t was 2:00 A.M. when our phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mr. Baker, we need you to come to the hospital. Your son is in trouble.” My heart sank and my mind raced to try to figure out what was going on. Patty and I had just left the hospital four hours before with news that our firstborn had a 98 percent chance of surviving.
When I arrived at the hospital, the nursing staff was waiting for me and quickly ushered me into a room to meet with the doctor. I knew what that meant. The doctor came in and said, “Mr. Baker, we did everything that we could, but your son died of a heart attack.” I sat there stunned, wondering what I was going to say to my wife and wondering what life would be like now.
It had been a tough season for us. We knew that this pregnancy was at risk. The doctors had predicted there would be complications, but we believed in the power of prayer and we stood on God’s Word. When little Marty was born, we spoke the words of the Bible over him and placed Scripture songs in his crib. It was clear to us that the prayers being prayed in our local church and throughout the Church of God were being answered. With each passing day, the issues that surrounded this little baby, our little baby, were less and less. In fact, we looked forward to the day that we could take him home. Then, the phone rang.
Maybe you have been there. Have you ever prayed and prayed for a loved one to be healed only to see your prayers go unanswered? Or, have you ever prayed for a spouse to be saved and join the church only to see him or her drift further and further away from faith? Or, what about the young person that has prayed to over- come temptation only to fall into the fire time and time again? In frustration we cry out,
There could be a number of reasons why a prayer goes unanswered, some of which we may never know. We can, however, open the pages of the Bible and find insight about prayer and specifically what to do when a prayer goes unanswered. The Bible describes several barriers that hinder the work of God in our lives.
Barriers That Hinder Prayer
• Unconfessed sin. The prophet Isaiah confronted the people of Israel with these words: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2 NKJV). As you begin to pray, begin with a request for forgiveness. Ask God to cleanse your soul and remove anything that would hinder His work in you.
• People problems. Take a look at your relationship with your family, friends, and coworkers. Relational issues can become barriers to God’s activity in your life. Jesus talked about this, saying, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother [or sister] has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV). Broken relationships can affect your prayer life. Seek to make peace as you prevail in prayer.
• Lack of faith. On a broad scale we believe God can answer prayer, but on a personal level we often do not believe He will. God responds to faith. Jesus asked
two blind men who came to Him for healing, “‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; and their sight was restored” (9:28-30 NIV).
When a person sincerely believes Jesus can and will answer their prayers, the barriers of doubt begin to crumble. Faith unlocks the door to deliverance.
The Plan of God
There are other barriers that can hinder our spiritual lives, but unanswered prayers are not always a result of obstacles we have created. Sometimes we ask God for something we really believe is best for us, but God does not give it to us. God loves us enough to not give us everything we ask for. Some of our prayers go unanswered because God has a different plan. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9).
Some of God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. God is preparing me for what He has already prepared for me. I must let Him complete His work. I have to trust that God knows what is best for my life.
Through the years, I have learned that our prayers are not always answered.
So the real question may not be, “How can I get my prayers answered?” but, “What will it take to draw me closer to God?”
When the phone rang at 2:00 a.m. that morning, some may have considered it to be a clear indication that God did not answer our prayers. What they may not know was that four hours prior to our son’s passing, Patty and I stood in that hospital room with our baby in our arms and prayed, “God, we give this child to You. Please heal Him.” Four hours later, little Marty was healed as he passed from this life to the next.
God had a different plan. Since that time, we have gained strength from Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).