The Reality of Unanswered Prayer

For the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. Luke 1:49NIV

There is a protective cynicism that runs deep in the hearts of those who live in the reality of unanswered prayers.

Do we really believe God knows the greatest desires of our hearts and is able to answer them?

Do we trust God with the most burdensome areas of our lives or the most tender corners of our hearts?

At such moments of reckoning in our lives, Jesus’ words seem much more a commandment than a comfort: “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). I find this can even be a command to protect myself against anxiety, depression and spiritual attacks of loneliness. We have to stop the negative ‘chatterbox’ inside our head that continually berates us or tries to convince us we are not enough, we don’t deserve to be blessed or we are unworthy. God says, “You are my son--my daughter!” God says, "You are worthy."

Six months after the staggering promise and fulfillment made to Zechariah, this same messenger appeared before a teenage girl named Mary. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (1:30,31). Mary was troubled. And similarly, she responded with a question. But unlike Zechariah, who had diligently practiced his religion, prayed for such a miracle for years and quite possibly given up hope, Mary's hopes were yet to be realized. Mary was full of hope. She was engaged, a teenager filled with dreams of a wedding, marriage and children. This teenage girl responded with faith greater than the priest, with wisdom as sharp as her youth.

“How will this be?” she asked. Mary had belief and questions.

The metaphor of the reclaimed trees can help us here: what was broken, worn out and no longer of use needs to be removed.

We live well when we give the Mighty One room to move sovereignly over our lives. The metaphor of the reclaimed trees can help us here: what was broken, worn out and no longer of use needed to be removed. The protective cynicism that covers us like the fig leaves from the Garden of Eden needs to be removed. God invites us to exchange fig leaves for garments of praise and righteousness. We must make the decision to move beyond our broken heart, worn out knees of prayer and stop the chatter in our minds about things that are no longer of use. Sometimes this process can be painful but cathartic. Cathartic can be defined as liberating, therapeutic, beneficial, healing, energizing, or invigorating.

The answers we seek may be found through loss and silence. We must surrender our expectations to the Mighty One who sees, hears, knows and is always present. Mary seemed to be both aware and ready for the world to be a place where God is ready and able to break through. Elizabeth recognized that Mary was blessed among women. Elizabeth's pregnancy was a confirmation the Mighty One does answer prayer. Elizabeth longed for something and the Mighty One blessed her with a miracle. Mary was in the enviable position. She had her whole life in front of her and had yet to experience the loss or mourning Elizabeth experienced. Sometimes loss and mourning take place to help us discover the unfathomable depths God is willing to go for the human soul. Tears and silence may shape our truest song.

Mary said: With all my heart I praise the Lord, and I am glad because of God my Savior. He cares for me, his humble servant. From now on, all people will say God has blessed me. God All-Powerful has done great things for me, and his name is holy. He always shows mercy to everyone who worships him. Luke 1:46-50 (Contemporary English Version, CEV)