"Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." Garth Brooks's sentiment makes for a good song. But anyone who's been at it for a while knows there really aren't "unanswered prayers." Some have said God answers all prayers with either a "yes" or a "no" or a "not yet." Simplistic? Yes. Inadequate? Very. I think there's another category--a whole other realm really--not just of God's answers, but of prayer itself.
We all want to pray prayers that God says "yes" to, prayers that make us feel like we're getting somewhere! But the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves. If we want a maturing prayer life, it's time for us to leave behind the "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" of an immature prayer life that seems mostly like screaming into the dark. It's time to step into that new realm that centers around a central question: "Who are you, God?"
In a maturing prayer life, we are seeking two primary things: 1) for God to reveal himself and his will; and 2) for our mind, heart, soul, and strength to be readied to respond, in humility and obedience, to that revelation.
All the rest seems mostly to be twisting God’s arm and hoping to bend his will to ours, which is to say, wasted time. (Not that any time sincerely spent with the Lord is completely wasted, but still…) Of course we go to the Lord with our hopes and wants, our sins and fears, our petitions for others’ well-being. And I’m sure God, our loving Father, wants to see our heart and all its contents.
But maturing prayer seems more to be about our seeking God’s heart and its contents, and simply readying our own for what we will find. This is a new world of intimacy, of experiencing God's power and love, of experiencing God himself. This is where we leave behind the idea of answered or unanswered prayers, not because God just starts saying "yes" to everything, but because it doesn't matter. We start saying "yes" to God. He said "yes" to us a long time ago.
Try it. Give it a week. Give it a month. Give it a lifetime. Begin asking God daily, maybe not just once but throughout the day, "Who are you, Lord?" Listen for his answer. Watch for the answer throughout the day. Search diligently and regularly through the Scriptures, in worship, in godly fellowship for his answer. Search in these same places to learn how to prepare your own life to obediently respond to God's answer...because he will answer. As God reveals who he is, his will also begins to be revealed. Are you ready for this? It's not for the faint of heart!
Step into this new realm...and leave the "unanswered prayers" to Garth.