Unanswered prayer does not always point to our faithlessness, superficiality, sin, or pride.
Yes, those things can certainly throw up barriers (which I noted in the last post). However, many a godly man or woman, authentically repentant and genuinely humble, has heard nothing but the silence of God.
Though we strain to seek Him, He is not easily found. Knock as hard as we can, the door remains closed. And it’s easy to think that we have lost the Father’s favor.
Why do some of the most self-absorbed believers seem to receive the most extravagant answers to prayer—healing, prosperity, employment, and the like—while others (who live sacrificially) suffer God’s seeming deafness?
If the Lord’s answer to prayer served as a barometer of His love, then many a believer might feel abandoned and desolate.
The young Christian couple whose helpless child battles leukemia might wonder about prayer. The Christian mother whose son is charged by police might wonder about prayer. The Church pastor whose family falls apart despite his “call” might wonder about prayer.
At some point, don’t we all?
Unanswered prayer sometimes has easily identified roots. But other times it completely stymies us. It defies rhyme or reason. And God’s silence can overtake our souls.
In the 16th century, St. John of the Cross suggested that Christ allows the “dark night of the soul” so that we might be purged of the superficial and drawn into deeper communion with Him. But to give our grief and pain a simple label—“dark night of the soul”—is not to answer the conundrum.
Truthfully, who can speak about prayer with utter clarity? But therein perhaps lies the kernel of truth that helps us move forward.
Might it be that prayer becomes the greatest sign of our faith, when we continue to pray despite the silence?
We know that the Father sees more than we do. We affirm His fundamental love and grace. And so we pray. We pray when the responding silence deafens us. We pray when answers are few and far between. We pray when we feel unworthy. We pray when common-sense says to quit.
We simply pray…believing that these whiffs of incense (Revelation 8:3-4) will one day—if not today—turn our mourning into dancing.