We have all heard the saying that sometimes unanswered prayers are the best kind, but how do we know when a prayer is an “unanswered prayer”? Of course we can all look back on our life in hind sight and see where an “unanswered prayer” was the Lord’s divine answer, but what about at the time we are praying and asking? How do we know when we should continue in our persistence or when we have been heard? At what point does our prayer become only a vain repetition in the Lord’s ear (Matthew 6:7)?
I believe we always receive an answer within our Spirit, but we must be sensitive to it. It may not be something we “hear” in the Spirit, but rather a type of “knowing” which brings peace into our hearts and minds. We may not know what the answer is or will be to the request itself, but we know He has heard the cry of our heart and we are released from our posture of prayer. It is at that moment our prayer of petition would become a vain repetition if we were to continue in it. Once we receive the release in our heart, our prayers should change from one of petition to one of thankfulness for His answer.
As a parent, we can relate to what it is like to have a child ask for something they want over and over and over again, sometimes repeating (even begging) the same words. Once we acknowledge their request and let them know we are “thinking it over”, we expect them to stop bugging us. Right? God is our Heavenly Father and we should show Him the same respect we desire from our own children. If we tell our children, ‘Ok, I hear you. Now go play and let me think about it.”, we expect them to obey and leave us alone for awhile…The Lord is no different.
What if our child does not leave us alone, but instead keeps following us around and continues to ask or even tries to talk us into granting their request? They keep telling us facts about how good it would be or how important it is to them that they get their way. Or they tell us how much they love us and that we are the “best” mom or dad in the whole world. I would call this manipulation, what would you call it? Would you give into it and let them have their way? A loving parent would never give into manipulation or a tantrum of a child. Why? Because they need to learn to obey and trust you…The Lord is no different.
When your child tells you they love you and you are “the best”, is it because they are “feeling” the love right then, or because they want something? I’m not saying they don’t love you, because I’m sure they do, but why are they telling you at that moment? The answer is simple; it is because they want something from you. How does it make you feel, do the words seem hollow or shallow…Do you feel any love in their words? Probably not…The Lord is no different.
When He releases us from our prayer of petition, we need to stop asking and begin to praise, worship, and thank Him for hearing our prayers and for always answering what is best for us. We should not try to manipulate Him into answering the way we want Him to answer, but truly praise and worship Him for who He is and what He has already accomplished on our behalf. The request should be surrendered to Him and laid at His feet as we walk away. We now have the freedom to walk in confidence knowing He has heard our prayer and is answering it.
If we have surrendered our life to Him and it is no longer our own, then we should not be upset when we do not “get what we want”. If we truly believe He works all things out for our good (Romans 8:28), then we should praise Him for all answers, including His “no” answers. I would rather not receive something that is outside of the Lord’s perfect will, than to receive it and step outside of His grace. I have learned over the years that walking in His grace, His perfect will, is everything. My life is nothing without Him. Something outside of His perfect will is not a blessing, it is almost a curse, and often becomes a Christian’s downfall. Without His grace, life is hard and has no true joy or peace.
As I look back on my life and see all the “unanswered” prayers, I can thank and praise Him, because I see all the blessings which could not have come through Him “giving in” to any of those prayers. This is what I stand on and helps build my faith, seeing Him work all things out for good in my life. I can walk away when I am released; knowing that whatever His answer is will work out for the best in my life. I know if He does not open one door, or even closed a door, He will open another door…One that has gone unnoticed while I was blinded by my desire for the first door.
As a loving parent, we sometimes have to say “no” to our child’s requests, because we know what is best for their life…The Lord is no different.