The challenge of unanswered prayer

Hi there, everyone. I'm Jared. And I'm Zenita.

We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well.

We believe as

followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice.

Let's go live.

 Hello everyone and welcome back to another week of Record Live. Jared, how are we this week? Has anything exciting been happening in your life?

Exciting? I don't know about exciting. My kids are sick again. Well, my son is. He had a bit of a, an issue. Had to come home from daycare the other day. So I had to rush home and look after him. We did on the weekend, Digital Discipleship, that was exciting. That was

awesome, I think people can still watch that online,


People can, if they go to the Adventist media, YouTube channel, all the sessions will be there. And, Zanita and I hosted the halftime show. So that was fun, Zanita.

Yeah. If you want to hear more of us, then you can go to the digital discipleship link and hear another 30 minute segment this week on top of the usual.

But there are a lot of other people featured too. So it's worth going, it's worth going and checking it out.

Awesome. Well, a couple of weeks ago in the record, we had an article by Editorial assistant, Olivia Fairfax, and she titled the article, The Prayer of a Faithful Woman. She was talking about how there is that phrase that we throw around that there is power in a praying woman or there's power in a praying mother.

I'm sure you've heard that. And she was liking it to other Christianese kind of slogans that get used a lot by Christians, but she went full circle and came back and was talking about the importance of prayer. And she talked about a few people in the Bible, such as Hannah, who was barren, but then had a baby, and so on.

And so it's sort of like an encouragement, an encouraging article, I guess you could say, which was great. We also had a response that would be awesome if you could share. From someone who read it and enjoyed the article, but also had questions.

Do you want to fill us in on that?

Definitely. before I do that, this article was commissioned by Olivia here in our office because of International Women's Day. So there's an emphasis on women

so it was an important, Opportunity for us to just reflect in that space. What I love about record is that it's a conversation. So we have people working out their faith. Like we do on this program, we're talking about faith where we're learning, we're growing. And someone wrote me a letter, Jim Zyderveld sent in this letter to letters at the editor and I'll read it for us because I think it's a really interesting, launching place for our conversation today.

Regarding the prayer of a faithful woman, the focus of the article was the power prayer has to move God quote, he quotes the article to move mountains, part seas, and bring the dead back to life. I want to respond with an amen to the challenge of the article, but I crave very quietly for an article on unanswered prayer where the members go.

Who prayed fervently for a sick loved one only to stand by their graveside? What about ministers and elders who have never seen an anointing result in a physical healing? What about the guilt felt by your readers when they read the conclusion? What opportunities, what miracles, what power might we see in the world if only we were to be a people of prayer?

Do our current prayers have no value when we see no tangible result? Many dedicated Christian writers have struggled with this real question, like Philip Yancey in Reaching for the invisible God. And I ask you to share some of their journey with us in record. So a very thoughtful response to Olivia's piece.

And I appreciated the questions being raised. And I think that's part of why we're talking about it today. And it's nice how, content can fuel content. So we, we had Olivia's piece. You can only cover so much in 600 words. She doesn't do justice to the whole breadth and width of prayer and what that is and what it has become in Christian tradition.

The discipline of prayer is massive. and so this is a person who's reflecting on that, agreeing with some of what she said, but also saying, hey, there's maybe a hole here. Can we explore this? Because this, this would be beneficial. And. You know, they're 100 percent right. There's tensions there.

So, yeah, I think it's a great place to start our conversation today.

Yeah, I think whenever you write an article, there's always so much more that you want to unpack and explore, but you are limited by word count. But I do think it is a common thing that we. Experience, whether in Christianity or church or our walks, is that we often hear, we often will go to church and we'll hear people get up the front with praise stories and testimonies of answered prayers, but it's very rare that people get up the front and say, This prayer wasn't answered or like, I'm praying for this and I'm struggling because I guess that's a lot, it's a lot more difficult to do that, to get up the front and say that most people would probably, break down saying that.

And so, yeah, I think it's something that we miss a lot is hearing that other side. And so we tend to just think God is answering everyone. It's not

mine. And it's very confusing complicated to be in that place, when you're desperately praying for something and it's just not happening. We've got stories in the Bible, where Jesus says, if you ask something, the unjudged and, parables like that, tell us that if we ask God, we'll provide. And so it becomes then a measure of faith. Well, if your prayer wasn't answered, maybe you don't have enough faith yet.

And that can become really hard because you're like, I'm trying to be faithful. I'm asking God all about this, but I just don't get the answers. And so, yeah, there's a lot of, there's a lot of layers to this, I suppose, which is why we thought it would be a rich conversation today.

Have you had any unanswered prayers, Zanita? Can you resonate with the writer of this letter?

Yeah. Yeah. I've definitely had unanswered prayers. I think I've still got prayers that I've read that have just never had a resolution. And yeah. I don't know where those are at, maybe in 10 years time I'll have an answer, but yeah, I've definitely had unanswered prayers.

I think I've also had unanswered prayers that down the track I've been thankful weren't answered, or I've had hindsight and like, ah, kind of see what was happening there. And I know that's not everyone's story because obviously people have unanswered prayers with absolute tragedies and, they don't have that kind of experience.

But yeah, I think that has kind of happened in my experience with God. And I really struggled, during that period to actually go to church and even just, like, sing the songs because my unanswered prayers led me to kind of, like, doubt the entirety of God, I suppose you could say.

It was like, well, is he really who he says he is? Like, there's all these verses in the Bible that talk about if you ask, you'll receive kind of thing. And, yeah. Yeah, so I, I guess I just started to question, it wasn't just , I have unanswered prayers and that sucks. It was like, well now this makes me question the entirety of who God is and how much I can trust him.

And so, yeah, I think that's, I've also had answered prayers and so I can look at both of those and not completely give up I suppose. But yeah, I have for sure

that's the complexity and the richness, of the Christian experience. It's hard because it's like you every as a human, we look for patterns, right?

We look for patterns of meaning in our lives and we look at things and we try and make Is that God calling your mom Hi mom, maybe she wants to phone in and be on the show. Maybe she's watching the show. She wants to feel free to put your comments if you're vibing with what we're saying or you're disagreeing with what we're saying, give us some other perspectives in the comments.

It'd be great to hear from you. What was I saying? It's complex. It's complicated to have a prayer life because we look for meaning. As I said, as humans, we look for patterns in things. And so in hindsight, we say, That was an answered prayer, but it was just a no or a maybe. And so then it becomes difficult to define.

Is it an unanswered prayer or is it a answered prayer, but not in an answer that we like or that we want and you reflected like, Hey, you realized, Oh, maybe it was answered and I'm glad it wasn't answered what it, exactly what I What I liked, what I wanted, , and so I think sometimes we go in with fundamental misunderstandings of what prayer is, , and how it works.

And even though we have the teachings of Jesus, even though we have the whole biblical records, sometimes we still get it wrong. Sometimes we're still not 100 percent sure, how it all works.

Yeah. I think sometimes it's also like, it can be many things that there's this book called God on Mute by Pete Grigg.

It's probably the best book on unanswered prayers you could get, but, in it, he talks about like, it's 14 or 15 different reasons. Why God might be not answering our prayers or why our prayers are unanswered sort of things. There's all sorts of different things in that but I think one of them was, one of them was like our doctrine sometimes can be wrong or our understanding and expectations of God can be wrong.

Like we hear some of these Christian cliches and we think he'll give us whatever we want or yeah, we might just not have a complete image of God or a skewed image of God. And another thing that he mentioned was sometimes an unanswered prayer, at least this has also been my experience, an unanswered prayer can help you to step out and look at your life.

So maybe be like, is there something that I could change in my life that might help me to get there? Or is it something that Is there something blocking this? I'm not sure if that really makes sense, but, I think sometimes we can step back and there can be like a reason for that.

It makes sense. So you step back, you can assess a little differently. It's like this prayer isn't being answered, but why? Maybe I need to step back and not fixate or focus on, because sometimes we can have our wants and our dreams and our desires that can become the definition of who we are, like the core of ourselves.

And it's a struggle. Some of our viewers, some of our listeners will be, familiar with the chosen. The TV show that is out. It's popular at the moment. It's currently, going through the life of Jesus and his disciples and their experience interacting with him. It's a really powerful scene in one of the, I think season three. I'm just catching up on season three and I was watching it through. And, in the show, James, not James, the brother of John, but the other James has a bit of a disability. He has a limp. His, his leg isn't fully formed correctly. And he's really struggling with when Jesus sends them out and says, now you've got the power to heal.

And he confronts Jesus. And he's asking, without asking, he's sort of like, Look at my leg, like what, what's happening. And Jesus gives a really compassionate, but also powerful response in, in response to that. And I might let people watch it for themselves and decide what they think if that's a accurate representation.

But for me, it just pulls the curtain back a little bit on understanding,, basically Jesus in some ways says that a lot of these healings that I'm performing is for God's glory. But your. Your thing that isn't being healed that isn't being answered is even more in a way for God's glory because you're living with that and you're a testimony like people see everyone else is being healed around you and yet you're not and you still believe.

And you're strong enough to carry this so people may be uncomfortable with something that might be extra biblical there. But for me, it was just, again, the show writers, the show creators were wrestling with this idea of unanswered prayer. What happens when we've still got a limp, we're still not healed.

We're still not. Getting our prayers answered. And we think it's for a good reason. it would show the glory of God to help me in this situation. If you just heal my relative, who's got cancer, it'll be glory to God. It'll be a miracle, doesn't come through. We can become very discouraged or very disappointed.


I think that's an awesome point. And I actually can recall people saying this to me when I was dealing with unanswered prayers was that kind of perspective of, Oh, you can help people. Oh, this will be used for God's glory. And at the time it made me quite angry, but fast forward. And I actually find that I do have a different point of view on that.

Like I am not necessarily grateful for what I was experiencing, but I am grateful now for how it is like shaping your form for me. what it allows me to give to other people in a way. ,

but I'd just like to say something on that point, Zenita. We have to be careful as Christians. Like we often jump to these cliches when someone's in a difficult time.

We say It's for God's glory. Like it's not an unanswered prayer. It's just a no from God. Like you'll be fine. Like sort of thing. I think one thing we need to understand as we're wrestling with the questions around unanswered prayers, that it's not our place to tell someone to give lessons to people necessarily, at least we have.

a really close direct line to God, unless we have super spiritual discernment, I think we can get it wrong, or we can make the situation worse for that person. We can belittle their faith, or, we can cause damage to someone who's already damaged. Someone's in a vulnerable position and where we're putting those points of view across.

I think we need to be really Careful about attributing motivation to God or trying to understand his will or , his, his mysteries. yes, we need to get to know God and that's a very personal journey. Yes, we should have good, solid theology and understanding of how. God works as best we can in this limited human framework.

Even Paul says we see through a glass darkly right now. We don't see the full picture. We see it's smudged. It's messy. And so we have to be careful, but I think where your point is validated is when I see My unanswered prayer, giving glory to God, like when I see how God has used those unanswered prayers or has used it to shape my character, then I can, I have to be careful when I do.

But I can share that as a testimony to God's glory. I can share that as my journey where God has impacted me, but I still have to be sensitive that not everyone has the same experience and they might still be wrestling at some point. So, I have to do it sensitively, I think is the point I'm trying to make.

For sure. Yeah. Thank you for that. I agree. And I think, it's it's tricky because it's like people are obviously trying to encourage and they are obviously trying to share their stories. to build you up. But I guess that we really need to be sensitive in how we do that because , it can actually make people question things more.

For example, if you're like, Oh, God's going to use this for his glory, then some people might take that as in, , is he making me suffer for this? , so that someone else might be, I don't know, encouraged or whatever. And so it can, yeah, it can definitely bring up more questions. Another question, Jared, , how has your experience been with unanswered prayer and how have you found yourself, grappling with these questions and pushing through?

It's a great question. I think, one of the perspective we've somewhat talked about is I have had, I feel like unanswered prayers in my life, but looking back, I've seen how God has answered in some senses. I recall, perhaps I've spoken even on this program before about, , instances in my life where God hasn't been answering and I've learned about myself and my character that I have to be patient because God is not answering for my benefit, as in, I'm looking for an easy direction or a path or something from God that's really clear.

I want to be clear, but I also know of myself that in the waiting, I'm tested. My character's developing. If I had an easy answer, it would be easy to blame God if things go wrong. And so it's a challenge. And so to me, what I've learned through some of those difficult times in my life is that I can't say God eventually answers.

I guess some of these things weren't necessarily terminal things. So I'm not praying for something that can never be possible now cause someone has actually died or things like that. But praying for prayers that you pray for a long time, that you really want a situation to resolve or something. And it just doesn't,, life moves on, things change and things.

A different in the end, it's hard to look back and say, God answered that clearly or directly, but also I've come to a point where I'm okay with that because I've realized that if he had, how would things have changed? I would have maybe not had the patience, the learning patients experience because the prayer that I have prayed in my life is Lord, give me more patience, make me a more patient person, you know?

And so that prayer. Is that trumping other, maybe he is answering the patient's prayer by not revealing to me his will immediately when I need it, and also, yeah, just being careful about, could I blame God if he gave me the easy answers because, , If things go wrong, then it's his problem.

Not my own problem. Am I trying to avoid responsibility by getting easy answers from God rather than taking responsibility in my life and my faith journey and making things happen that I, have, that I have to go through experiences that I have to walk through that I have to journey through.

Yeah. I guess another question I'd have to follow up is, how did you not just give up on God through your questions?

At this point in my life, I would say, and I think you mentioned it briefly earlier in our conversation, I would say that I have had enough experiences of God's providing for me, helping me out in the big moments that even when I don't hear from him, I believe that he's there.

I choose to believe that he's there. I have dark days. I have doubts. I struggle sometimes, but I am reminded of how good God is and how he has done things. If not for me, then for others.

I don't want to just say, people should just practice gratitude and those problems will go away. But I do think that sometimes when we have an unanswered prayer, it becomes, The thing in our life that all our attention goes towards, and it becomes very easy for us to say things like, God doesn't care about me, et cetera, et cetera, whatever, like, and so I think sometimes when we have those unanswered prayers, it can be really helpful to try and force yourself to look at what you said, look at the prayers God has answered or look at the ways in which he's provided.

To get a bit more foresight on your life and to see that he actually, there's a lot of ways in which we can see he cares and has provided and has answered. Yes. Probably living in unanswered prayers


One, one book, , not to just plug books all day, but one book that really helped me. , my wife and I, We've written and talked about our infertility journey in different spaces.

And obviously we have kids now. So those prayers were answered. So , it's sensitive area. I get that not everybody that happens for, and I was working through processing being okay with that. If that never happened. Which I think was part of my journey that needed to happen before the prayer was answered, if that makes sense, but I, at that time, we read a book together.

It was called Resurrection Year. It's by an Australian broadcaster, writer, author, Christian guy, Sheridan Voisey. And he shares how for his, for 10 years, his wife and he struggled, wrestled with infertility to the point where they realized this is never going to happen. Like just tried IVF, tried all the things like it just is completely an impossibility.

And obviously they still hope for the miracles, but it didn't eventuate. And so they decided to live their life in a different way, giving up on that prayer or that dream. And then using that as a pivot point into greater things, different things, I just, the subtitle of the book is turning broken dreams into new beginnings.

And I guess, this quote stands out to me here. Perhaps a greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by it. So I guess one important factor is our choice in those moments. Do we allow that unanswered prayer? That difficult time, that tragedy in our lives to define the rest of our lives, and this is hard.

I understand I'm speaking from a place of,, Oh, well, you know, maybe I haven't experienced what other people have experienced in such a difficult time. Terrible, tragic, horrible way, but do we allow ourselves to be defined by a broken dream? A difficult, , thing that hasn't come to pass God, not answering prayers that we really wanted answered, or do we look for new opportunities, , out of the tragedy, out of the difficulty, out of the darkness.

And that book for us was so incredibly helpful. On people that had walked the journey before us and not had their prayers answered and had found a way to make peace with that. That was the example that we had and got out of that book. Now our experience has turned out differently. Our prayers have changed.

Our lives have changed when, those prayers were answered in that space. But for the season before that, you don't have any assurity that those prayers will be answered or not. And when they drag out for years and years and years and years, you, it's very hard to process that. It's very hard to live with that.

And again, every day you have to make a choice. Do I stick with this or do I try something new? Do I give it up or do I give up on God? Yeah.

It's a very courageous and bold thing to do. I think it's easy when we don't have presence and to become cynical and bitter and just kind of say, It is what it is.

But yeah, I think that's awesome. And hopefully that will be encouraging to people. Do we have a

Do have a good comment here from Linnell. Thanks for joining us again, Linnell. You've always got some good insights in our conversations. I can hear my cynical friend saying, if your prayer is answered, you say it's God.

And if it's not, that's okay. But God is still there. It's very hard for them and us to reconcile at times. Of course, your Facebook question about God answering all prayers would mean we perhaps have more power and are wiser than we humanly actually are. God is in control. Bottom line. It's hard for us as humans.

, a couple of points that that brings up, ,first of all, I think we should answer that question. We're running out of time, but,, about if God answered all prayers, what would that look like that? I think there's some interesting things in that space., I think it is hard. It does make people cynical if we say all the good outcomes, Oh, it's God, it's God.

But when things go wrong, well that's human weakness or that's my own flaws or that's, you know, , and so we have to be careful again, attributing,, value to what we think God is doing in the world. But I really like the, I think it was, The young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Ratshach and Benny, they were there ready for the fiery furnace.

And they said, if our God delivers us, great. He has the power to do that. But if he doesn't, we're still going to make this stand because it's the right thing to do. We know what God needs, expects and wants from us. And we believe in him. We trust in him. That's always really powerful, to me.

That statement of faith, like if God delivers us great, but even if he doesn't, we're going to stick to our conviction. We're going to stay where we are. That's a really powerful testimony to me of that faith.

I think it's, yeah, I think , it's a great question. Miracles by definition are rare. And so that's why we call them miracles.

We don't pray every morning and get answers every morning., and I think like, I guess just a short story. I had a friend, have an accident last year and, , a lot of prayer has been had over him. He had an accident and he's just had a, just had a little boy. , and he's just been married recently.

So , it's a tragic accident, but I think one thing that, that That has been really amazing is his partner., she recently went to a school and started sharing her testimony, but she's like right in the thick of it still. So like the prayers, he's alive, but the situation still isn't good. Like it's still a tragedy.

And I think it's really awesome for her to set that example of. Speaking up about where she's at and how she's struggling and that her prayers haven't totally been answered. And there's still a lot of prayer being had because I think it just shows an example of. People still grappling with that and so it's not someone just pretending like God is amazing.

God is so good Like I'm gonna pretend and just put a happy face on that. I still really believe and trust that when deep down There's a lot more going on Yeah, I think we should be more honest with where we are with those kinds of things because I think it actually can be really Helpful for other people.


And I've always believed that, like, if things aren't going great, Let's not pretend that they are because that diminishes from, it makes other people feel inadequate because everyone's going well. And this feeds into the question of , if God answered our prayers, well imagine if God only answered Christian's prayers or God only answered Seventh day Adventist prayers, for example, everyone would want to be a Seventh day Adventist.

If we knew like there was a hit ratio of 90 percent answered prayers, , anything we wanted, God did that. That takes out free will. And I think this is something missing in sometimes in this conversation is the idea of God's character and Jesus wants the best for us. And he knows so much better than we do what that is.

And so if we had prayers answered, perhaps as often as we would like them to. It might cause people to join the church or even to follow God primarily to get their prayers answered like, Ooh, if I do this, then I'll get that. And that wouldn't make God, value free will. It wouldn't make us free will.

Make good decisions based on love love for God and faith and trust in God It would make us make decisions on what we could get out of it And so I think it's really hard Yes God does step in and he's in control of all of our lives and all of what goes on but also At the same point he has a loose hand on the wheel sort of thing.

He's not forcing us To have, we make decisions, things happen from those decisions and he doesn't always protect us from those consequences. The book of Job is a really challenging book that I reread recently. It's very challenging. It's very difficult. You can imagine that there are some prayers coming up from Job at that time and

God eventually answered, but completely not what Job had asked for in the end, , he had answers that were very different to what. Job expected perhaps, which were the questions that he was asking. And so, , it just showed, I guess, the transcendency of God in that space. I think if God acted exactly how we expected or wanted him to, he wouldn't then be God.

Right. He would be a genie in a bottle or Santa Claus or something. He would just do, what he would be controlled by human, human will, rather than being eternal, transcendent, infinite, way above what we can even process. And I don't think we can put God in, into a box like that. Sure.

Jared, we, , like to get practical at the end of, Record live. I feel like this isn't something that I necessarily want to be like. Do this, do that, because yeah, it's just a struggle wrestling with on it's a prayer and I'm sure people are already feeling like they're praying and doing a lot, but I guess would you have any comforting words?

Do you have any words of advice, anything practical people can take from this if they're struggling with prayer?

What just came to me is my wife's, one of her favorite verses. I think it's her favorite verse. It's sort of a paraphrase from, I think it's in Luke, the gospel of Luke. And it's like, keep praying.

And never lose heart or never give up something like that. Keep praying. Never give up. I think when we talk about these conversations, yes, it's painful. In some ways that I've got alive before God right now that aren't being answered. You know, or I'm not sure the way forward. I'm not sure what that answer is going to be.

And it is distressing. Some days, the doubt can get heavy some days, but what I'm trying to do to deal with that is to just trust that in the end, it's going to work out, perhaps not a very profound answer or even very helpful for someone who might be really wrestling with this. But for me.

Again, it goes back to our choice. How do I deal with this situation? I'm choosing to believe I'm choosing to trust. I really resonate with the guy who comes for healing to Jesus. And he says, Lord, I believe help my unbelief. I pray that prayer sometimes because I'm like, yes, I love God. I believe in God.

I've given my life to work for God, but. Some days it's harder than others. And so I ask, Hey God, help me where I come up short in my belief. What about you Zanita, before we go? Awesome.

Yeah, don't lose heart is great., I would also say, I think it's good to surround yourself with people who have testimonies of answered prayers, but I also think it's good to surround yourself with people who do not have testimonies, answered prayers, or who have struggled in that way.

Like balance it out. Because I think. In my experience, hearing people who have also wrestled with those unanswered prayers has really helped me keep going in a weird way. And so that would be my advice, but I guess just, yeah, take whatever people say because your experience is going to be different.

And awesome. Yeah. Keep praying.

Awesome. Hey, thanks for watching guys this week. , we'll be back next week, hopefully with another Record Live and the Record has launched another podcast. Record Wrap is a weekly news bulletin with a bit of Adventist news and a bit of world news, just wrapped up in a short podcast that you can listen to on your commute to work or.

In your lunch break. So, , check that one out. , we'd love to have you have a listen and give us some feedback. God bless. And thanks for joining us today on record live

The challenge of unanswered prayer
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