The Case for Unanswered Prayers


Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to talk with church members about what God is doing in their lives. They’ll catch me up on the blessings in their families, a promotion they’ve received at work, or give me a praise report regarding their financial struggles. 

During these conversations, it blesses me to hear them testify about how God listened to their cry and, in His time, answered their prayers. And we rejoice in these moments, sometimes remembering the promise of Matthew 7:7 or Proverbs 15:29. How easy is it to celebrate when God seems to come through on answering our prayers?

However, I also have conversations with others who seem devastated because their prayers have gone “unanswered.” The promotion at the job didn’t come through, the financial blessing they prayed for did not come to fruition, or the specific spouse they asked God to send them never turned up. 

In these cases, people may say, “Pastor, I prayed without ceasing; I prayed how the Bible told me, but God didn’t answer my prayer.” Often, I want to tell them how untrue that sentiment is. 

Interestingly, we only see a “yes” as proof that God answers prayers when “no” is clearly an answer. But I have learned that God’s nos can be even better than His yes. 

As a father of three, I have experience saying no to earnest pleas. Sometimes, my kids may want candy before bed, to go to a birthday party on a school night, or play outside without a jacket, but the answer is no. They are too naive to realize that a yes to what they want will be detrimental to them later on. The no I give is to protect and preserve them. “No” from their father is an answer of love. 

There is a hilarious reel on social media about a young man who wakes up late on the day of his job interview. To add insult to injury, when a delivery person brings breakfast to his house, the young man drops it before he can eat it, his car won’t start, and the Uber driver he calls refuses to drive him to his destination. Each time, the young man calls out to Jesus in frustration. But when he re-enters his house, Jesus is there. He shows the young man that he didn’t get his food because it was tampered with; he didn’t get the Uber because later on, the driver crashed, and his car didn’t start because if it had, it would have blown up. 

Of course, this short video is meant to be entertaining, but it’s a great illustration of how these “unanswered prayers” that we become so frustrated with are merely God’s all-knowing mercy and grace. 

I challenge you to start celebrating and thanking God for his nos. By doing this, you can begin to praise Him for what He has in store for your life.



This article is part of our 2024 May/June Issue
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