Prayer 101: “The ABC’s of Unanswered Prayer”

Nov 22, 2008 Sermon

Last week, I was giving a sermon in Inland Empire Indonesian SDA Church. The topic is quite common but for me it is really reviving, especially for us in nowadays condition where economic turbulence is dragging us down. Sometimes we often thought that our prayer to Him is useless, because we cannot see any bright future, even a small light. You spent a lot of time praying about them and they just get worse.

We think too often we rate our success as Christians by how many prayers get a ‘yes’ answer, because every prayer is answered, right? Actually, they are answered, “Yes,” “No,” “wait,” “I have something better for you.”

Another thing that dampens our spiritual fervor about prayer is the text in James 5:16 . And when we remember this verse we think, ‘Well, this is not too good. It says, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV). The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (KJV). And we think, “My prayers don’t amount to much, therefore I must not be a very good Christian. And so, we begin to get discouraged. And we might think, ‘My prayers don’t work. There must be something wrong with me.’

One thing that we should ask ourselves is that maybe we put God as vending machine. God is not a vending machine that we can walk up to with our spiritual quarter, put it in and out comes the answer. You see, God knows best and our duty is to let Him know our will and then to quietly and faithfully trust in Him for the answer. You can always trust in your best friend. Prayer is a sincere conversation with our best Friend because prayer is a matter of opening the heart to God as to a friend. He’s you best Friend. You can trust your best Friend. You can count on Him. He is your best Friend.

The other thing is, actually God shared in our problems, weary, and our other struggles. God shared Joseph’s mistreatment and his imprisonment. God shared in Paul’s lashings. In fact it was actually God who struggled under the heavy cross and then died upon it. He was the one that was suffering. So, when many of the prayer requests come back to us with a big ‘No’ stamped across them, we should not be discouraged and quit praying. For me, God is an educator. God has a much broader picture of our true situation. We can just barely see out of the tunnel. He can see the whole picture. I’ve learned that it is best to make our requests known to God and then to submit to His higher and broader will.

So, why aren’t our prayers answered more often the way we’d like them to be?

  • Well, first of all this should be very obvious to us. James 4:2 makes this statement: …You do not have, because you do not ask God. That’s obvious isn’t it. We don’t have because we don’t ask. Maybe we don’t ask because we don’t believe.
  • We don’t receive a lot of answers to prayer because we don’t really believe in prayer. We pray and then we hang up the phone. We don’t really trust in God. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  • Number three, and here’s a big one. Maybe we don’t get positive answers to your prayers because there’s some personal sin in your life. Maybe we cherish some personal sin that is blocking God’s hand.
  • We pray for the wrong things. That’s why we don’t have answered prayers as often as we would like. Romans 8:26 (NIV). In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for…” We really don’t know. We pray for the wrong things some times. We really don’t know how to pray and we pray for the wrong things. And then we expect God to answer us.
  • God seldom answers a selfish prayer. Look at James 4:3 (NIV). When you ask, you do not receive; because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

So, let’s trust in God. Let’s leave the outcome in His hands. Yes, we should ask. We should make your requests known to the Lord. But in His will and in an attitude that “whatever we decide is really what I want to do.” The larger prayer is that we would have the strength to submit to His master plan for our life. That’s the prayer we want to pray.


One thing that I should be thankful for is that God answered my prayer while I was preparing my sermon. I admitted that I am such a procrastinator guy. At least one week before the date I was supposedly to bring the sermon, I haven’t got any material to be prepared. Actually I got one or two, but it didn’t ring the bell in my heart. I was praying to God to help me on this, and He actually answered my prayer. While browsing in the internet for the last minute I found beautiful website that provide such a beautiful sermons. Thank you pastor Donald J. Gettys of McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church, McDonald, Tennessee, for the sermon. All glory to our God for your kindness.

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