Challenges, Priorities

3 Things I’ve Learned from Unanswered Prayer

Have you ever felt like you were asking God all the “right” questions and getting only silence in return? We’ve been seeking God on a few things and have yet to hear His response. It’s causing us both spiritual heartburn. Now, on top of the questions we’ve been already asking God (some for years), we’re asking MORE questions like “Why is God being so quiet?” and “Are we just dense?”.

I’m hoping we’re not the only couple to experience this. If you’ve ever felt flustered, frustrated, or flummoxed by unanswered prayer, this post is for you.

We are so impatient sometimes.

We’re the yappy dog at the sliding glass door of God’s will, desperately trying to get inside on a beautiful day. We’re the crying baby in the car seat, nearly throwing up with angst as we barrel down the highway at 70 miles per hour (yes, this is a recent new-dad revelation).

Prayer builds stronger marriagesSometimes we just need to relax, take a deep breath, and realize A) it’s beautiful right where we’re at, and B) God will let us out of the car seat as soon as it’s safe to do so.

But we want so bad to have what we want right now. Now… NOW!

See what I mean? We’re impatient.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease

So what do we do when we pray for something and the answer gets held up in customs? I believe asking and not receiving can teach us a few things about hearing from God; but first, some context:

Check out Luke 18:1-8,

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We read scripture most accurately with the author’s original intent in mind. In this passage, Luke gives explicit reason for the parable: “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart“. The persistent widow (a.k.a. the squeaky wheel) makes continual requests that go unanswered by an unrighteous judge until he eventually gives in. Luke then records Jesus saying “…will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night”.

We’re called to be “squeaky wheels” with our prayers. It’s a matter of faith, which upon his return, Jesus wants to find on earth.

Ok, so there’s some context. Here’s what we’re learning in our season of seemingly unanswered prayers.

1: Turn OFF selective hearing

“Honey, can you put the pizza in the oven?” Spouse: “Sure I’ll have some pizza.”

In marriage we tend to hear what we want, and the same is true with our relationship with God.

If we’re not careful, this can become habitual. We want God to say what we want to hear, and since God’s voice isn’t audible right in our ears, we trick ourselves. Selective hearing becomes selective feeling, and feelings are entirely subjective.

If we’re used to hearing God solely through our feelings and desires, we’re a wreck when we don’t know what we feel or want. The best remedy, we’re learning, is to look to the Bible and to godly leadership for council.

You can’t walk confidently with godly authority unless you’re under godly authority. The key word here is “godly”; don’t let just any authority figure speak into your life, especially if what they’re teaching contradicts scripture.

Feelings aren’t always invalid, so please don’t disregard them entirely. The important thing is to always weigh what you’re feeling against scripture, godly council, and sound wisdom.

And remember, “no” and “not right now” are also answers to prayer.

2: Learn how to radically seek God

An open appeal to husbands and wives.We’re currently on a “distraction fast”. Basically, Selena and I are upping the ante by turning down the noise. How?

  • No TV (this is worth a post in itself, it’s amazing!)
  • Intentional prayer – apart and together, while at work, etc.
  • Expanded devotional times
  • Limit our time on our phones/Facebook/Instagram etc.
  • More reading
  • Intentional rest – early to bed, early to rise

In our 10+ years we’ve never done anything like this, and after only a few days I’m wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.

3: Redefine how you pray

I’ve discussed this before, but I’m not a great prayer. Sure I can say the right stuff when we’re circled up at a church gathering, but my personal prayer life is an area of constant growth. Up until about three days ago I thought this was because I was too busy and my schedule is what needed to change.

However, by removing distractions (as in #2 above), I’m realizing just how much of my day is consumed by meaningless things. This has illuminated to me that I have more than enough opportunity to talk to God casually and not-so-casually.

I’m also learning the staggering importance of just being with God in prayer time. Instead of always filling the airwaves with requests, reflections, and repentance (all of which are good by the way), it’s good to just be STILL. Be silent, be present.

Our 4 month old daughter, Adelaide (nicknamed Dela), has taught me this so vividly. I’ll be sitting on the couch holding her facing me while she learns to use her legs. She kicks, coos, stands, and flails, all while her eyes dart left and right between the various noises, lights, and motions around us. Periodically I have to regain her attention because I want to look into her eyes and just tell her how much I love her.

Here’s the thing: she doesn’t know how much I love her, she can’t possibly understand it, especially now. She just can’t know, she’s not me and I’m her father. But when she stares into my eyes, my heart absolutely melts for her. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for her if it meant her enjoyment, safety, and healthy upbringing.

This is how we are with God – we dart back and forth between distractions and He just wants our focus. We’ll never know truly how much God loves us, but when we just look to Him, staring into His eyes, His heart melts. Beyond that, he just wants to tell us He loves us and do whatever He can to show us that.

Seek unity in your marriage.All Together now

This post is a personal reflection which may apply to you individually or to your marriage. But I do believe this can specifically apply to any Christian marriage with a husband and wife earnestly seeking God. Selena and I have a rule: if God tells one of us, he’ll tell both of us. We’re one, in covenant with each other and with God, so why would He give us divergent directions? Seek agreement, and trust God.

Finally, have faith. Just as Luke outlined above, don’t be dissuaded from prayer because you feel it’s fruitless or your prayers are unanswered. If you lack faith, ask God and you’ll have it. Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is not optional for the Christian life.

In verse 6 the same author writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Question: Have you ever felt like God is ignoring your prayers? How have you seen Him work in you even when He seems silent?


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