First Things First: What about unanswered prayers?

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

II Corinthians 10:8-9a

 


Mr. Matthew Pannkuk – Chaplain, Bible Teacher

What are some examples you know of where God provided a powerful answer to prayer?

 

One terrific example I can think of is our own Hillary Donnelley and how God answered her prayers to return to Twin Oaks, as well as answering our prayer for a 5th grade teacher.  What a beautiful display of God’s great work! (Re-read about her story here: Part I, Part II).

 

Another example is in my personal life. When I was seven years old, my family decided St. Louis wasn’t the place for us and we moved back to Iowa.  My parents immediately regretted this decision and decided to move back a few weeks later.  They came to St. Louis to search out housing options.  They searched and prayed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Thursday night they decided to attend a small group at Twin Oaks church where we were members.  During prayer request time, my parents mentioned we needed a place to live on very short notice.

Twin Oaks receptionist Dot Massot was at that meeting.  The next day, she received a call to the church from a new family.  He said the current tenants of the house that they rent were moving out, and before he took out an ad he wondered if the church knew of anyone who needed housing.  Dot mentioned my family.  That day, August 2nd, 1991, my parents saw the house and agreed to live there.  We moved in ten days later, and have lived there ever since!

 

Of course, God does not always answer prayers in this way.  There are, I believe, three possible answers to prayer: yes right now, yes but later, and no.

Very often the “no” is followed with “but here’s something better.” God gives only what is right and best in answer to prayer. What is the best answer God ever gave to prayer?  Himself!  He sent the Holy Spirit, he unites us with Christ, and through the cross we have full reconciliation with the Father.

 

Still, unanswered prayers are hard to handle.  When God doesn’t give us the response that we ask for, it’s easy to be discouraged.

If you have experienced God not answering a prayer in the way you wanted, you are not alone.  Two very important Bible characters had the same thing happen to them!

 

Paul and the thorn in his flesh.  

II Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

Paul begged God to take away this thorn.  We don’t know what it was exactly.  Some think it was a physically ailment, maybe an eye disorder; others think it was a person or group providing trouble or even persecution.  Whatever it was, Paul desired for it to be removed.

If anyone’s request was worthy to be heard, surely it was Paul.  A man of God, missionary extraordinaire, servant of the kingdom.  And yet, God said no.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God gave something even greater than relief from the thorn: a deep experience of God’s grace and power.

Too often we find whatever substitute God gives us in place of what we ask for rather lacking.  Yet if God sees it as better, we need to pray to have Paul’s attitude and be grateful for the good thing God has given us instead of what we desired.  It’s not easy, but doesn’t it sound nice to speak as Paul spoke?  To be content in weakness, to be strong in the face of troubles?  What a gift indeed!

 

Paul and going to Macedonia.

Acts 16:6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Have you ever received a no to a request you felt was utterly Godly?  A desire to serve the LORD, to seek his way, to follow him?  Why would Jesus say no to that? Why would God not allow them to go to Asia?  It can be frustrating when a request to do God’s will is not answered as we expect.  After all, we weren’t asking for anything selfish, or something harmful to others, something sinful or dangerous.  We’re doing what’s right, why is it being met with a roadblock?

Yet even then, we must remember that God’s will is different than our will.  We need to go where he wants not just in the final destination, but every step along the way.

 

Jesus in Gethsemane.

Luke 22:41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

If there was ever a person who deserved a yes to prayer, it was the sinless and perfect Jesus.  Yet even Christ himself received a no in answer to his prayer.  If God said no to his own Son, do not be insulted if he says no to you as well.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.  He has good reason for his answer.

His no to Jesus meant a yes to every prayer ever uttered for salvation, healing, health, life, joy, peace, goodness, justice, righteousness, mercy, grace, love, redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

 

Trust in God’s answer to your prayer.  It might be a yes right now, and cause for praise.  It might be a yes but later, and cause for waiting and further growth as we anticipate his work.  It might be a no, but always look for what greater answer the LORD might be working out.

Let us pray that no matter what the answer we receive, we keep praying and trusting in the LORD God above, who has our best interest in mind, and has all power, all wisdom, and is all loving, and can bring about what is best for us.  Let us pray to keep praying to such a good God.

 


Twin Oaks Christian School, a ministry of Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church

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