“I don’t know why I bother praying. It doesn’t seem to do any good. I’ve been asking God for wisdom to solve an extremely difficult problem for three weeks now. Yet I’m no closer to a solution than when I started. I may as well consult a horoscope for all the good prayer does. I feel like I am only talking to the ceiling. No one is really listening. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”
What does it mean when God says, “No,” to my prayers? Or worse yet, when he says nothing at all? What does it mean when God is silent?
Those questions irritated my mind and drove me to search the Scriptures until I found some answers. After compiling the plethora of verses on prayer, I broke them into two broad categories—what I was doing wrong and what God was doing. The one provided questions to ask myself while the other provided options I needed to consider. On the one hand, I needed to examine my own heart. On the other hand, I needed to expand my perspective of what God was doing. Not only did I need to confess my sins, but I also needed to learn to trust God’s plan.
As we continue our study of prayer during our fall sermon series, I did a two-part message on “When God is silent.” This is Part 1, where we examine what we might be doing wrong. I structured the topic as five questions to ask when God is silent. Next week, we’ll look at Part 2—understanding what God might be doing when he is silent when we pray.
When God is silent and doesn’t seem to answer your prayers, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have I neglected to pray? James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” If I do not ask, God cannot answer.
2. Am I in sin? Psalm 66:18 and Proverbs 28:9 both stress that God will not listen to my prayers if I will not listen to him. If I am disobeying his instructions, why do I think he will grant my prayers?
3. Am I being selfish? James 4:3 explains that if my prayers are all about “ME,” God will not listen to me.
4. Am I doubting? Mark 11:24 challenges me to believe that God can/will answer my prayers. If I don’t trust God, he will not listen to me. Sometimes, though, my approach is to cry, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
5. Is my request out of God’s will? 1 John 5:14-15 encourages me to make sure my request is in line with God’s plan and purpose. Otherwise, he won’t listen to my prayer and/or grant my request.
If my answer to any of these five questions is “Yes,” then I need to confess my sin and get right with God. But what if my answer to the questions is “No”? What if I am praying, my life is pure, my motives are correct, I am trusting God, and I am in his will? Why is God still silent? What does his silence mean?
To be continued …
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 6, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.