We are thinking about the problem of unanswered prayer. But before we even attempt to understand a good solution to this problem, we are identifying some clearly wrong answers we are tempted to believe.
We looked at the first wrong answer last week, it is not because God is not strong enough.
Today a second wrong answer. It is not because God is not interested enough.
It doesn’t do me much good that someone has all kinds of resources if they don’t know me or if they don’t care about me.
I doubt many of you find comfort in reading the list of billionaires in magazines. You aren’t like wow, that guy has ten billion dollars now I have it made. No, because that guy doesn’t care about you or me so all his resources don’t do us any good.
And I think maybe sometimes we are tempted to think that way about God. I know if I didn’t have a Bible and I wasn’t a Christian and I wanted to make up what I thought God was like, which you don’t want to do because that is idolatry, but if I wasn’t a Christian and I was just guessing what God was like on my own, I could easily imagine a God who was powerful because look at the universe, but I think it would be hard for me to believe that He was interested in people like me.
I could think of God as high and lifted up and having the resources, but to think of a God who would come close and take interest in the minor, daily stuff of life, that would be harder to conceive and so, I can see how someone might think maybe the reason God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we might like is because He is so high that it is almost like He doesn’t hear our prayers and if He hears them He is so important that they don’t matter to Him.
There’s actually an idea of God that many have had throughout history where he is like the great watchmaker in the sky. You know how someone might make a watch and puts the parts in place and he gets it ticking, but once he sets it a ticking, he lets it go, he’s not actively involved with that watch any longer, and while that’s the god of many false religions, it is important to understand that it is not the God of the Bible.
It is not the God who actually exists and describes Himself for us in the Scriptures.
One of the most basic things the Bible tells us about God is that He is everywhere. That means there’s nowhere anyone can go that God isn’t and there is nothing anyone can do that God does not see.
In Jeremiah 23:24, God asks,
“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord.”
Though you may sometimes feel like God is far from you, the fact is He isn’t. The apostle Paul tells us how close God is to us in Acts 17:27 and 28 when he says, “He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”
It is not hard for God to know what is going on in your life because God is present with what is happening in your life. What is more, it is not just that God sees what is happening to us on the outside, He knows what is happening to us on the inside.
The writer of the Psalms says it like this in Psalm 139,
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
There are many details in our lives that we might feel are too boring for God to be concerned about, but God clearly tells us that He knows and is involved in the most mundane details of our lives.
To prove that, Jesus says in Matthew 10:29 and 30,
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Most of us are pretty concerned about ourselves, but even we don’t know details like that. In fact, we might say to ourselves, well it is only the important people that God is that concerned about like this, but that is not at all what God says to us.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Psalm 34:18 says something similar,
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
If you need proof of this, you might just think of the way God acted when He became man. When God became man, He actively and deliberately pursued the very ones the important people of the day would have overlooked. I think for example of the leper who came to Jesus and said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” He wasn’t worried about Jesus’ ability to answer his prayer, he was concerned instead about Jesus’ willingness. He was concerned about Jesus’ willingness because he was rejected and despised by every other religious leader; and how did Jesus respond, this is what is so beautiful, Mark says, moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said, “I will, be clean.”
You will never get the right answer when you are asking the wrong questions. This means if you are struggling to understand why God is not answering your prayers the way you would like, and you are asking, is it because God does not know what is going on? Is it because God is not interested in people like me? Is it because God does not care? You are absolutely asking the wrong question.
God is present. He knows. God is all knowing. He understanding. And God is love. He cares.
In fact, if you are a believer, you have many great promises and proofs that God has a very special interest in your life. In other words, God does not only tolerate you, He loves you and He says so over and over again. It wasn’t duty that caused God the Father to send His Son to die in your place, if you are a believer, it couldn’t have been duty because He was under no obligation to do it. It was love.
“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved.”
It is important to understand that God’s interest and affection for you has never been based on what you deserved, so, when you question whether God could be interested in you because you are so small or whether God could love you because your life is such a mess, God doesn’t think in those categories, that’s not what His interest and love for anyone has ever been based on. His interest in you has always been on the basis of undeserved kindness which means, bottom line, that as we try to get to a biblical answer to the question why isn’t God answering our prayers the way we would like, there are two answers we can’t give and the first is that it is because He is not powerful enough, He is and the second, as believers, is that it is because He is not interested enough, because again the Bible makes clear, He very much is.