing and happiness.

Why Are My Prayers Unanswered? 

Prayer can be difficult, confusing, and downright daunting--especially when prayerful expectations rise and fall unfulfilled. If you’ve ever cried out helplessly, “God, what’s going on? Why are my prayers not answered?!” I wrote this post for you.

My hope is that Jesus, the living and eternal Word of God--the subject and focus of all prayer--will take what I’m going to say and speak to your heart what you most need to hear--right now.

I’m also trusting that he’ll set your heart and mind at ease and help you cross over to the other side of unanswered prayer into a deeper relationship with him, which is the true purpose of prayer after all, right?  

Then, in the context of a loving friendship, you can say confidently as he once said to his Father, “I know that you always hear me.”

How does that sound to you? Good?

Okay, on to what you need to know...

It’s a Widespread Challenge

Seeking God has its challenges and unanswered prayer is one of the biggest. What makes it harder to bear is that so few of us talk about it. Because of this we can feel alone in our disappointment.

So, to help you overcome any frustration or unsettling feeling that you’re the only one this happens to, together let's look at how David, the second king of Israel and a powerful military leader, copes with this familiar Christian challenge. Look at what he says to God in prayer at a particularly stressful time in his life from Psalm 42.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God...My tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”

If you’ve EVER prayed seeking divine assistance or intervention in a situation you believed important to your wellbeing, or that of someone you care about...and experienced deafening silence in response….

You know what David felt in that prayer!

If you’ve done all you could and placed all your trust in God’s help and nothing changed in the direction you hoped or expected--and you’ve had to endure the faithless remarks of others…. 

You’re familiar with David’s pain:

...I pour out my soul...my soul is downcast within me;
I will say to God my Rock: “Why do you forget me?”
It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,
when they say to me everyday: “Where is your God?”
~ Psalm 42:1,4-5,7, 10-11

If you’ve been there, you can you see—and feel—his anguish and pain in this poignant passage of Sacred scripture!

David, one of the greatest Old Testament kings ever—through whom the Savior of the world would come in fulfillment of the divine promise to establish the reign of his household forever — is desperately longing to hear from God.

He’s in dire straits and...

God is silent.

Not only does he grapple with intensive grief (signified by the excessive tears, angst, and longing for God), but poor David also strives against the heart-piercing pain of being taunted by foes who mock him for his trust and belief in God’s goodness.

Is he suffering? Truly! Does he throw in the towel and abandon all hope or God? No!

Why not?

Having had so much personal experience of God’s goodness and love...David refuses (with the help of divine grace) to turn away from the Living God.

This couldn’t have been an easy choice. Well... what does he do instead?

He goes into battle. He chooses to trust in God’s absolute goodness!

It's a Spiritual Battle You Must Fight 

Every moment of silence stemming from unanswered prayer becomes a battle. You must be unwilling, like David, to abandon your hope and trust in God’s goodness. David refused to turn away from the God of his youth, the God singularly responsible for every victory he’s had in battle, and most importantly the God of his heart….whom he loved.

Like you and me, he most surely felt his weakness and the temptation to abandon all hope!

Unanswered prayer plunges the heart into battle! And you must fight! Every uncharitable thought, feeling, and the desire to turn away from God are arrows of the enemy aimed at your heart.

They have one goalto turn you away from God!

  • “Prayer doesn’t work! God doesn’t listen to me.”
  • “What good is faith? Prayer is useless!”
  • “God has deserted me. How can he care and treat me like this!”
  • “The world is right...God’s never there when you really need him!”
  • “I’m just not important enough, holy enough, good enough, obedient enough…or (you fill in the blank) enough to God.”
  • “Why am I Catholic...Christian...why bother to go to church at all?”
  • “Don’t ever mention God’s name to me again!”

The intensity of this spiritual battle requires divine grace to withstand or resist its potential harm to your relationship with God.

 Four Things David Can Teach You

David knew battles of the heart and mind could be far more difficult than any physical battle. Having succumb to such battles himself he knew what had to be done to withstand the spiritual battle of unanswered prayer! He made a fourfold decision to:

  1. act with loyalty
  2. keep his promises
  3. perform his duties
  4. and be trustworthy

Scholars call this the “principle of fidelity”. It defined David’s life, leadership, and relationship—though not perfectly, with God. He knew...loved...and trusted God. He demonstrated faithful love by adhering to the principle of fidelity to God. And so can you. If you like this , you'll find this timely tool quite helpful.

Did faithfulness to God protect David from life’s difficulties? No.

He suffered devastating personal losses in his family life, as well as, defeat and victory on the battlefield.

David also enjoyed a unique and intimate friendship with the ever-faithful, merciful, ineffably holy, and all-powerful God of Israel. God himself testified of David saying,

I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart,
who will do all my will.
 ~ Acts 13:22

Even with divine favor upon him David still experienced the spiritually excruciating pain of God’s silence and the additional strain of an emotional storm. Yet, if you're familiar with how David’s life ended you know he prevailed with the help of divine grace...and lived a long, peaceful life in deep friendship with God.

I want that and my guess is you do too. God above all wants this for everyone of us.

How to Win and Prevail With God

God’s silence need not drive you away from him in despair. In fact, it can do the opposite and pull you more deeply into union with him. So how do you act with loyalty toward God, keep your promises to him, attend to your duties in life and prove yourself trustworthy to God--especially when he’s silent? And, you’re hurting, confused, and feeling abandoned?

You Pray. Why? Because it’s the means through which God’s grace flows.

And, we need the supernatural power of divine grace to win spiritual battles!

It may “feel” counterintuitive to do so, but here’s what makes prayer so invaluable at this time. You’re actually showing God that what he wants matters too in the relationship by:

  1. accepting your helplessness and true, continual need for him
  2. demonstrating reverence for God because he’s God versus what he does or doesn’t do for you
  3. Surrendering to his rightful Lordship over you
  4. Expressing trusting obedience which is his “love language”

The Pitfalls of Your Personal Attitudes & Beliefs

Is this your attitude or experience with God? Do you know anyone who dares to act on the principle of fidelity towards God when encountering his silence?

Did you know that your attitudes, actions, beliefs, ideas, thoughts, intentions and feelings are all influenced by your theology—that is, your knowledge of God? Archbishop Jose H. Gomez says,

“...we need good theology to pray. Theology give us knowledge of God.
Prayer brings us to love and serve the God we know.”
(from foreword of Dr. Anthony Lilles book, Fire From Above Christian Contemplation and
Mystical Wisdom)

Winning the battle with unanswered prayer depends greatly on your theology or knowledge of God! It can make you a beloved friend or foe. So based upon your knowledge you are either winning right now or losing this battle!

My training and work as a marriage and family therapist has taught me that personal psychology also influences how well we handle spiritual battles. The healthier your heart and mind is the stronger and more capable you can be in battle! 

God’s interested in you, cares about you, understands you, and desires to bring you into authentic friendship with himself so your knowledge of him--and yourself-- can be rooted in truth and love.  In the end, faithful love is what matters most to God. It's also what we  want most. God calls that trust. 

If you liked this, use this tool to begin strengthening your inner life with God. Want weekly encouragement from me? Listen to Ocean of Mercy, my new podcast. Just sign up below.

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