The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even to their least. A god of our own creation might always be predictable. If someone so close to Jesus’ heart and so receptive to divine revelation could get things so horribly wrong, do you really think any of us are incapable of ever asking God for things he should not grant? In the light of Jesus calming the sea (Luke 8:24), plus the biblical affirmation that the Almighty ‘has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm’ (Nahum 1:3 – note also Psalm 107:23-29) and that the Almighty used a storm to prevent Jonah from sailing away from God’s calling, it would be so easy to fall into despair by mistakenly interpreting storm-induced shipwrecks as signs of divine disapproval, or at least indifference. But truth puts muscle on our faith. . How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! So [or “in this way,” NIV] the word of the Lord was growing and becoming mighty” (Acts 19:17-20). Joel 2:13-14 Tear your heart, and not your garments, Unanswered prayer is such an important topic and so easily confused by fuzzy thinking or misinterpretation of the Bible, that I have devoted several webpages to the topic; each approaching the subject from a different angle. I am so conscious of my own limitations in this regard that I have not only devoted an entire webpage to it, I have linked to it at the end of almost all my webpages and I have done my utmost to entice people to read it by calling the link My Shame. If you want a dry, predictable prayer life where you always know the outcome before fervently asking, I have nothing to offer. No Answer For much of my life, basketball was my life. (Slightly Modified) Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who have kept his ordinances. “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!” If you were already in heaven, you wouldn’t suffer things that happen in this sin-stricken world –being spurned or misunderstood, losing a loved one, enduring physical pain, and so on – but you wouldn’t be able to help rescue anyone from hell, nor support anyone who does. and relents from sending calamity. He was not allowed to set foot on the land and permitted only to see it from a distance. I say “seemingly” because we should understand that even on these occasions, God did not relinquish his sovereignty. Yet, to remain in the flesh is more needful for your sake. and he ate. The result left me filled with awe at the sacred privilege granted to Christians who suffer. (Unless otherwise specified) (Matthew 17:14-18). Finally, in response to still more pleas, he added that granting her request was not right, plus he referred to her as a dog – an unclean animal. The very next verse in this passage shows the tragic consequences of there being no intercessor: Ezekiel 22:31 This proves how foolhardy and terrifyingly dangerous it would be for Father God to ever hand over his right to veto his children’s prayer requests. Jesus, who came to show us the Father, frequently refused to give people what they asked of him. And like him, and through him, they will be honored and eternally compensated for any suffering they endure in order to be in a depraved world that is opposed to them but desperately needs them. (Emphasis mine – Jeremiah 11:14 and 14:11-12 are similar.). If anyone inspires us to believe in the power of prayer, it is the one whose own prayers did not save him from the cross; the one who said: Matthew 6:34  . Thus the Lord showed me and behold, the Lord God called for judgment by fire; and it dried up the great deep, and would have devoured the land. . “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us,” pleaded Philip. (Lexham English Bible). . . Immediately after those words, Scripture records Peter making a request of Jesus; pleading/insisting that Jesus not go the way of the cross. Though not always associated with unanswered prayer, the principle of unavoidable judgment achieving good extends beyond Old Testament incidents. Is the law then against the promises of God? . Let’s see what else is praiseworthy – even inspirational – in how David responded to this situation. On the seventh day, the child died. “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” pleaded Philip and he, too, was rebuked instead of receiving what he had hoped for (John 14:8). He, and his brother James, asked Jesus for a special place of privilege and power the age to come. While “in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10) he heard the Risen Lord tell Christians such things as: Revelation 2:9-10 I know your works, oppression, and your poverty . For example, Scripture is emphatic that, in practice, it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18) or to deny his very nature (2 Timothy 2:13). nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing” (Romans 8:35-39) nor unanswered prayer – can mean that God has stopped loving you or has given up on you. Thus it is that Paul dares say that suffering . Faith in God’s goodness is the one thing that will save us from the danger of seeing only the obvious and being thrown by circumstances. 1. The elders of his house arose beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, and he didn’t eat bread with them. For he is small.” Not only was Jesus conscious that, theoretically, nothing is impossible with God, he taught this very thing (Matthew 19:26). (Emphasis mine.). Deuteronomy 3:23-26 I begged the Lord at that time, saying, “Lord, you have begun to show your servant your greatness, and your strong hand. Our Lord’s eagerness for an intercessor to ‘change God’s mind’ is displayed here: Ezekiel 22:30 I sought for a man among them, who should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. What finally altered me to the correct interpretation is discovering that Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the word as meaning, “to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favor to”. One day I was there, painting the outside of the home, while everyone else was gone. 2 Samuel 12:16-18 David therefore begged God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night on the ground. PRAYER, unanswered. Great faith does not mean an end to dark times when everything and everyone in hell, heaven and earth seems to be against you. . . Appears in the text King David yearned to build the temple (2 Chronicles 6:7). . . Bible Versions Used Surely this describes our era. To quote yet another prophet, “when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness,” but if “favor be shown to the wicked . . Whatever the implications of being “overcome” by this ungodly power, it is sure to be physical, not spiritual, but sufficiently unpleasant for those suffering it to want it to stop. In fact, when it comes to unanswered prayer, I have found no differences between New and Old Testament revelation. As children grow, however, they commence the long and unsettling discovery that life is far more complex than they had dared dream. . Elijah prayed. Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. I will speak with him in a dream. Matthew 6:24  . If you think I have chosen an extreme example; think again. A God who could get her to stay when she really wanted to leave would have to resort to manipulation and underhanded tactics of that order. Mark Batterson shares about unanswered prayer and how God lead's the way to His best for us. Micah 7:8 Don’t rejoice against me, my enemy. . . If this man were not satisfied with a wife who stayed only because she was forced, why would he be satisfied with a wife who stayed only because she was conned or drugged or hypnotized, or whatever? After she snagged my parking spot from me, I went around to find an empty spot. A number of people featured in the Bible were on the verge of specifically asking something of God, and the Lord cut them short so that they knew there was no point in asking because they knew their request would be denied. . For those whose heart isn’t crushed by personal tragedy or aren’t desperate for satisfactory answers to perplexing questions, I have a highly shortened version. Proverbs 24:16 for a righteous man falls seven times, and rises up again . (Emphasis mine.). Superficially, never-answered prayer seems such a negative subject that even among studious Bible readers, very few have stopped to realize how many incidents of unanswered prayer are secreted in God’s Word. If even those so close to Jesus could ask of him such dangerously foolish things, we should all heave a sigh of relief and praise God that Christians’ prayers can go unanswered. . Seek humility. Despite the prayers of “the saints” reaching the throne of God and being so treasured by heaven that their prayers are mixed with incense, (Revelation 5:6-8; 8:3-4 God’s Word is emphatic that the oppression will still occur. For example, a man wrote to me, angry that God had not answered his prayers to stop his wife from leaving him. But he answered, “It is not appropriate [“is not right” is how most versions put it] to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” It was such a godly idea (1 Kings 8:17) that even the prophet Nathan gave his initial approval (2 Samuel 7:2-3). I explain from Scripture why having our top prayer requests never answered does not mean we have somehow failed. . Likewise Job, the man of whom the Lord said, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil,” (Job 1:8) prayed, “Oh that I might have my request, that God would grant the thing that I long for, even that it would please God to crush me; that he would . In this webpage, however, we will proceed both with uncovering many biblical examples of unanswered prayer and with discovering that these incidents are far more positive than most of us would have guessed. Previously, only a select few received this empowering, such as prophets (e.g. Micah 7:8 Don’t rejoice against me, my enemy. . “Now hear my words. Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity . I will strike them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” For a much more helpful, encouraging and insightful exploration of these Scriptures, see Many Instances of Bible Heroes’ Never-Answered Prayers.. . There’s the two bind men who stifled any embarrassment and cried out to Jesus from the midst of the crowd. . On the other extreme, evil is so obvious early on, that one can mistakenly suppose the good Lord is nowhere to be found. If I cause evil animals to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it is made desolate, so that no man may pass through because of the animals; though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters . . Paul was a great man of Prayer, he prayed three times for the removal of that "thorn in the flesh." . . All the disciples joined forces in asking him to send the Canaanite woman away but their Lord ended up doing the exact opposite (Matthew 15:23, 28). And just as he is eternally honored and empowered for doing this, so will you (Philippians 2:5-9). They had the intelligence to realize that human inability to perceive every eventuality means that even what to us seems essential or undeniably good, could astonish us by turning out disastrously and prove to be the very thing we should never have asked for. The Philippians, on the other hand, can also share in this privilege. .”. Or who has been his counselor?” Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Again nothing. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his lord. . . Does anyone seriously think that this bloodied saint never prayed for protection? Added to that are the times God even says in his Word there are prayer requests he would refuse to answer even if Noah, Samuel, Jeremiah and Daniel pleaded for them. Rather than answering prayers that let us settle for mediocrity or worse, our gracious Lord honors us by expecting us to break free from cowardice and rise to the heights he knows a life yielded to him is capable of. Thus he showed me and behold, the Lord stood beside a wall made by a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” Prayerfully reject whatever you don’t want in your … Jesus not only deliberately ignored her, his disciples even got into the act. Elijah, hailed by James as the ultimate proof that “The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective,” (James 5:16-18) prayed that he would die. if you killed this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of you will speak, saying, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.’ Now please let the power of the Lord be great, according as you have spoken, saying, ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience . Despite his nation being in dire need, the Lord specifically told Jeremiah that he would refuse to answer his prayers: . that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.” . and turn to the Lord, your God; The elders of his house arose beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, and he didn’t eat bread with them. If we pray for God’s Will to be at work in your life, then you know your prayer will be answered. Perhaps hoping to further pressure Jesus, their mother even added her voice to the request (Matthew 20:20-21). Have I found every instance? . Elijah prayed yet again, this time, most likely, praying even harder and longer. 18:19-20; James 5:14-16). . Christ’s suffering was God’s will, solely because we sinners desperately needed him to endure it. How do you feel about suffering in order to share in the anguish of the one who suffered for you, and who still agonizes over sinners and would do – in fact has already done – everything possible to be there for them and bring them back to God? If I cause evil animals to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it is made desolate, so that no man may pass through because of the animals; though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters . When Elizabeth became pregnant, she hid herself, overwhelm… . he will deal wrongfully, and will not see the Lord’s majesty” (Isaiah 26:9-10). We have begun to discover that God not giving us everything we crave is actually one of the most comforting and precious things about our beautiful Lord. I don’t mean delayed answers to prayer, but all the times these faith giants, despite all the Bible’s promises about answered prayer, made requests of God – sometimes very passionately – that were never granted. Let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will freely pardon. . (Slightly Modified) (Emphasis mine.) This important matter is addressed in some of my other webpages about prayer, such as Prerequisites for Answered Prayer: When Faith & Prayer Do Not Work. I will speak with him in a dream. Scripture does not specify whether God intervened before David had time to formulate his longing into a prayer but regardless of the specifics it was certainly close to a prayer. Perhaps the Bible’s greatest example of a battle of wills ending in the Lord seeming to change his mind is the Canaanite woman. Luke 12:15  . Deuteronomy 3:23-26 I begged the Lord at that time, saying, “Lord, you have begun to show your servant your greatness, and your strong hand. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! I have certainly uncovered many that do not appear in Bible dictionaries, topical Bibles or cross-references. Nor can we imagine the burden of being a God whose intellect is so powerful as to comprehend the full extent to almost every ‘tiny,’ ‘easy’ decision triggers chain reactions that, whilst perhaps immensely helping some people in the short term, end up harming others further along the bewildering maze of time. 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