And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.
James 4:3 NLT
The scars of unanswered prayers can dampen our enthusiasm for God, or even end our ability to sustain our faith in God. I’ve heard and read thousands of words that seek to explain unanswered prayer; none of them has done more than attempt to rationalise my disappointment.
As a young adult, I discovered the discomfort of stepping into other cultures. My privilege was to enjoy the hospitality of nationals; I did not stay in Western-style hotels. Being forced to face cultural differences, I became very aware of the comforts of home, and how blind I had been to the limitations of my own world view.
Entering into God’s kingdom, while accepted entirely as I am, is an exploration of an entirely new culture. As the Christian thinker and pastor John Stott identified, the call to obedience requires the Christian to develop their own distinctive standards, values, goals and lifestyle. Discovering these and then exchanging our cultural norms for them demands prayer. As we penetrate deeper into God’s kingdom, just like residing in a different culture, we adapt to and assimilate its values and practices.
For me this meant I began to form prayers less based on own needs and more from God’s view. My understanding of life expanded to engage with a world in conflict and need. I moved beyond a simple, if essential, prayer list covering my needs as I see them, to share in God’s redemptive mission through prayer. As with every journey I must pack appropriately, so with prayer I am confronted with discipleship choices that will align me more completely with God’s kingdom values and goals.
Do you carry painful wounds or the hardened scarring from unanswered prayers? You may hold God responsible for the pain you have experienced. Your capacity to exercise faith may have been compromised. In prayer, my many disappointments are learning opportunities and I press on with the vital changes God requests of me.
Will you continue in faith even when there are no satisfactory answers to your questions? This is real faith in action.
All-knowing God, I choose to press on with you, asking that your Spirit continues to work in me, transforming me into the culture and likeness of your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ.