One of the very first things I do each day is read Our Daily Bread. Actually, I follow along while listening to Les Lamborn read it to me. Earlier this week I was disappointed when I took issue with their theology for the first time. While it’s no big surprise you get misguided theology from listening to country music (I thank God for unanswered prayers) I expected more from Our Daily Bread. The devotions printed/posted by RBC Ministries are from a collaboration of authors. Anne Cetas wrote the daily devotion for June 10th; here’s an excerpt:
One of my biggest struggles is unanswered prayer. Maybe you can relate. You ask God to rescue a friend from addiction, to grant salvation to a loved one, to heal a sick child, to mend a relationship. All these things you think must be God’s will. For years you pray. But you hear nothing back from Him and you see no results.
Read the entire post here. She goes on to make some good points about continuing to trust even when we don’t get the things we want. But I think the most important lesson has been overlooked: sometimes God’s answer to our requests is… No. God is more than a Santa Claus figure handing out goodies when we sit on his lap and ask for stuff. Nor is God a magician pulling rabbits out of his hat for our amusement. Prayer is part of the communication process between ourselves and the maker of the universe, Lord of heaven and earth. Prayer is an act of worship, involving both speaking and listening. What people mean by “unanswered prayers” is that God did not give them what they asked for. What an immature understanding of prayer. For prayers to really go unanswered implies that God either does not hear, does not care, or is unable to respond. Would anyone care to argue for any of these possibilities?
As always, let’s look to Jesus for the example of how to do it right. In the model prayer he shared with the disciples, just like his own personal prayers that are recorded, Jesus prays for God’s will to be done. Jesus prayed at Gethsemane the night he was arrested. He knew what must happen, but asked God the Father if there were any other way (let this cup pass from me). Nevertheless, he prayed, not my will but yours be done. Whether praying for our friends and neighbors or asking for a better job or newer car, the right thing to do is always ask for God’s will to be done. Our wisdom and understanding is small – virtually nonexistent – compared to God’s. He knows what is best for us, and understands perfectly how all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28) in ways we cannot comprehend. Prayer is more than a way of manipulating God into giving us stuff.
There are no unanswered prayers; sometimes God’s answer is no.