I’ve spent countless hours praying for God to answer my requests. I remember the tear stains on my pillow over the figurative “closed doors” and the heartbreak over not receiving the answer I wanted or expected. And although I have seen God miraculously heal the sick in a moment of prayer, I’ve watched others die of cancer, suffer from pain or experience immense hardship. Why does it seem like God is occasionally silent to our prayers?
As I think about how our Father receives and answers our prayers, I am reminded about four key absolutes: 1. God is good all the time (Psalm 100:5). 2. God works all things for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 3. The Father loves to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11). 4. When we ask Him for a desire that aligns with His desires, His answers are always “yes” and “amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). You may be thinking if you’re a fellow believer, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of that before. So what?” Let’s paraphrase to find applicable meaning within these absolutes — we have a loving, all-knowing Father (Matthew 6:27-30) who adores us (Isaiah 43:5) and wants the best things for us, and He promises to give us whatever good and righteous thing we ask of Him because He’s a good daddy.
He’s a good daddy.
“But what about all those closed doors? What about my heartbreak? What about the failure to come to my rescue? Where was God?” you may ask. If we think about what a good parent might do since God is our Father, the answers to these questions become a bit easier to understand. Good parents don’t say “yes” to every request just to make the child happy. Good parents look at the situation and determine if responding “yes” to a request would be hurtful, helpful or if waiting for a better solution is actually the best option. Many times, God answers our prayers and sets things in motion behind the scenes, but we don’t understand it or see the answer right away, if at all (Proverbs 3:5-6). Dependency deepens trust. Hardships aren’t meant to crush us; they are meant to make us stronger (Romans 8:35-39). We learn to rely on God for answers instead of ourselves, especially if we have little or no control over the situation; and our victories glorify Him. If we instantly received what we want all the time, we would become ungrateful and settle for less than the abundance God has planned for our lives. Essentially, we’d miss out on the better blessing.
Dependency deepens trust.
As we lift requests up to God, He expects obedience and partnership as part of our relationship and communications with Him. Just as our natural parents often set boundaries and expectations with our requests through them, so does our Heavenly Father. When we pray, we must believe He will provide (Matthew 21:22, James 1:6-8). We must confess and remove anything that separates us from God: sins, idols, wrong motives, ignoring the plight of others around us, or a heart that is not Christ-centered (Isaiah 59:1-2, John 15:7). If you’re like me, I look at the list of God’s expectations and feel somewhat overwhelmed at times; but God knows the intentions of our hearts. He knows our needs, and many times in spite of our failures, He mercifully answers prayer requests anyway!
I remember when I got out of high school. I was planning to become a graphic designer in Japan. I studied the language and immersed myself in the culture. I practiced designing, writing and drawing almost every day. Becoming a graphic designer was everything to me at the time. Then life took several unexpected twists, and circumstances occurred that kept me from fulfilling that dream. Many years later, I can see the journey that brought me to where I am today. I would not have the same blessings today if I had gone to Japan. Would I have settled for less? Maybe whatever waited for me in Japan was the lesser blessing, or it could have just ended up as an alternate route. Either way, it was obvious at the time that the doorway to Japan slammed shut, and a different life awaited me. I could be bitter or angry at the death of that dream, but it’s hard to regret something that never occurred. After all, I would have missed out on my husband, valuable time with my grandfathers who have since passed away, the friends I’ve made along the way and my personal and spiritual growth. I can honestly say that my spiritual walk and personal growth as a person have grown exponentially out of the dependence and deepening trust in God through many hardships, changes and miracles over the last several years. Also, I’ve had the amazing privilege of watching God transform lives through close friendships. If I could do it all again, I think I’d want to do it the same way.
Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer.
My short answer to the complex questions above is this — if you’re praying to God for an answer, keep praying. He loves you and has your best interest in mind. He will never forsake you. Sometimes, “no” or “wait” are the wiser alternatives to “yes.” Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer. Hardship may occur, but our sovereign God goes before us, walks with us and carries us through to the other side (Psalm 139:5, Jeremiah 29:11).
In the words of Paulo Coelho, “Don’t give up. Normally it is the last key on the ring which opens the door.”