There’s much I don’t understand about why my prayers go unanswered.
As the answered prayer of demons goes worse than they hoped, so the unanswered prayer of saints goes better than they dreamed (Mark 5:12-13).
Here’s what I do know: Delighting in God is more important than decisions for God.
So ,from Luke 18:1-8, seven reasons to pray even when God doesn’t seem to answer us
We pray, because…
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'" 6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk. 18:1-8 ESV)
1. It is our duty (18:1a - “ought to always pray”) .
Prayer is profoundly more than a duty, it is a welcome to commune with the King of Kings, made only possible by amazing grace.
We should think of prayer not as a tedious duty. Rather, as a sneakily brilliant strategy that keeps giving a weak-but-determined minority their prevailing advantage—and "the powers that be" can't figure it out or stop it.
Simply stated: To always be in prayer would interfere with other life duties and commands of Scripture.
So, even if we don’t seem to have an answer from God, we continue to pray. But how?
--Regularly: We should have a fixed time of prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). This incudes our time at church (Heb. 10:25), at home (Joshua 24:15), in our private time with the Lord (Luke 9:18; Psalm 55:17), etc. throughout the day and night.
--As needed in: Our prosperity (Pro. 30:9), our trials (James 5:19), and to avert public crisis (2 Chron. 7:14).
--As we go through our day: On-the-fly, spontaneous prayers are not less important than prayers done in a prayer meeting or church itself (see: Nehemiah 2:4-6, 2 Sam. 15:31, Matt. 14:30, etc.).
“But if prayer is a HAVE-TO duty, how aren’t I just a robot before God?”
Don’t think so. If a husband does things out of loving duty to serve his wife, is he just a hired hand? Not at all.
We owe it to God to seek him even when things don’t make sense. After all, he is our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Savior, isn’t he? We owe it to our fellow Christians in need, those without Christ, our families, etc. We owe it, perhaps, too, to ourselves—like we do food to our body, prayer before God is to our soul.
"Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)
Bottom-line: This “love” is not mere duty love, but taste love. If you don’t have it, give yourself no rest in prayer until you do.
2. It is privilege (18:1b - “never give up”).
It is nothing new: When we don’t see an immediate result or answer, we do not like to continue. This happens in health, in families, business, school, etc.
Yet, a seemly powerless hour of prayer is infinitely better than no prayer at all. We must learn to persevere in prayer and not faint.
Before we pray, though, we can easily, if we take prayer as a duty without love or an obligation without a relationship, become preoccupied. Here’s a few ways we can be distracted from seeking God as we pray when things don’t make sense:
--Before we pray: Cares, worries, entertainment, “have-to’s,” family obligations, a hardness of heart, health, etc. may be what the enemy uses to dissuade us from even beginning to pray.
--During our prayer time: Our thoughts run wild, things to do, distractions, vibrating phone, hunger, thirst, bathroom breaks—do you see the picture, yet?!—a pain, etc. All these can make us forget the honor we have to pray to the living God.
--After our prayer time: When we have prayed to God, we should expect an answer. Yet, doubts of his forgetfulness or character, our sin pulling us to doubt his goodness, etc. can hinder us from truly persevering in prayer.
Perhaps this is why John Wesley said: “Bear up the hands that hang down; by faith and prayer support the tottering knee; reprove, encourage…Storm the throne of grace, and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.”
The reason you can persevere in obedience in prayer even when God doesn’t seem to answer is because you believe the promise that God is going to persevere in completing His work in you. May God give us the wisdom, and the determination, to persevere in faith and hope and love.
3. We live under unbelieving rulers (18:2).
Jesus doesn’t give us any context of this parable other than the description of the scene:
--A judge who disobeys the two greatest commandments—love God and love others.
The death of any society begins with its abandonment of God. From there, it descends into the devaluing of human life, and the destruction of the family, religious freedom, and civil decency.
And we Christians are called to live under such people and rulers!
Let’s remind ourselves of biblical truths:
"You pay taxes, because the authorities are ministers of God” (Romans 13:6 ).
Put on Paul's glasses to see the world as it is.
"Daniel answered and said, O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty" (Daniel 5.17-18).
All kings, presidents, and rulers, whether wicked or wise, have their greatness from God, whose name is now Jesus Christ.
“When Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him” (Daniel 5:20).
God has his reasons why one arrogant ruler falls now and others later.
“The ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11), “disarmed” (Colossians 2:15), “nullified” (Hebrews 2:15). The prosecution’s case in the courtroom of heaven has collapsed. No condemnation.
If ever it comes to the place where the ruling authorities should command what the Lord forbids or forbid what the Lord commands, then the choice, however painful, should not be a difficult one (Acts 4:19-20). May we pray: “Sovereign Lord, bring all rulers to faith in Jesus. And till you do make all their policies serve your saving plan (Ezra 6:22). In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
That’s a prayer worth praying even when things don’t make sense!
4. We won’t find absolute fairness in this world (18:3).
Again, no context is given about this widow. It has long been told that most widows in the ancient world were poor and down-and-out. However, that wasn’t always the case. Some widows were, indeed, willed their husbands’ estates.
What we do know:
--Judges were supposed to show special attention to widows (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3, etc.).
--She kept coming to him – it implies a continual coming.
--The widow here represents all Christians (See: Luke 18:7).
--It appears the judge put off his decision and the law’s delay was worse to her than the original wrong done in the ruling.
--“Avenge me / vindicate me” = a legal sense. This isn’t a personal injury – but something in the law.
In short, this widow was getting the proverbial “short end of the stick.” She drew the short straw. The cards were stacked against her.
"Elect exiles" nicely summarizes the strange combination that is the Christian's status and experience in this life, doesn't it? See 1 Peter 1:1.
John Stott said: “The church is supposed to be God's new society, the living embodiment of the gospel, a sign of the kingdom of God, a demonstration of what human community looks like when it comes under his gracious rule.”
One reason God allows us to suffer injustice is to lead us to that deep place where His love for us, His good treatment of us, becomes so real, so precious, that we become able to forgive that unforgivable injustice and thereby display His powerful grace in this world of rage.
Remember: God is sovereign over injustice, even uses it, but is not Himself unjust. Wrong within his domain does not make Him wrong. If we Christians now find ourselves exiles and outsiders, then we are where Christians have long flourished—with Jesus only.
"God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do" (Hebrews 6:10).
The world does not need cool Christians who are culturally saturated. It needs exiles with the scent of heaven and the aroma of Christ.
So, don't quit. God is so paying attention! His own character -- his justice -- guarantees his attentiveness to you. Keep praying to him. Keep petitioning. Keep praising. Keep persevering.
He will lead you. He will answer you. He will carry you through.
5. God sovereignly reigns over the affairs of men (18:4-5).
The reason for the change in the widow’s case?
Her persistence. Her annoyance. Her diligence. Her pleading. Her desire to see change.
Does this mean it will happen each time like this? No. But God does still answer like this!
Caution #1: We need to caution against unreservedly putting God's name and, therefore, his stamp of approval on our plans, opinions, or ideas.
Caution #2: Disappointments have their uses. The ruins of our own cherished plans are often the steps to the true good God has for us.
Caution #3: Without warning, God will interrupt and divert your plans because he loves you and will do in you and through you what is best.
Yet, remember: We have not, James said, because we ask not (4:2-3).
The God who rules all things is not rattled by the chaotic affairs of man. His plan marches on. God determines the exact times and places where people live “so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:27). We are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1). Not willy-nilly, but according to an infinitely wise and good plan, the details of which no one can fathom but God.
Joseph to his brothers: “You sold me. God sent me (Gen. 45:4-5). Christian, take heart, so it is with every sin against God's elect.
As you pray in uncertain times, God is not just sovereign over his people--but sovereign for his people. God rarely means for you to find out the plans he has for you ahead of time. Yes, we have plans. God usually has other plans. Seek first his kingdom and trust God to get you where you need to be.
Since God is sovereign and we are not, we will never have the control over people, places and things that we often would like to have. And that is a very good thing! Because God is infinitely wiser and more righteous than we are.
So, our moment-by-moment decision: faith in God vs. panic about ourselves. Let’s ask this diagnostic question continually: Am I treating *God* as real right now, or am I treating *everything else* as more real than God right now?
God is sovereign over all things and works all thing for His glory & His people's good. The great question is: Do we want what God wants?
6. God's honor is concerned in relieving the wants & needs of his people (18:6-7).
What is Jesus saying?
If the persistence of a person in a secular case can change the heart of a wicked judge, how much more should we know that we are regarded by our most gracious God, who is ever ready to give us his best?
After all, these are “his elect” (18:7). These aren’t just any chumps or no-goods. We are his people.
"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?" (Romans 8:33). Note the word "any.” The people God chose are sinners. But the One who could bring the hammer down on them is the very One who has chosen to justify them at every point. Who can overrule Him?
Jesus is a refuge for the guilty, the weak, the powerless. And he is the worst nightmare of the oppressors, the truth-silencers, the justice-defeaters. He is all the God we could hope for: gentle Savior, dread Enforcer. See - Psalm 2
As the people of God, we look to the future with hope, knowing that true liberty and justice will come as God’s people declare not their independence, but their ultimate dependence on him
“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul” ( Psalm 66:16)
Held in being.
God provides for us even when he takes away things from us so that we might cling more to him rather than to the things we once had. After all, crying out, Jesus says, is evidence that we are his!
Come, Lord Jesus, come!
7. His return is soon and his rewards are sure (18:8)
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20 ESV)
The return of Jesus is the ultimate hope of every Christian. And we have never been this close to the return of Christ as we are this very moment.
Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “If I return…” But “when the Son of man comes…”
“I (Jesus) am coming soon” (Rev. 3:11). The “soon-ness” of Jesus’ return isn’t for us to calculate, but to count on, rest in, live towards. Setting our heart-clock to heaven's time zone, may our fears shrink, hope grow, and love expand way beyond the borders of our unbelief as we pray and live for Christ.
And, remember: The trajectory of the New Testament isn't, "How soon can I get out of this messy/evil world?" But, "When will Jesus' return to his beloved/broken creation, and finish making all things new?" The first leads to fear and disengagement, and the second to hope and sacrificial mission.
What about that last phrase: “will he find faith on the earth?”
Hebrews 11:6, Ephesians 2:8, John 1:13. God says, "You need faith to please me. Here, have some faith." What a gracious God we have!
Charles Spurgeon said: "If I did not believe the final perseverance of the saints, I would be of all men the most miserable."
Jesus reminds us here that the truly elect—the faithful followers of Christ—will be held until the end. And, too, will always be outnumbered by those who are not in Christ (think of Elijah and the 7,000 prophets who didn’t bow the knee to Baal—1 Kings 19:18).
So many today are “de-constructing” their faith, leaving their faith, abandoning their faith, or, worse, denying their faith, yet still claim to be a Christian.
"The one who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13 ).This is) a call for the endurance of joy-filled faith and love and obedience. Coasting in the Christian life is suicidal. The fight for joy is infinitely worth it. The Christian life is not made up of a few short sprints, but a long distance marathon requiring our endurance to the end.
As we pray, the sovereignty of God is our sanity, the riches of his grace our wealth, the righteousness of Jesus our peace, the joy of the Lord our strength, the peace of God our heart-guard, the return of Jesus our great/sure/living hope.
So, keep praying, even if you don’t get an answer, answer you want, or something in between. Prayer is less about you and more about getting to know God.