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 understands. 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.
Romans 5:8,“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 2, “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.
A third answer to unanswered prayer we absolutely cannot give is that it is because God is not good enough.
Now you are going to need to hold on a little bit because this is a thought that has really meant a lot to me and so I am going to see if I can explain it as well as I wish.
But the basic idea is that God is more generous than anyone you have ever met.
I don’t know if you have noticed but people are not naturally all that generous. I mean, they are generous to a point, but you know sometimes even with your best of friends, the people who are closest to you, you can ask them for a lot, but you have to sort of be careful what you ask them for, because you don’t want to accidentally ask them for too much. It is possible to ask people for too much. There are friends you can ask for certain things, but you have to be careful that you don’t cross the line where you ask them for something too often and they get tired of trying to help you or you ask them for too big of help and they are kind of like how can that person ask me for something that huge, and I think you all have had that experience where you asked a friend for something and even though they were trying to be polite, you can see it on their face that you went too far and you asked for too much.
One of the amazing things about God is that God is totally not like that. You cannot ask God for too much. This is how James, if you remember, this is how James seeks to motivate us to ask God for help in James 1. By pointing out His generosity.
James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”
Why ask God? Because of what God is like.
Listen, “Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to Him.”
Some say the word generously is better translated, without hesitation. That means God’s the kind of God who likes to give quickly. You know how sometimes it is when you know it is right to give to someone but you are slow to do so, maybe they ask you to help them move or something and you are like, o.k., and it’s a long drawn out kind of o.k. But that’s not the way God is.
He gives without hesitation and James says without reproach. In other words, He doesn’t look down on you for asking.
There’s this sermon by one of my favorite dead guys, his name is Jonathan Edwards and in the sermon he says something like this, “God never begrutches His people anything they desire.”
Begrutches, that word begrutches is a funny old word.
But what he means is that God never thinks when His people make a request of Him, oh, that request is too good for people like them.
Now that’s hard for us to imagine because people are like that all the time. People all the time are slow to give because they think something is too good for someone.
Sometimes they are slow to give because they are envious. They don’t want you to have something good because if you have something good that will mean you have more than them and so they don’t want that.
Sometimes they are slow to give because they hold you in contempt. They don’t think you should have something good because they don’t think you deserve it. They think you aren’t important enough for something as good as that.
And then sometimes it is because they are resentful. You have offended them in some way and they don’t like to see you getting something good because they think you are too bad for stuff like that.
I know where I come from and this sounds kind of funny to say, but sometimes you get a little worried when someone gives you a super huge gift, because if they give you a super huge gift then you know that probably at some point you are going to disappoint them and they are going to get upset with you more than what they normally would because of what they gave you.
But again, what is so amazing about God is that He is totally not like that. We serve an incredibly generous God. He never refuses a request because He is worried that you will have it too good or because He thinks you are too unimportant or because He thinks you don’t deserve it.
And honestly there are all kinds of proofs of that.
You can start with the plan of salvation. What was behind God making this strategy to save us, well Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:7 that one of the purposes of our salvation was so that “in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” That means a big part of why God saved us was to be kind to us and to demonstrate how kind He is. It would be strange if God’s plan from before the beginning of the world was to be kind to us as believers and then we thought that he didn’t like to be kind and generous to us. Of course He does.
You can go on to a second proof and that is the nature of salvation. Salvation is by nature a gift. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The point is that God’s never acted towards you in a way that you deserve. When he saved you, it wasn’t like he was like, well this guy is pretty o.k., so why don’t I do this for him? You don’t have to worry about God treating you better than you deserve, because that’s what He is always been doing, and if God wasn’t in to that, you wouldn’t be saved in the first place.
Then of course a third proof of God’s generosity is just the cost of salvation. It is pretty obvious God wants our future best as believers given the fact that He was willing to send His Son to become man and to die and to bear His wrath and our punishment so that we could experience and enjoy eternal life. There’s no possible happiness that can be too good for God’s people because there was no price too high for God to pay to purchase their happiness. How could you ever question how for you God is when He already killed His Son for your good? Do you see that? This is the exact argument that Paul makes in Romans 8:31 and 32, when he says “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Now how do we know God is for us? Here it is. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” You don’t question someone’s generosity when they allowed their own Son to die in your place.
A fourth proof of God’s generosity is the mysterious miracle of salvation, in that when God saves you, He unites you to His Son. One of Paul’s favorite phrases to describe what it means to be a believer is to be in Christ, when you become a Christian you are placed in Christ, God doesn’t look at you by yourself anymore, He sees you as connected vitally and really to His Son, He sees you in His Son, His attitude towards you is like His attitude towards Christ, and so when you come to Him in prayer, making requests, you are making requests in Christ, and you can’t doubt God the Father’s attitude towards His perfect Son. You know God the Father wants the best for His Son and so if you are in His Son, you know He wants the best for you.
A fifth proof of how for you God is are the benefits of salvation. And what I mean is that when you go to God in prayer and ask Him for something you really can’t ask Him for anything bigger than He has already given you. Paul tells us that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ. And I mean think about some of these blessings. Can you ask for something bigger than the righteousness of Christ? Can you think of anything bigger to be able ask God for than to be able to speak to Him as son would to his father?
And you know, I hope I have given you enough, but maybe one last proof that God only wants the best for you as a believer is the end of your salvation, which is really only the beginning and that is heaven. If I could only take you to heaven and show you just how big, how lavish, how amazing heaven is, it is called the fullness of joy, and the point is if God has this in store for us for billions and billions and billions of years, then it is obvious He doesn’t have a problem being generous, that He really, really, wants your best.
And it is important you believe it; that when we go to God in prayer and we ask for something and God doesn’t answer our prayer when or how we like, there’s at least one thing we can know for sure, it’s not because we asked for too much, it’s not because He doesn’t really want our good, it’s not because He has some kind of problem giving; and we need to be pounding this truth into our hearts, to be arguing with ourselves about God’s goodness and generosity, it is because if there is one thing Satan doesn’t want you to believe, it is this, God’s over the top, overflowing, kindness to those of us who are united to Christ.
Satan wants to use unanswered prayers to tempt you to start believing things that are not true about God, which is part of why, even though we haven’t gotten to a final kind of answer yet as to what is actually the reason for unanswered prayer, I think what we have seen can be helpful, sometimes it helps, when you are confused, and unanswered prayers can be confusing, sometimes it helps, even if you don’t the whole answer, to remind yourself of what the answer is not, and here are three things we know, the answer is not, if God is not answering your prayers the way you like, you, if you are a believer can know for sure, it is not because He’s not powerful enough, it’s not because He’s not interested enough, and it’s definitely not because He’s not good enough.