We all struggle at times to understand how God answers prayers. More importantly, we struggle with how He sometimes does not answer prayers. Certainly, many of us were fervently praying that God would work in the recent elections to preserve our values and our right to hold those values. How do we then understand His apparent failure to honor those prayers? After all, didn’t Jesus tell us that all that we asked in His name would be given?
The problem with unanswered prayers goes beyond politics. We see prayers seemingly unanswered regarding our health or the health of loved ones, around the actions of wandering children, around the need for adequate provision, the health of a relationship, and many other areas. We praise God for His answered prayers and simply go silent about His unanswered prayers. God is sovereign and He knows what He is doing, we tell ourselves. Yet, deep inside, we are confused.
James tells us that our prayers are not answered because we ask wrongly, based on our passions (James 4:3). It is here that I think we can focus for a time. Our prayers tend to be based on what we believe is needed for our world to be good. At our best, our definition of good is aligned and trained by God’s Word and Will. At most other times, it is defined by what we desire for our comfort and convenience. These are usually unsurrendered prayers. We want what we want because it seems best for us personally. I have counseled many who are angry with God over these unanswered prayers. One even looked me right in the eye and asked, “what good is God, if he does not answer my prayers?”
Today, I want to talk about a different kind of prayer, a prayer that is not based on my comfort or convenience. One that may not even be based on my safety and security. In my years of ministry, I have never seen this one go unanswered.
This prayer derives from the principle that our two most basic drives in life are to first, love God, and second, to love one another. Jesus told us all the law and the prophets were hung on these two principles (Matt 22:40). Jesus indicated to us that all our comfort prayers would not be answered. He told us that in this world we would have troubles (John 16:33). Our task then is to love God and love others in the midst of these troubles.
Let your prayer become:
“Lord, what does love look like in this day? Help me to know how to best love You and to love those around me in the circumstances You have allowed in my life. Give me the strength to live out that love as you reveal it to me.”
Again, I have never seen this prayer go unanswered and I strongly believe that we as the Body of Christ need to be praying it daily and fervently in this time of trial. Let us be known as a community who can express love well.
Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Michael Murphy is co-author of Leading Beyond Your Limits. He has served in a variety of leadership roles in ministry settings in both church and mission fields since 1993.