Unanswered Prayer

By Harold Ogilvie. Sudan Interior Mission

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


The sentiment of the song, “Unanswered yet? ‘The prayer your lips have pleaded. * * * You shall have your desire, sometime, somewhere,” does not meet the needs of those whose souls have been torn between many conflicting emotions as they realize that their prayers remain unanswered. Who has not been tested along this line? Who has escaped the terrible sensation of hearing the echo of their own prayers as coming from a heaven of brass? Some great and urgent need has arisen and earnest prayer is made unto God. The answer seems to be needed at that particular moment and when it does not come, Satan takes advantage to point a reproachful finger at God and accuse Him of unfaithfulness. ‘The whole fault however lies at the door of the petitioner. As there are certain laws to be put in practice in the study of geometry: as there are definite principles to be applied in the study of the Word of God:: so there are peculiar conditions to be met if prayer is to be heard and answered. And if those conditions are met, unanswered prayer will be a thing of the past in the experience of the child of God.

One could hardly expect an answer to a request that was contrary to the revealed will of God. And this is one of the reasons why prayer is not answered. Prayer is not coaxing God to do something that is not in agreement with His plan. True prayer is finding the will of the Lord on any given subject and then praying along that line. The Lord Jesus had no unanswered prayers to be placed to His credit, as He could always say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” He always prayed in harmony with the Father's will. God would have us know His will which He reveals to us by the study of the Word through prayer: It is not hard to find. It is not a will-o'-the-wisp that leads the Christian a weary chase and fades away at the moment of grasping for it. It is not a mirage that entices the fainting one, only to disappear as he draws nigh. It is something tangible, something for us to lay hold of. After finding His will and praying in accord with that will, our testimony will then be that of the beloved apostle, “If we ask anything according to His will He heareth us.”

God has numberless blessings that He would give His children, The channel through which they are obtained is prayer. But many times the soul is so unprepared to receive them that the Lord has to withhold until the necessary adjustment has been made. For God io grant a petition when His child is unqualified to accept it, would be for Him to deny His wisdom. When the scul is brought in right relationship with the Lord, the blessing is sure to follow.

One of the conditions of unpreparedness that prevents God from hearing our requests is unwillingness. God 1s not under obligation to respond to our supplications when this condition exists. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” Let us suppose the case of a young minister whom God has called to the work of the foreign field. Later the call is put aside for various reasons, He then begins to seek a church in the homeland, and asks the Lord for a pastorate. God in His matchless grace does frequently answer, even when the unwilling state continues, but He more frequently withholds. If the prayer of an unwilling one is not answered, the reason is self-evident. Unwillingness and unanswered prayer go hand in hand.

Another condition of unpreparedness that causes our prayers to remain unanswered is that of selfishness. God would have us carefully examine the prayer life daily in order that any tendencies in this direction may be immediately uprooted. He wants us to pray for our own activities and needs, but never to the exclusion of the needs and the work of others. Suppose the workers in a very needy section of the Lord’s vineyard are asking the Lord for helpers. ‘Their prayer is, “Lord send the workers to this field.” He knows where the greatest need is. He knows where to place those whom He sends forth. What the prayer should be is found in the words of our Lord, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” And when this unselfish prayer is offered, the enemy will be given no opportunity to blaspheme by accusing God of not hearing prayer. Selfish prayer is one of the many keys that cannot unlock the storehouses of the rich blessings of God.

Another condition of unpreparedness that blocks the blessings that come through answered prayer is that of setting a time limit on Him. We admit that God is omniscient and yet in our prayers we sometimes deny this truth by holding Him to a set time in which to answer. He knows best when to grant a petition. More faith is needed in His wisdom to answer at the right time, and then there will be no disappointment, nor will the soul he made to doubt because prayer remains unanswered.

Still another condition of unpreparedness is when God sees that the faith needs strengthening. God’s dealing with the soul after salvation is always with this purpose in view. ‘This has often proved to be a keen testing to the uninstructed child of God. Definite prayer has been made regarding some need and the answer has not been received. A study of the Word reveals that the petition is in harmony with the will of God. A thorough heart search fails to reveal any unwillingness, and there seems to be no reason why God should not answer. Under circumstances of this nature the answer to the’ problem is often found right here. “For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” ‘The principal thought behind the doctrine of chastening is that of instructing children. Under certain conditions, withholding the answer to prayer is the method the Lord uses. When He tests it is always in regard to faith. Then we may be sure that we are growing in grace and that a blessing from Him is about to be received. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and Glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Suffer the word of exhortation from the Holy Spirit. My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction.”

Unanswered yet? Yes, until the soul prays in harmony with His will. Yes, unanswered, until the soul is prepared to received the answer.

First, by accepting the will of God as the predominant influence in the life; by praying in an unselfish manner; by recognizing His wisdom to answer at the right time; and by receiving the instruction of the Lord. Unanswered yet? Yes, until the child of God learns the conditions of prayer from the Word of God, and meets them. ‘Then there will be rejoicing as unanswered prayers are consigned to the land of forgetfulness.