Why doesn't God answer my prayers?

Have you ever asked a question that you don’t want to know the answer to? How much is this car service going to cost? How much longer is there on this flight? And why don't my jeans fit?

No matter how long you have been a Christian, you will have to deal with the fact that not all of your prayers get answered in the way you hope. Whether your name be John Wesley, Billy Graham or Paul the apostle; this is an experience common to all.

Which begs the question, “Why?”

Now this is not some obscure theological question, the answer couldn’t be more relevant to our lives. We all long to see the creator God at work on Earth, through his people and in supernatural ways.

For those of us working with young people, we see the pain and trials of this generation on a daily basis. Usually it’s without the ability or permission to try and fix them. So we long for God to come and intervene.

Coming to terms with why sometimes he doesn’t, is crucial to ensure our faith is not derailed when we hit those bumps in the road.

In 2010, soon after our marriage, my wife found out that she was pregnant. I had only just returned from my DTS with YWAM the year before and had recently started working for my home church. At twenty weeks, we discovered that our daughter had a condition called CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia). The doctors told us she had a roughly fifty-fifty chance of survival. We had seen God answer prayers for babies who were given very negative prognosis before, so we truly believed that He could work a miracle in ours.

So we prayed. Our families prayed. Our churches prayed. And many others across our town and region prayed for God to work in the life of our little girl. However, after a roller coaster birth and five days in intensive care, our little daughter went to be with Jesus.

So did God not answer our prayers?

There’s no simple answer to that; and as anyone who has been through grief will tell you, the journey is not simple either. But what I can now say is that God is good. He has never let me down and He never will.

If we wish to delve further into this issue of unanswered prayer though, first we need to place our question within the big story of Scripture.

The Word constantly reminds us that:

  • God is sovereign… and we are not – He has all the power He needs to act in line with his character. As Isaiah 59 says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.”
  • God is just… and there’s only one thing we deserve. Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We must never forget that we have knowingly and willingly turned away from Him. All we deserve is God’s righteous punishment.
  • God is gracious and good – The gospel contains an amazing truth.  Despite our rebellion and sin, God chose to save us by a completely undeserved act of grace. The story of Scripture is one of a Loving Father desperately and relentlessly pursuing His children.

Not long after our daughter passed away, I remember being in a Church and singing a song that I had sung many times before. It said something like, “because of the price He paid, I get to live.” I suddenly realised, like never before, that because of what Jesus did, my daughter was now sitting in eternity with Him. She would never experience pain, suffering or grief…...what more could I have asked for?

God never promised us the “Western [American] dream” – Often our expectations of life can be based more in our culture than they are in our Bibles. We can be tempted to measure whether God has come through for us by His delivery of our expectations. Nowhere in the Bible does He promise us a certain amount of days.

I had a choice to be thankful for five precious days with my daughter or to blame God for not giving me, or her, what I expected.

God understands our grief – When Jesus met Mary at the tomb of His friend Lazarus, He didn’t give her a theological explanation. At the sight of her grief, fully knowing the miracle He was about to perform, John 11:35 says simply, “Jesus wept.”

Isaiah 53 says that He has literally, “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (NKJV)

Whilst Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” (NLT)

There is nothing that has broken our heart, which has not also been felt in His.

God wins! – All of us who have faith in Jesus and who follow him as Lord can look forward to an eternity of living with God. Life as He intended and whose joy far exceeds any suffering that we may have endured in this life.

I recognise we haven’t yet addressed what part we have to play in how prayers are answered. But I don’t think we should even attempt to, not until we have first tried to understand a little more about who God is. He is not a vending machine in the sky! Prayer is not just about getting the right formula or putting the right bit of code into the divine computer to get the desired result. God is a person!

The first key to prayer……is to get to know the person you’re praying to!

To be continued...

Jack Saunders is a husband and father of two (soon to be three) children. He grew up in North Devon, where he now works for SWYM as an Area Coordinator. 

Alongside their five year role on the leadership team of the North Devon House of Prayer, Jack and his wife also serve as missionaries to the UK. They seek to see,

"The transformation of a nation in one generation."

He’s passionate about freeing young people, to fulfil their God-given calling. 

In his spare time he enjoys surfing, cycling, the company of his kids and real Devon pasties.