I have a lot of unanswered prayers in my life. They aren’t prayers that are bad or just self-serving ‒ they’re good prayers! They’re things God calls us to pray for yet they remain unanswered. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When we read verses like this, it’s hard to not get discouraged in our prayers, thinking we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing but getting no answers. But we have to read the Bible as a whole narrative and not just pinpoint specific things we want to come true.
In Matthew 19, Jesus has a moment with a rich young ruler who is asking how to get into heaven.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask Me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
The rich man loved his possessions more than anything in the world. He couldn’t let go of them! There he stood, face to face with Jesus, asking Him how to get into heaven, saying he had done everything, yet Jesus knew that he could not lay down his possessions. We are called to have no gods before Jesus, and He knew that the rich young ruler wouldn’t be able to follow that commandment.
So when we pray, are we wanting our prayers to be answered more than we want to be in communion with God? Will we be angry or hurt if our prayers don’t get answered instead of being joyful that we are able to bring these before the feet of a listening Creator? As we go into this week as well as a new year, let’s check our prayers to make sure we don’t care more about our prayers being answered than we do about being in Jesus’ presence.