Technically, I’ve been taught, there is no such thing as unanswered prayer, but that all prayers are answered in one of three ways; Yes, No, Wait. We like the yes answers, and we brag on God and His mighty ways; with passion and a gleam in our eyes, we speak of faith and trust, we testify and sing lively songs about victory and answered prayer, and some write articles with splashy headlines; others blog or send emails or initiate exuberant phone calls.
But what of unanswered prayers, huh, what about those? What is this? you say. God is saying no to me—He’s not answering my prayers. What’s gone wrong here? We don’t hear many conversations about these times, we don’t freely share that we have urgently and fervently prayed…and that we have heard nothing.
A great number of years ago, in the early days of his ministry, our friend the late Bill Yandris was considering a move to another city and went into his bedroom to pray about this decision. His wife was restless, and immediately when her husband emerged from the room, she asked him, “Okay, Bill, what did God say?”
His answer is a classic. “He’s not talking today, my dear.”
Been there? Done that? Sure. It’s happened to all of us. Think about this; sometimes unanswered prayer is a positive thing. It may not feel positive at the moment, we probably don’t like it, and we may be even further confused. But unanswered prayer—or the answer of No may be best.
Recall with me a couple of examples in Scripture. Read the 11th chapter of Numbers and you will observe the disgrunted Israelites in fine form—full of complaints and gripes. Moses gets sick of it, speaks to God about the nature of His “chosen people” and in verse 15, says, “Kill me.” I can’t take dealing with these people any more, they are just more than I can take. Wipe me out, God.
Hold it, Moses. Not a good prayer. Not a good outcome. I think maybe God grinned as He decided to ignore the prayer from his frustrated, meek leader. No, Moses. I’m not going to kill you today. I have a long, profitable life planned for you.
There’s the funniest story in 1 Kings 18. Elijah (with a little help from God) had just defeated the prophets of Baal, rain had come to break the long drought, and miraculous strength had come over Elijah so that he outran the chariot of Ahab—all the way to Jezreel. Jump down just one chapter to number 19 and there you will find Elijah running for his life because of threats from the wicked queen, Jezebel. Tired and panting, Elijah found himself a juniper tree in the desert, lay down under it for an afternoon nap, and as he considered his situation, he, too, prayed what seems a silly prayer: “Kill me, God!”
God bent down, compassionate God that He is, saw Elijah snoring under the tree, probably smiled and thought, He just needs a little refreshment. That’ll snap him out of this depression. God called one of his angels out of the kitchen. “Bake a tasty cake for Elijah, arrange it real nice, and give him a bottle of water to wash it down.” Angel prepared the snack, then tapped the snoozing man—“your afternoon food is ready, Sir.” Elijah woke up, ate the cake and drank from the bottle; it was a miraculous meal—one that sustained Elijah for 40 days.
So, when your prayers seem to go unanswered, or when you’re sure you heard a resounding No! it’s time to relax, refocus and recommit your ways to God. You just don’t know what God has in store for you, what miracle may be on its way, what strength, victory and long life may be planned for you.