This month’s Pastor’s Perspective is delivered by Dr. Chris Montgomery, Frazer Memorial UMC.
When it comes to the topic of unanswered prayer, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is, is there such a thing as unanswered prayer? While there may be a gap between the moment we pray a prayer and the moment we see, receive, or understand the answer, I do not believe that there is such a thing as unanswered prayer. When we say the phrase “unanswered prayer”, what we mean is that God has given us an answer that is something other than, yes. Sometimes God says “maybe later” to our prayers. Sometimes God says “not now” to our prayers. Sometimes God says “no”.
However, we must remember that God says “yes!” all the time. Even right now, as you are reading this article, God’s divine yes is reverberating throughout the cosmos. He is right now answering the prayer of a young man deep in the jungle of South America. He is listening to the plea and will answer the late-night cry of a grandmother in northern Scotland. Right now, God is saying yes to so many prayers all around the world. Some are big. Some are small. But God is saying yes.
At the same time, God also says no. It is in these moments that we struggle deeply as we wonder why God has said no to one of our prayers. Sometimes God says no because of our continual rebellion, or perhaps we have the wrong priorities or focus in life. Sometimes God says no because we are more interested in our gain over His glory.
Yet sometimes God says no and his “no” is no fault of our own, but maybe the thing that we are asking for is actually not good for us. Or maybe God has plans to give us the good thing we are asking for, but it is not the right time. Or sometimes there are multiple Christians praying about the same situation and they each are desiring different outcomes. Regardless of the reason, when God says no, many times, we struggle to wrap our head around why..
The most important truth that I have learned about God when he says no to me, is that He is more interested in who I become in Christ than me getting what I want in prayer. What I trust in through the process of prayer is that God will give me what I ask for and even exceed my expectations, while he blows my mind in answering prayers in radical and extraordinary ways. However, through that process God wants me to become someone and not just get some things.
Romans 8:29 tells us, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”I believe that this is God’s goal for us. For us to be conformed to the image of Christ. This means that as we pray about many things, we are asking that God would only give us things that would help us become like his Son. And when things do not make sense and our prayers seem like they are not making it out of the room we’re sitting in while we pray them, that is when we trust that even in the waiting on the call to persistent prayer, even that is making us more like Christ.
Chris Montgomery is senior pastor of Frazer United Methodist Church, 6000 Atlanta Hwy, Montgomery, AL. Visit www.frazer.church.