I sometimes wonder if there isn’t as much unanswered prayer as we might think.
Have you ever noticed in the Bible that after God does something, He’s been known to rest? Probably the most famous instance of this is found in Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.”
This depicts a scene in which God rested from His work, after He had brought everything into existence—from nothing. The Bible even says, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Not only was He the Creator, the creation was good—in fact, very good. Why was it so good? Because God is good.
Christians try to incorporate this idea of “sabbath” rest into our weekly routines, observing one day (or afternoon) a week where we rest from our work. Pastor Jamie often refers to his Mondays as a sabbath, as it is a time where he rests and prepares himself both physically and spiritually for the upcoming week.
So what does rest have to do with unanswered prayer?
Have you ever prayed about something important in your life? You really want God to answer this prayer. And so you pray and pray and pray some more. And you don’t get any kind of answer from God. So what do you do? You not only keep praying, but you also ask for others to join you in prayer. Still nothing. Silence. Then you become discouraged, because it doesn’t seem like God is that interested in answering your prayer. Yet, you are very invested. Then maybe you begin to think to yourself, “Well, maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe God doesn’t love me. Maybe prayer doesn’t work.”
I wonder how often people experience God’s rest after He’s answered our prayer, and yet we confuse this experience with silence (unanswered prayer) because we’ve been looking for the answer in all the wrong places. What if all along, we’ve been praying for this one specific thing, but we’ve also been holding on, within our hearts, to the answer to that prayer. So that, in order for God to answer our prayer, so we think, it’s necessary that He answer our prayer just how we’ve envisioned it to unfold.
When we pray for anything, the heart of that prayer must not be rooted in the desire to answer our own prayers. We request and God responds. We must humbly allow God to answer our prayers however He so chooses.
If you think about it, God’s rest and silence feel awkwardly similar. Almost to the point where it becomes hard to distinguish between the two. Both are quiet. Both leave the one praying in a waiting posture. Yet, knowing the difference is so important. From experience, I’ve noticed that when God has been the most silent in prayer, it’s typically the result of my stubbornness to wait for Him to adopt my answer. And God is patient with me during those seasons of silence, even to the point where He allows me to declare that prayer has been unanswered. However, God is the only one who gets to determine when a prayer is unanswered. Not me.
God wants to answer our prayers. I think He delights in meeting our needs and coming to our aid in times of trouble. However, God does not look to us in order to formulate the answer. He answers us in His own ways, through His own means. It is our role in prayer to humbly wait and anxiously observe how the Lord has answered our prayer.
Jude 21 says,“Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
Next time you find yourself on the verge of declaring prayer unanswered, hold off on that. My prayer is that as you wonder why God is so silent about something you’ve been praying about, the Spirit of God would remind you that God isn’t being silent at all. Just maybe He is resting in the answer He has already provided. Resting and waiting for you to leave your plans and desires behind and begin to look for His answer to your prayer—which is always good, because God is good.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” (Psalm 106:1; 107:1; et al.)