wheres-god_-720x960

When Prayers Go Unanswered

Recently Frank Viola published a free e-book where 21 Christian leaders responded to the following question: Why is it that God doesn’t often answer the desperate prayers of His people for deliverance, protection, healing, etc.?

You can download the free ebook by clicking here.

The following excerpt is Greg’s contribution to this book:

_____________________

Two very ill children are prayed for. The first is miraculously healed while the second tragically dies. We understandably want to know why.

Many would claim that this is because God, for some mysterious reason, willed the first to be healed and the second to die. Others would claim that God willed both children to be healed, but the people praying for the second child lacked the faith to receive it. I would contend that both options run into biblical problems, and I know from experience, as do many others, that both sometimes have catastrophic practical consequences.

But are these the only two options?

In Daniel 10, we find God immediately responding to a prayer of Daniel by dispatching an angel to deliver a message. Yet, it took twenty-one days for the message to be delivered (v.13).

Now, suppose we knew nothing more about this episode and asked the question of why it took twenty-one days for God to answer Daniel’s prayer.

Some would answer that God, for some mysterious reason, simply willed His answer to take this long to reach Daniel. Others would answer that Daniel must have lacked sufficient faith to receive the answer until the twenty-first day.

Both would be wrong. The reason for the delay had nothing to do either with God’s will or the strength of Daniel’s faith. The angel rather, explained to Daniel that a principality and power over Persia resisted him for this period of time, and it wasn’t until Michael the archangel got freed up to help him get God’s message through (v.13).

From this episode (and a host of other Scriptures), I believe we should learn that God’s will and our faith are not the only two variables that affect the outcome of prayer. The world is far more complex than that!

God decided to populate this world with human and angelic free agents, and as the “Prince of Persia” demonstrated in Daniel 10, this gives us a degree of “say so” to affect what comes to pass – even at times, to the point of interfering with God’s will.

In fact, every decision free agents make to some degree affects what comes to pass in the present and future, including sometimes, the “if,” “how” and “when” a prayer gets answered.

So think about this. This means that, to understand why any event unfolded the exact way it did, we would have to know every single human and/or angelic decision ever made that influenced the event unfolding the precise way it did. And this applies as much to the question of why God’s response to our prayer unfolded the way it did as it does to why any other event unfolded the way it did.

Since we obviously can’t begin to know the innumerable past free decisions that lead up to any given present event, we must accept that. Unless God reveals it to us, we simply cannot ever answer the question of why.

Yet, it’s vitally important we realize that the reason the why question is unanswerable is not because God’s will and character are mysterious, for these are clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. Rather, “why” questions are unanswerable because the world is infinitely more complex than our little brains can handle.

When faced with the question of why prayer saved one child but not another, I encourage you to not blame God or the victims by assigning the child’s death either to God’s will or to someone’s lack of faith.

Let’s rather openly acknowledge that we simply do not know. But in acknowledging our ignorance, let’s celebrate the one thing we do know: namely, that God is as good and beautiful as He is revealed to be in Christ.

Related Reading

Did Jesus Say That God Causes Blindness?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him (Jn 9:1-3, NIV) Commentators typically appeal to this passage…

A Calvinist Take on the Problem of Evil

Carnie Lewis via Compfight Here’s a Calvinist view on the problem(s) of evil in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. It’s the old God-as-author analogy. In essence, this is how Calvinism views God’s role in any instance of radical evil (quoted from the Desiring God article): But, of course, the Bible says more than…

The Warfare Worldview: What Would You Tell the Younger You?

Aftab Uzzaman via Compfight Jessica Kelley has been fleshing out the Warfare Worldview on her blog in a series of posts using the lens of the death of her child, Henry. Jessica is a beautiful writer, and her reflections are powerful and tender. You’re going to want to be listening to her. Her voice is an…

What Hinders Answers to Prayer

Prayer is powerful and effective, but it’s not magic. There is no automatic guarantee that what we’re praying for is going to come to pass, even when we’re praying with faith and in accordance with God’s will. Prayer is a form of co-laboring with God to change the world in a Kingdom direction. Yet, it’s…

Finger-Pointing and the Impulse to Judge

To no one’s surprise, yet to the sadness of many of us, several Christian spokespeople, including James Dobson, Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer, are blaming the shootings in Newtown, Conn, on abortion and gay marriage. This is sadly reminiscent of Jerry Falwell’s hurtful response to 9/11 when he divined that “the pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” “gays,” “lesbians,”…

4 Reasons to Wake Up to the Warfare Worldview

Image by postbear via Flickr A view of the world that grounds the problem of evil in spiritual warfare is not one that many modern people find easy to accept. To many contemporaries, the notion is preposterous that real, semi-autonomous, self-determining, and invisible spirits exist that can and do influence our lives. The whole thing sounds…