The Reality of Unanswered Prayer

"Unanswered Prayer" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Unanswered Prayer” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

One of the issues that contributed to my own deconstruction of belief was unanswered prayer.

I’ve read all the spins as to why God doesn’t answer prayer. They helped for a while but eventually I saw what they were: spins.

That’s what this cartoon suggests: we are lead to believe prayer “works”. At some point we have to ask, “Does it really?”

I read Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking, and it articulated what I was unconsciously doing: thinking magically.

It was scary. But I’ve come through the scary part and arrived at the peace part.

Keep going! You can too.


10 Replies to “The Reality of Unanswered Prayer”

  1. You could just simply succumb to despair, or you could curse God like Job’s wife, or you can just zone out. There are only several options.

  2. David: I have often wondered about prayer – especially its shortness. When Jesus gave the “Lord’s Prayer”, it is the shortness that intrigues me.

    I lean towards the entry into the oval office, and the right to speak with the President, is a better analogy and emphasis. I would (by analogy) be short, quick, and to the point with my requests.

    Perhaps the best emphasis for me is the right of entry.

    If I look at ‘answers’, then, I too am deeply bothered. The answers to prayer that I have experienced are fantastic; the lack of answers to prayer are equally fantastic.

  3. Brigitte: I noticed your replies emphasize the ‘many options’ and then focus only on asking for ‘forgiveness of sins’.

    In your mind, then, is asking for ‘forgiveness’ (once, monthly, weekly, daily, etc) the emphasis of prayer?

    What of asking for more of God?. More of servanthood? More comfort? More holiness? More kindness? More gentleness? More love? and so forth.

    How do you handle those types of requests within your religion?

  4. I came to the conclusion that the concept of free will is not consistent with God’s answering prayers: intervening and communicating with and directing and leading people.

    If God created us with free will because he wants us to make choices for ourselves, for him to then intervene, override a person’s free choice and change the course of their life by compelling a specific action or mental state would be a violation of his own plan.

    Christians claim that when they pray to God he answers their prayers and intervenes on their behalf. If this is true that God is intervening and manipulating events in the world in the Christians’ favour, then free will is just an illusion since God is putting thoughts into people’s minds in order to guide the outcome of events………imagine the amount of intervening and manipulating which God is doing when 2.2 billion Christians (Pew Report) pray, sending up their requests to God.

  5. Caryn, of course we are called to pray for all the things we need, but we are not promised everything people pray for. We would all dearly love to have world peace and it is not happening, for example. We would also surely not want to get sick and die, and that is not happening. And this is where the cartoon attacks. We call to God for rescue, we are invited and commanded to do it. But what kind of rescue do we get? Is there even a God that hears and acts? What kind of rescue action has he worked out?– our relationships are healed through forgiveness and constancy– a reconciliation between sinners and God that is ever on-going.

    You brought up the Lord’s Prayer. Simple and short. It asks for daily bread and it asks for forgiveness of sins, as we extend it too each other. It gives to Glory to God’s name and does not focus on our so-called holiness.

  6. Thank you, Brigitte. I do find the Lutheran and Catholic focus on ‘forgiveness’ to be interesting, and almost central to their on-going philosophy.

    I tend to lean towards forgiveness being much more minor. My reasoning is that a forgiveness-centric ongoing philosophy creates a sense of ‘lack’ in people, or a sense of everlasting ‘brokenness’, rather than a sense of joy or love or completeness.

  7. The two go together like ying and yang. You also remember Jesus talking about forgiving 70 times 70. It is good that we, too, are forgiven that way. Yea!!!

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