Unanswered prayer. Is there anything more perplexing? Wouldn’t it be much better if God had given us some sort of system to know how prayer gets answered? Maybe he could have given us some bins for different types of prayers. A bin for ‘need this right now’. Maybe a bin for ‘willing to wait on this one’. And we’d probably do well to have a bin for ‘not sure I really want this one answered’. Then we could just sort our prayers like the mail. That would make sense. I’d like those kinds of prayer times.
But we don’t know. Every single prayer we pray – every single prayer – is by definition an act of faith. It takes faith to speak out to a God who doesn’t always seem to be there. It takes faith to keep on praying for things when there’s a list of other things we’ve prayed for that seems unanswered. And it can be hard to get back to the task when something we prayed for didn’t seem to come to pass.
Yet the call to prayer isn’t conditional. We are called to pray and to expect answers. Jesus makes that clear in the Gospels. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt: 21:22 for example).
So we pray in faith. The truth is, it is this very ‘faithiness’ that is the heart of prayer. Without faith there cannot be prayer. In his classic and well worth reading book on prayer, E. M. Bounds locks prayer and faith in the same action – each motivating the other.
Faith is always praying. Prayer is always believing. Faith must have a tongue by which it can speak. Prayer is the tongue of faith. Faith must receive. Prayer is the hand of faith stretched out to receive. Prayer must rise and soar. Faith must give prayer the wings to rise and soar. Prayer must have an audience with God. Faith opens the door, and access and audience are given. Prayer asks. Faith lays its hand on the thing asked for. (The Possibilities of Prayer, 43)
How do we pray expectantly? By keeping in mind that there is one who hears, and our prayers never fall on deaf or uncaring ears. So, with the Psalmist,
O LORD, we pray, give us success! (Psalm 118:25)