We’ve all been there. Alone in our bedroom praying desperate, raw, and honest prayers begging God to do something. To change our circumstances, provide for our needs, or just end the current season. We pour our hearts out to God only to be met with silence, or worse, we get a no. It leaves us with questions. Did I pray the wrong prayer? Why even bother to pray if the answer is no? What do I do now?
What should we do in these moments? How do we respond?
Keep Praying Honest Prayers
I think there’s an assumption that if God says no or if he’s silent that means he doesn’t want to hear our prayers anymore. Listen, nothing could be further from the truth. I am convinced that God doesn’t want our put together prayers. He wants our heart. He wants our messy, dirty, screwed up parts too. In other words, God wants what’s on your heart. Keep praying honest, gut wrenching prayers. If you don’t believe me go check out Psalms and read what David wrote.
Check out what Jesus says: Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Jesus promises that if we keep seeking we will find. Now this doesn’t mean we will get the answer we might be looking for. Sometimes we will and sometimes God will change our heart and we will become content.
Surround Yourself In Community
We were never meant to do life alone. Often times we are blinded by our own problems, and we need others to help us out. I’ve spent years working in the Church, and I see time and time again that when things get tough people withdraw from community. You cannot do that. When things get tough, when your prayers go unanswered, you need to run to community. Share your doubts, your concerns, and your prayers with others. Be vulnerable and honest. Let them pick you up, encourage you, and keep you on the right path.
I’ve spent years working in the Church, and I see time and time again that when things get tough people withdraw from community. You cannot do that. When things get tough, when your prayers go unanswered, you need to run to community.
Check out what God says about community: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Following Jesus alone is not an option. You need others to support you. When God doesn’t answer your prayers, you need to fight the urge to retreat by yourself and keep sharing your struggles with God and with other Christians.
Daily Remind Yourself the Truth of the Gospel
When your prayers go unanswered, you will be tempted to think that God doesn’t love you. That he abandoned you. That God’s Word isn’t true. Or that you aren’t good enough for him. You need to get alone with God each day and remind yourself of who God is, what he has done, and that you are his child. Don’t let yourself forget that.
John Piper says it this way: “Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”
You’ve got to daily get alone with God and remind yourself that He is good and you are loved. If you don’t you will interpret God’s silence as a rejection. Preaching to yourself daily is reminding yourself all that God has said and promised so that you can live in the truth.
Check Your Motives
I don’t know about you, but a lot of my prayers center around me. When my prayers go unanswered I need to check my motive in my prayer. Now praying a prayer for myself isn’t a bad motive. I have needs that God cares about. But if I’m not careful my prayers become focused around my pleasures and not my needs.
Check out how James says it. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3
Sometimes our prayers don’t get us what we want. They change our heart, and it gives us what we need. Often when I pray, I first ask for what I feel I need and then ask for a change of heart if that’s not actually what I need. It’s important to still present what’s on our hearts because God loves us where we are at. But it’s also important to recognize that God will sometimes answer our prayers by changing our hearts.
Wait on God’s Timing
This is the one we don’t like. We want the answer that leads to a quick solution. But that’s not the way God works. We cannot force God’s hand and make him act in our time. And I’m not so sure we would want him too anyway.
Let me ask you a question. What do you think God’s intentions with you are? Does God have the best in mind for you, or is he out to get you?
In Jeremiah 29:11 we read this: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Assume with me for a second that God has the best in mind for you, and that he can see things you cannot. If that’s true then waiting on God is what is best for us. It can be extremely difficult. But we’ve got to wait if what we want is God’s best for us. If you don’t do the above four things this final step is near impossible. We’ve got to hunker down and wait on God’s timing.
I can still recall vivid times when I prayed raw and honest prayers begging God to give me an answer or do something. Here’s what I’ve learned from those times. God is with me. God cares about me. And God will bring me through. God has proved himself to be faithful to me time and time again. I believe the same is true for you as well. Keep praying, surround yourself in community, remind yourself of God’s truth, check your motives, and wait patiently. God will bring you through.
For more on prayer check out: Dear God… A Lesson in Prayer
What have you found that helps when God seems silent?