What Should You Learn from Unanswered Prayer?
Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the outdoors, or reading, she can be found mostly in Richmond, VA writing primarily about nature, nostalgia, faith, family, and Jane Austen.
- 2016 Jun 17
Have you ever called out to God and felt like He is not there, even though theologically you know He is listening? Have you ever prayed for something over and over and seemed to get no answer from the Lord, despite Jesus’ assertion that we will receive what we ask for in the Father’s name (John 16:23)?
Regardless of how much faith we have, as Christians we have all likely experienced a period of life in which we felt as though God was not hearing us and not answering our prayers.
In his article for The Gospel Coalition titled “What to Do with Unanswered Prayer,” John Starke says that the Psalms can be a great comfort when we go through times of feeling distant from God.
Although, theologically, we know that there is really no such thing as “unanswered prayer,” and that if God doesn’t immediately answer a prayer, He is still listening to us and working in our lives, it can be tough to keep trusting Him when we are walking by faith not by sight.
In the Psalms, David and others were honest with God about their struggles and their grief.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
In this Psalm (Psalm 13), David doesn’t shy away from voicing his struggles--and even his complaints--to the Lord. Like us, David assuredly knew that the Lord did hear his cries, but his penning of this Psalm and others like it tells us that God has given us words to use to help us in times when we feel our prayers are falling on deaf ears.
“The Psalms keep good company,” says Starke. “They give me words when I’m at a loss. They open windows in the rooms of my heart I didn’t know were there, and they let in fresh air. That’s a grace for seasons of unanswered prayer.”
Starke also notes that sometimes, not in spite of His love and care for His children, but because of it, God will allow us to go through times when our soul cries out to Him. Often, we need to be brought back to a place of trusting in God instead of ourselves or other things that can become idols in our lives. In His mercy, God shows us our need for Him, and reminds us that the greatest thing we can do in prayer is to “Seek God Himself instead of just His miracles,” as Crosswalk.com writer Whitney Hopler reminds us in the article "Hear the Silent Message in Unanswered Prayer."
The Psalms give us a blueprint of how to cry out to God in grief or frustration, but they also give us a blueprint of how to continue to trust in God’s goodness, despite our circumstances. That is why, at the end of Psalm 13 David can say:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
What Psalms or Bible passages are a comfort to you in times when you feel distance from God?
Publication date: June 17, 2016
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com