This week we’ve been looking at common reasons that God doesn’t answer our prayers. Today we’ll look at the problem of people. As in other people. When people refuse to cooperate, refuse to change or follow God’s leading, prayers tend to go unanswered.
Sometimes it can be a matter of people who God would have serve as answers to your prayers not taking up the call. Other times it may well be people who are behaving in ways which are harmful and hurtful and you’re praying for God to change them. Yet they just keep doing what they are doing.
At this point, I could get into a long discussion about free will. But for the moment I’m going to leave that for another day. Instead, for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to work from the assumption that we each make our own choices. Further, let’s posit that God’s interference with each person’s free choices is generally limited to allowing the negative consequences of them to become so unbearable that they may eventually change their ways.
So, when the answers to our prayers require another person to do something or change something and they don’t do it, our prayers will go unanswered. Even when providing an answer to our prayers would be God’s desire.
This begs a question. When it would be God’s desire for our prayers to be answered, why would God allow people’s exercise of free will to interfere with that desire? Why doesn’t God just temporarily short-circuit people’s free will to obtain the desired end? Or why doesn’t he do like he did with the apostle Paul and basically hold them hostage while he gets them all straightened out?
The issue, it seems to me, is that it is God’s intention that we take care of each other. That we be looking out for each other’s needs. And that we be seeking each other’s best interests. But that requires us to have a certain level of maturity. And in order to gain that maturity, we need to grow up and decide on our own to do right by each other. It’s not something that can be done for us.
If God is always stepping in and pulling Jedi mind tricks to use people to answer prayers, humanity will never grow up. He’d be no different than the parent who picks up their kid’s messes, does their homework and otherwise enables them to remain immature and irresponsible. Yes, it creates an easier and more pleasant experience for the kids. But it’s stunting.
There is so much unneeded suffering in the world. It can be a hard pill to swallow to that God isn’t going to step in and fix it or force other people to fix it. instead, like all parents sometimes have to, he’s going to let us fall and fail until we’re finally willing to take responsibility for the mess we have made. Look at the pain we’ve caused. And get to work, with his support, in fixing the wreck we’ve created. And until we human beings get to the point of being willing to do that, there’s going to be a lot of unanswered prayers.
Which is all well and fine on a theoretical, big-picture scale. But maybe not much help when faced with our own unanswered prayers. Or someone who is causing us to suffer and refuses to change. When we’re in this position, there are two truths to hold onto.
The first is that God will not allow anything to happen which cannot be redeemed. This is quite different than saying he won’t give us more than we can handle. I’ve certainly had more than I can handle come my way in life! Rather it’s saying that if it’s happening, I can trust that eventually it will be redeemed. God will bring good out of it, even if it’s awful and not his will for you. And the good will be greater than the evil and suffering you’ve had to endure.
The second is that if we want to live in a world with fewer unanswered prayers, then we must be the sort of people who are answers to prayers ourselves. We must be more aware of and attuned to the needs of people around us. We must be more willing to make some sacrifices for other’s sake. We must be more determined to live and act out of love instead of indulging our anger, self-righteousness, selfishness and fear. The world cannot change if we do not change first.
I could probably keep this series on reasons for unanswered prayers going for several more weeks. But for now, I’m going to end it tomorrow with a post on what I think is the most important and unrecognized reason for answered prayers. It’s a good one that you may never have heard before, so be sure to check back tomorrow!