Hearing God's answer of "no" is inescapable in a fallen world (Hebrews 12:9-11). In his Today's Christian article, "The Gift of Unanswered Prayer," Jerry Sittser writes, "When we pray, we pray not only as saints but also as sinners, very much inclined to use prayer to advance our own selfish interests, even when we pray out of desperation. Prayer for that reason is highly complex. On the one hand, the very act of praying reminds us that we are children of God. On the other hand, that same act of praying exposes us for the fallen creatures we are."
But we need to remember that unanswered prayer doesn't mean the absence of God or the certain presence of failure (James 5:10-11). The Lord's Prayer captures how we are to submit our will to God's: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing not only what physical agony awaited him on the cross, but also anticipating the terrible price of taking the sins of humanity upon his sinless self. He twice asked God the Father if that cup might pass from him. Both times, he placed his plea under the authority of God's will.
We make what sense we can of suffering in this life, confident that God will redeem it all in his time and in ways so vivid that they surpass the best that we can ever imagine.
[Q] When are you more likely to feel close to God—in crisis or gratitude? When are you most likely to disregard God?
[Q] Can you recall a time when you prayed about a problem and expressed your heart's desire for God's intervention but left the matter in his hands? How did God's answer to your prayer differ from what you hoped would happen? How did you see God's handiwork in the results?
Make a Change: Reflect on any past experiences of unanswered prayer. Invite God to heal any lingering pain, to help you see your life through his wisdom, and to draw you into an ever-deeper trust of his good purposes for you.