There may be times when, in solemn supplication (prayer), we call out to our Creator and there is “Silence” in return. The proverbial question in life is why? To begin with, we know that God cares about His creation. God cares about you! In Isaiah 55:6, God’s Word tells us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” God is near, always near to us and ready to hear us.
(Psalm 34:18)1NIV New International Version Translations – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
God not only hears our prayers but is happy to respond. Listen to Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” The verse is referring to the promise of the relationship we have with God. God has extended His saving Grace to all humanity.
Matthew Henry, the theologian, says, “These are high expressions of God’s readiness to hear prayer; and this appears much more in the grace of the gospel than it did under the law; we owe the comfort of it to the mediation of Christ as our advocate with the Father and are obliged in gratitude to give a ready ear to God’s calls.”
We should never make the mistake of feeling that God is not listening. He is, and He is always guiding us, whether we can feel it or not.
(Psalm 44:21) – “would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?”
Psalm 44, composed by sons of Korah, is a lament of the people. When one of God’s people suffers, all suffer together.2The Sons of Korah were the sons of Moses’ cousin Korah. The story of Korah is found in Numbers 16. Korah led a revolt against Moses; he died, along with all his co-conspirators. God caused “the earth to open her mouth and swallow him and all that appertained to them” (Numbers 16:31-33). However, “the children of Korah died not” (Numbers 26:11). Several psalms are described in their opening verses as being by the Sons of Korah: numbers 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87 and 88.” God knows the heart. He knows of our suffering even without our prayer.
The first area to consider is the difference between our world and God’s Realm. We live in a physical world. Our world has four known space-time dimensions of length, width, height (or depth) and time. God’s Realm is not limited by the physical laws and dimensions like that of our world.
(Isaiah 57:15) – “For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”
In Psalm 90:4, Moses gets right to the point. He describes the timelessness of God: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” The eternity of God is beyond the comprehension of humankind. Our lives are short. We grow weaker as we age. God never weakens with the passage of time. The differences between our world and God’s Realm means:
(Proverbs 3:5) – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;”
It is easy to think that the only answer that God can give to prayers is “yes.” God is not an ATM. Making a list of things we desire and expecting God to fulfill that list is like online shopping with free delivery. That is not the way it works. A prayer is not like a token to be used in the Almighty’s vending machine. Prayer starts with having a real, deep relationship with God. As we come to know God on a much deeper level, God can reveal all the reasons why He may be silent.
The Free Will Problem
Most people are quite familiar with the story of earth’s first people, Adam and Eve. Created in God’s image, they were both given “Free Will.” Free Will is the idea that humans can make their own choices in life. They can determine their own fate, and carry the responsibility for their own actions. In the case of our “first couple,” God was quite clear to them. He established boundaries and was explicit about consequences. If God knows the “secrets of the heart,” why then did He let Adam and Eve make such a poor choice? Our answer lies with the very nature of who God is! Free Will is the ability to live free not as a puppet under the control of the “Master Puppeteer.” It is the foundation of the human experience. God created us to be free! Consequences exist for every action in life. That is why understanding God’s Laws and living with Common Sense are important to the quality of life.
The thief prays not to get caught. Once caught prays not to go to jail. Once released, prays to find another victim. The gambler prays for good luck. The parent prays their sick child is healed. The widow weeps for the loss. The jobless pray for work. We have a God that can sort all this out. The amazing part about prayer is that every prayer is heard by God without bias. God’s answer is based on His Love for us. Our expectation should be that God does not answer our prayers if we ask for things He does not want us to do or to have. One important consideration is that requests should be in harmony with His Law and Word.
(Proverbs 28:9) – “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”
(James 4:3) – “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. “
“No” is also an answer. While we may not like the answer, “No” is an answer of love on the part of God. Especially when we ask Him for things which are not for our good or for His glory. God does not always give us what we want. He gives us what we need!
(Romans 6:28) – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God’s answers may not be immediate. Sometimes our prayers are answered in a way that we fail to recognize. We pray for prosperity, and sometimes financial stress is given. But one day, looking back we are stronger for the test. We pray for health, and affliction is given, and we are better able to sympathize with those in need. God never makes mistakes.
When We See Suffering
Job never asked why those bad things were happening to him. The closest he ever came was when he said, “I say to God: Do not declare me guilty but tell me what charges you have against me.” (Job 10:2). Job was sharing his agony with the very God he could not understand. Suffering is a mystery. There are things we do not know the answer to and may never know until God explains all to us. In all suffering, there still is a message of compassion.
(Matthew 25:35-36) – “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.”
As the sons of Korah in Psalm 44 so lamented, when one of us is hurting, all are hurting. We are called to notice the pain of others. The real question then becomes “How we can minister to those who are suffering?” To respond to someone’s pain, prayers give hope and glorify God. People watch Christians. They need to see a difference for the Gospel’s message to be meaningful. They will ask, “How is it that Christ is so in control of a person’s life that are able to help others?” People can become the answer to the prayers of others.
When we see how Jesus prayed, we find that it is not complex. We are seeking how we can please God and follow His commandments. We are asking for knowledge of His will for us. We are asking for forgiveness. The closer we get to God, the more we can avoid sin. This helps us to see things more clearly.
(Deuteronomy 31:8) – “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Avoiding God, being angry with God, leaving God is not a good response to His silence. To hear from God, we need to be close. The right response to silence is to “lean in,” and listen for His whispers!
- Are you ever angry with God?
- Ideas to Explore: Unanswered prayers. Do you see a futility in the world’s suffering? What about the state of evil in our world?
- How do you “lean in” on God?
- Ideas to Explore: What do you do to improve your relationship with God? Read God’s Word? Study God’s Word? Fellowship with other believers?
- Do you notice the unanswered prayers of others around you?
- Ideas to Explore: Are there people in your life that just could use a hug, your help, your own prayers?
- What are the ways we can become the “answered prayers” of others?
- Ideas to Explore: Volunteerism, tutoring, mission work, supporting youth missions are all ways to answer someone else’s prayers. Are these part of your life?
- Jesus askes that you “trust Him into death?”
- Ideas to Explore: How do we build that kind of trust? Does it take “Yes” only or is a “No” to a prayer or silence on a prayer strengthening your faith in Jesus? It is the only thing standing in the way of you and eternal life!
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2The Sons of Korah were the sons of Moses’ cousin Korah. The story of Korah is found in Numbers 16. Korah led a revolt against Moses; he died, along with all his co-conspirators. God caused “the earth to open her mouth and swallow him and all that appertained to them” (Numbers 16:31-33). However, “the children of Korah died not” (Numbers 26:11). Several psalms are described in their opening verses as being by the Sons of Korah: numbers 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87 and 88.”