Unanswered Prayer

Have you yet to receive a “yes” to your prayer for a child? Does it feel like God leaves your prayer unanswered?

Our Sunday school class has been studying prayer. This past Sunday, Pastor Schuermann drew our attention to this quote from Dr. Martin Luther on the problem of unanswered prayer:

It is not a bad sign, but a very good one, if things seem to turn out contrary to our requests. Just as it is not a good sign if everything turns out favorably for our requests.

The reason is that the excellence of God’s counsel and will are far above our counsel and will, as Isaiah 55:8-9 says:”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” And Psalm 94:11: “The Lord knows the thoughts of men, that they are vain.” And Psalm 33:10: “The Lord brings the counsels of the nations to nought; He frustrates the plans of the peoples and casts away the counsels of princes.” Hence it results that when we pray to God for something, whatever these things may be, and He hears our prayers and begins to give us what we wish, He gives in such a way that He contravenes all of our conceptions, that is, our ideas, so that He may seem to us to be more offended after our prayers and to do less after we have asked than He did before. And He does all this because it is the nature of God first to destroy and tear down whatever is in us before He gives us His good things, as the Scripture says: “The Lord makes poor and makes rich, He brings down to hell and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:7).

By this His most blessed counsel He renders us capable of receiving His gifts and His works. And we are capable of receiving His works and His counsels only when our own counsels have ceased and our works have stopped and we are made purely passive before God, both with regard to our inner as well as our outward activities. This is what He means when He says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Therefore, when everything is hopeless for us and all things begin to go against our prayers and desires, then those unutterable groans begin. And then “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). For unless the Spirit were helping, it would be impossible for us to bear this action of God by which He hears us and accomplishes what we pray for. Then the soul is told: “Be strong, wait for the Lord, and let your heart take courage and bear up under God” (Psalm 27:14). And again: “Be subject to the Lord and pray to Him” “and He will act” (Psalm 37:7, 5). (Luther on Romans 8:26, AE 25:364-5)