The Glory of Unanswered Prayer

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.










About Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 78 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She has been married to Jerry for 60 years. They have 4 children, 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Devotionals, Faith, God, I Kings, Love of God, Numbers, Prayer, Word of God. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Glory of Unanswered Prayer

  1. writeathome says:

    Like Moses and Elijah, I have prayed some foolish prayers that I am glad God did not answer. One thing I have learned to never pray for is patience, because the Bible says that “tribulation worketh patience”, and I would really rather not have any extra tribulation. I pray for God’s grace in the hard times instead. 🙂

  2. cumby says:

    Psalm 106:15 “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”

  3. Denise says:

    Thank you, Shirley, for this post. Just last week I was speaking to our church about prayer (my husband was out of town.) I related a few stories of how we sometimes limit God in the way we pray. We often pray for a specific solution (our solution, of course) rather than seeking wisdom in handling a situation. In all things, our “sight” is limited, as if we have blinders on, while He sees from every angle.
    A perfect example…we had been struggling to pay the rent for the building where we hold services. We prayed, fully expecting that He would somehow increase our income to meet the need. Instead, the organization from which we rent decided to cut the rent in half ! (our congregation is predominantly homeless, and they consider us part of their community outreach.) Our “solution” would have benefited us. God’s solution benefits both the giver and the receiver. He is truly awesome!!

  4. Shirley says:

    Well, Carol, that’s a good trick if you can bring it off: escaping tribulation by not praying for patience. I understand all about that, and definitely do not crave any extra tribulation.

    Blessings to you today.

  5. Shirley says:

    Oh, my goodness, Cumby, I do not want God to answer my misdirected prayer, and in exchange give me leanness of soul.

    Thank you for this excellent scripture reference.


  6. Shirley says:

    Denise, in July I will be 69 years old, yet serving God is always fresh and amazing. Yes, He is an awesome, all-wise God. How blessed we are to serve Him.

    Thank you for this great testimony.


  7. Becky says:

    Tena sent me this way, Shirley. Thanks for the insight. Occasionally, when people tell me that all of their prayers are answered with a yes, I do wonder whether I am doing something wrong.

    The waiting part is really hard. I like the way you put it: relax, refocus and recommit your ways to God.

  8. Cheri says:

    Thank you Sis Buxton, this has opened my heart and ears to listen, I remember Pastor Buxton (i went to church in Ontario) tell me the same thing MANY times that it is either yes, no, and wait a while, and we sometimes do know how long that “while” is to wait, but in GOD’s time He answers, thank you for this, God Bless,

  9. inhisgrace says:

    thank you for this post! it brought a smile to my face. and i’ve seen God tell me no before – it is clear enough. unanswered prayers may be all about waiting for the right time. isn’t it more delightful when we receive what we’ve been asking for after we have continuously lean upon Him to sustain us?

  10. Shirley says:

    Becky, I have no doubt you have wonderful friends around you, but honestly, I question their saying all their prayers are answered with a yes. I suppose, however, that it is possible to be so focused on God and so in touch with His will, that our prayers could always be in full accordance with His plans for us. I surely want to get to that place.

    Don’t be discouraged, though, if you are not there, yet, for I suspect you have lots of company—many of the rest of us. I know I stand beside you, for I have prayed many prayers that were either answered with No or Wait.

    And, yes, the waiting is hard…that’s when we truly discover faith and learn to lean on Jesus.

    Thank you for your honest comments.

  11. Shirley says:

    Cheri, it is so encouraging to hear you recall lessons your pastor taught you many years ago. I think it is easy for ministry couples to become discouraged and think no one is hearing a thing they say. Such memories as yours, refresh and uplift all of us.

    Joy to you today.


  12. Shirley says:

    Good morning, Inhisgrace,

    Oh, yes, there is great blessing in learning to wait on God, and in seeing Him work out our problems.

    Grace and hope.


  13. Stephen says:

    So in other words, God can’t lose.

    Prayer works = Praise God!
    Prayer doesn’t work = keep trying!
    Good things happen after prayer = God!
    Bad things happen after prayer = not God!

    I wonder if I could get the same results with a lucky horseshoe?


  14. Shirley says:

    Good afternoon, Stephen.

    Your conclusions are right: you can’t lose with God. And no, lucky horsehoes have no power.

    A happy day to you.


  15. Stephen says:

    Actually, I was addressing the fact that God can’t lose: he gets all the credit and none of the blame. Prayer answered – good! God’s will, not – good! God’s will. Do you see what I’m saying? This exact reasoning can be applied to a magic eight ball, bottle cap or lucky horse shoe.

    Why is God different? You dismiss lucky horse shoes as superstitious nonsense, but how do you justify your god?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s