Prayer can be difficult. At times, it may seem like God isn’t listening. Have you ever felt this way? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. David once called out to the Lord, saying, “My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest” (Psalm 22:2). The prophet Habakkuk prayed, “How long, Lord, must I call for help and You do not listen or cry out to You about violence and You do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Though it may seem that God is sometimes distant, He really isn’t (see Psalm 34:17 and 1 Peter 5:17). He always hears our prayers. There are times, however, when He may not respond to our prayers in the way in which we desire. Usually, this is because of one of four reasons.
Silence in the face of our supplications is often a matter of timing. Perhaps God wants us to wait. Maybe He has a lesson to teach us. Could it be that He is listening, and that He plans to answer, but the occasion isn’t right? I think about Daniel’s experience with intercession (see Daniel 10:1-14). He was once frustrated with the apparent unresponsiveness of heaven. He wanted an explanation concerning a vision he received. After a long delay, He was met by an angel who explained that the timing hadn’t been right. Cosmic battles of spiritual warfare had prevented an answer. Don’t get frustrated with prayer. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.
I still remember some of my prayers as a kid. I wasn’t a born-again believer, but I wanted God to give me things. I prayed for toys, trips, and opportunities to appear on game shows! I was perplexed that God didn’t respond. My example may seem exaggerated, but it makes a point. Some people don’t hear back from God, because they ask for the wrong types of things (see James 4:3). The Lord only answers prayers which are in alignment with His will (1 John 5:14).
At times, God doesn’t respond to our requests as we wish, because He intends to teach us some things. Paul realized this. Though he begged God to heal him of an ailment, the Lord told him to trust in His grace and power (see 2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
Often, we don’t hear from God because we simply aren’t listening well. Our dull spiritual sense keeps us from perceiving what the Lord is doing (see 2 Kings 6:8-17 and James 1:19-21).
I recently had a conversation with a friend in which he shared about his struggle with prayer. He often felt like God wasn’t listening. I assured him that his experience was normal. I’ve had the same feelings. Even Jesus agonized before His Father on occasion (see Matthew 26:36-46). We shouldn’t expect prayer to always be exciting and ecstatic. Sometimes it can be lonely and laborious. It’s simply a fact of life. Not every conversation with every human is enthusiastic and energetic, and so it is with our Lord on occasion. Remember that faith, not your feelings, is what’s most important to God. Maybe He wants to use the apparent dull and directionless times of prayer to strengthen your faith. Don’t give up and don’t quit! Keep on praying!