First Samuel tells the story of a woman named Hannah that desperately wanted to bear a child. The Lord had closed her womb and she became very bitter and wept much while praying to the Lord. She made a vow, saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head" (1 Samuel 1:11). Soon, Hannah bore a child and named him Samuel, "because she asked the Lord for him" (1 Samuel 1:20). After she had weaned Samuel, she took him to Eli the priest saying, "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him" (1 Samuel 1:27).
Many women that we are surrounded by pray Hannah's prayer. Most of the time, when a husband and wife make the decision to start adding on to their family, they want it to happen immediately. The couple starts to pay attention to friends that have babies and ask other friends when they are going to start trying to conceive. While shopping, the wife drifts to the baby aisle and gently tugs at little booties as she walks by. Everywhere the couple turns they see babies and they long to have their own little bundle of joy. As months close, feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty surface while waiting to see the results from their home pregnancy test. When the results are negative, the anxiousness is replaced with a sad lump that can't be fixed by the husband. Like Hannah in the beginning of the story, it is easy to become bitter when we don't get what we so desperately want. *According to scripture, prayers can remain unanswered because:
1. Sin in the life of the person praying
2. Lack of faith
3. Praying from impure motives
4. Not praying according to God's will
We are all sinners. Ministers, football coaches, non-profit CEO's; we come in all shapes and sizes but we all share a common identity as sinners. But, some enjoy sin more than others and make decisions based on their own selfish desires. We live for ourselves and not for others. We choose to ignore that nagging voice in our head that says we shouldn't do what we are doing. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." God wants us to repent our sins and ask for forgiveness. He wants us to seek Him first in all the things that we do. The more intimate our relationship becomes with Christ, the better choices we make as to how we live our lives.
But, what if we believe in Jesus and still no answer? Well, we might want to ask ourselves how much we truly have faith in Jesus. Do we make our own decisions in life or do we trust in Him? Do we pray just for the big stuff but handle our day-to-day activities all on our own? God wants us to completely give over our reign of control and have faith in His direction for our lives. "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:6-7). God desires for us to be faithful in our beliefs and not doubt His ways.
After examining our first two reasons for unanswered prayer, we might need to think about our motives for the prayer that we are seeking. Do you want to have a baby because your heart longs to raise up a child of faith or do you want to have a baby because your husband is getting bored with you and you think this is a way to make him stay instead of stray? Friends, our motives matter to God. There is no getting around it. James 4:3 tells us that when we ask and don't receive it is because we are asking with wrong motives. We want our prayer to be answered for our own pleasures, not for God's glory.
Finally, we need to be praying according to God's will. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). Some might ask, "Well, how do I know if this is God's will for my life?" Prayer is a two way street. It shouldn't just be us doing the talking; we also have to learn to listen. When we shut out everything around us and sit still in the presence of God, we become changed. Our hearts feel peace. Our worries are swept away. Our shoulders no longer feel so heavy and tired. The Holy Spirit comes inside us and washes us clean. When praying from a standpoint of God's will, you realize that He is in control and everything will happen according to His plan. You let go of your own desires and trust Him with your life. You realize that even if your prayer isn't answered, God still loves you and you still love God.
**God answers some prayers immediately, some eventually, and some only in eternity. It is easy to become frustrated in our prayer life when we meet all of the requirements and still don't receive an answer to our prayer. We must hold on to the truth of God being a sovereign God. Have you ever noticed that in the word sovereign, the ending is reign? That is exactly what sovereign means. God is the King of Kings and He reigns over us. Submitting to God is allowing Him to have supreme authority over our lives. For wives that continue to have Hannah's prayer unanswered, put your hope in the Lord's supreme power and path for your life. We must be content in knowing that if we have repented our sins, live our lives in faith, pray from pure motives, and ask according to God's will that He will show us His sovereign ways in due time.
Till next time, let your light shine!
*The Daily Walk Bible. 1 Samuel 1-3.**The Upper Room. May-June 2010, pg. 38.