Unanswered Prayer ( for additional information relating to this topic see “The Hiddeness of God” below.)
Of all the ideas in Christianity, this is perhaps the most troubling. Why does God not answer prayers?
There is no easy to this question. We are given many reasons in the Scriptures why prayers may be hindered, which generally relate to the quality of ones personal life (ie, someone with an active and unrepentant sinful life can expect to have his prayers ignored). Sometimes we pray selfishly, sometimes we pray irreverently; these and any number of other factors can affect our prayers.
Sometimes though, we don’t. Sometimes we pray for the healing of a loved one, or we pray for a friend in a tough spot in life, or we pray for any number of legitimate, honorable things.
Our greatest example in all things is Christ, who prayed this way:
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
The key, I think, is in His last sentence. Christ prayed to not suffer, but He ended with the giving up of His own wants, legitimate as they were. This is the truth of the matter: prayer ultimately needs to be about what God wants, not what we want.
Perhaps our perception of prayer is slightly skewed, though. Perhaps we forget that prayer isn’t necessarily a genie in a bottle guaranteed to work, even if there are legitimate things we are praying for. As painful as it may be, maybe there are even overriding reasons for a certain prayer to not be granted.
I think it’s important to remember the difference between granting, hearing and answering prayers. ALL prayers are heard. That is a fact. ALL (this is my opinion) prayers are answered. However, all prayers are not granted, in that the petition we make is given to us in the exact way we word it.
This doesn’t make the reality of having a loved one in a painful condition suffer in spite of prayer any easier to bear, but it does give an answer to the question, even if it is a tough answer.