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Blog #379: When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer Request

In 1 Kings 14 is the story of Jeroboam, the first king of the northern nation of Israel, asking YHWH God to heal his son. God didn’t and the boy died (though the text does state that God viewed that boy as being “the only one in Jeroboam’s household in which God found anything good”, and so from there we can, at the least, trust in God’s mercy and have hope that the Lord took him to be with Him in heaven). In any case, the reasons God didn’t answer Jeroboam’s prayer is that He had no obligation to do so: Jeroboam had mocked and ignored God for 20 years, had worshiped Chemosh, Molek, Ashtoreth, and other foreign gods (and, probably came to YHWH God only when he realized those other gods had no power to heal his son), and, besides which, Jeroboam was treating God as if he were a genie in a bottle who had to grant the wishes of the man holding the bottle.

But, what about with us? Writing for the Christ ALONE Foundation, author Lori Hatcher (in the year 2020) gave nine reasons why God might not answer our prayers or rescue us. In part, here is what she wrote:

1. We don’t believe he can. God works in response to faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please him. For God to answer our prayers, we “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Our lack of faith can be a huge hindrance, not because God can’t overrule our faithlessness, but because he won’t. He never forces faith on someone.

2. We have sin in our lives. We cannot willfully choose to disobey God (Isaiah 59:2) and expect him to bless us. As human parents, we withhold blessings from our children when they rebel against us. God often does the same. More important than health, wealth, and happiness is whether we have a right relationship with God.

3. We need to learn to trust him. Our faith begins small and increases with every challenge. Like a muscle, our confidence in God’s power grows stronger the more we exercise it. Trials, heartbreaks, and circumstances beyond our control force us to turn to our all-powerful God (2 Corinthians 1:9). 

4. He knows that a rescue wouldn’t be best. So often we just want OUT of a difficult situation. We’re not interested in what’s best in the long term, we want relief now. The apostle Paul knew this when he wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

5. There’s a lesson we need to learn or a character quality we need to develop because of this situation. When my husband lost his job, I learned that God is our provider. When I cared for a baby with colic and another with constant ear infections, I learned patience, kindness, and unselfishness. When I worked with difficult coworkers, I learned to see them through Jesus’ eyes, not my own. Instead of asking Why? when we encounter difficulty, what if we asked What? as in, What can I learn from this situation (James 1:3)?

6. God is building our faith story so one day we can share what we’ve learned with others. 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 reveals this purpose: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Because of the faith valleys I’ve walked, I can truly identify with and minister to those who have lost a loved one, parented a prodigal, experienced unemployment, and resurrected a stale marriage.

7. God is doing something amazing. You can’t see it right now, but he is working out his purpose in your situation. Nothing can thwart God’s good purposes for his children. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

8. God is developing his mind and heart in you. When circumstances press us hard into God’s Word and force us to seek him for wisdom, faith, grace, and strength, he begins to conform us to his image. We can’t spend large amounts of time in his presence without starting to think, act, and love like he does. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

9. God is teaching you that a close, personal, spiritual relationship with him is sweeter and more precious than a happy, healthy, trouble-free, physical life. I experienced a trial years ago greater than anything I’d ever walked through before. With one phone call, I felt like everything precious to me had been stripped away. I awakened the next morning feeling like I had nothing left but God. As I cried, and prayed, and cried some more, Jesus met me there. He wrapped his big tender arms of love around me and spoke words of hope into my troubled soul. He spoke words of truth into my reeling mind. He spoke words of love into my broken heart. And he spoke words of courage into my trampled faith. My encounter with him was so powerful and real that I will never again doubt his love, care, and purpose. “It was good for me to be afflicted,” King David wrote, “so that I might learn your ways,” and I agree. While I would never voluntarily choose to repeat those dark days, I know God used them to grow my love for him in ways he never could have otherwise.

There are many reasons God chooses not to rescue us from our trials. I’ve listed a few here to get you thinking. What comforts me in the darkness of suffering is the knowledge that God is just, God is powerful, and God is good. I can rest in this, and you can, too.

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