How to Pray

Devotional

Unanswered Prayer: A deeper kind of trust  


Yesterday we unpacked a little of how to respond to the reality of unanswered prayer - a vast, challenging topic. If you’d like to discover more, Pete explores it in depth in another of his books, God on Mute.


Today, we’re going to press a little deeper into why our prayers aren’t answered, and Pete suggests three reasons: God’s world, God’s war and God’s will. 


God’s World -God has designed the world to function in a particular way, and tends not to tinker with these complex rules every time we pray.


God’s War - There is an enemy at work opposing the work of God; when a child is trafficked, for example, this is not the will of God. This is evil at work. 


God’s Will - Some prayers aren’t in line with God’s will for us or for the world - and this may feel like the most challenging reason of all. 


But when we return to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus utters these powerful words: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”


In the extremes of agony and sweating blood, Jesus relinquishes control. He may not want God’s will, but he chooses it nonetheless. There is an invitation here to a darker kind of trust. To surrender ourselves to the will of God, not just when it makes sense and feels good, but when it makes no sense at all and even hurts us deeply. 


We read the Gethsemane prayer, with the benefit of hindsight, understanding exactly why Christ’s prayers had to be unanswered. And the Bible assures us that one day we will look back on our own lives, just as we look back on Christ’s life now, and at last we will understand why it was that the Father denied some of our most heartfelt requests. As P.T. Forsyth says, ‘We shall come one day to a heaven where we shall gratefully know that God’s great refusals were sometimes the true answers to our truest prayers.


God, today I acknowledge where I feel hurt and challenged by unanswered prayer. I surrender myself to your will and commit to trusting you.