What about prayers that seem to go unanswered?
Bible Study Network
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the
works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do,
because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I
will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything
in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14.)
This passage raises the question as to what was meant by Jesus’
remark that whatever was asked in His name, He would do. Does that
mean we can have anything we desire simply by going to Jesus in
prayer? Certainly, if people could simply go to Jesus in prayer and get
everything they ever asked for, there would be a lot more attractive,
popular, healthy, fabulously-rich people around. So what did Jesus
Perhaps, He meant we would receive everything we wanted, just not
right now on earth. Maybe He meant that—when we go to Him in
prayer—we would not be seriously asking for those things many of us
desire—health, fame, good looks, and lots of material comforts.
However, maybe Jesus is telling us that God will give us those things
that—in God’s view—we should have.
There are many stories of God’s answering someone’s prayer. The
miraculous events following some of these prayers are pretty difficult to
chalk up to mere coincidence. Nevertheless, we also hear about many
prayers—particularly for healing—that seem to go unanswered.
Undoubtedly, the requested relief was not what God deemed best.
Here is a story which Paul told the believers in Corinth. He did not
receive the requested healing. However, by the time he recounts the
event, Paul appears to understand how God responded to his request.
“Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to
visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen
years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do
not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the
body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and
heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On
behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast,
except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not
be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that
no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me.
"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this
reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in
the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting
myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might
leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for
power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather
boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in
me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with
distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when
I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-10 NASB.)
Bible commentators speculate that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was an
eye problem, but no one knows for sure. However, what is interesting is
that—despite the fact that Paul obviously suffered from some ailment—
he could still “take pleasure.” This raises a question as to whether Paul’s
pleadings were regarded by God as a request to take the ailment away or
as a request for God to give him joy or pleasure in life notwithstanding
A key to this question can be found in another epistle written by
Paul, this time to believers in Rome. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in
our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we
ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings
which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26.)
Perhaps, the answer to the question about God’s response to prayer
is that the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit—can discern the true nature
of our requests, not simply our verbal (and hence limited) thought
processes. He can then provide to Father God the proper interpretation
of our requests in light of our true needs “in groanings which cannot be
uttered.” Indeed, many prayers that seem to have gone unanswered in
this life may have been answered after all.
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