Why pray if God doesn’t answer?

“Dad, can I go over to a friend’s place?” and Dad replies, “Well, I’ll have to think about that, son,” leaving the son hopping with frustration that he didn’t get an instant answer. Life can’t wait until Dad makes up his mind!

Does that ring a bell in our prayers to God? “Come on, God, the reason I’m praying is to get an answer. Waiting for an answer is no answer, because what’s the point of praying if I don’t get answers when I need them?”

But isn’t that holding God to ransom, or forcing his hand? “Hey, God, if you don’t answer, then I might as well give up praying.” It’s like a child saying, “What’s the point of coming to you for help, Dad, when your mind seems elsewhere?” For the relationship to continue, in other words, Dad had better drop everything and help.

So does that mean I have power over God, that he’s now expected to come to my beck and call every time I ask? Is God like a windmill, as one author phrased it, whose sails automatically move with the wind of my prayers? Is God only truly “God” to us when he fulfills our expectations?

Well, Jesus knew this would be a problem for us, because he encouraged his disciples to “always pray and not give up,” Luke 18:1. But why shouldn’t they give up? Because, Jesus asks in verses 7-8, “will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

God isn’t like the unjust judge in that parable, who keeps refusing a widow’s request to deal with a difficult problem. God is instantly onto it. He goes to work on it “quickly.” No delays, no putting it off to a later time when he isn’t so busy, no dismissing the request as not worthy of an answer. God hears our cries, and Jesus says he’s moved to action immediately.

But God isn’t interested in just answering, he wants to give the best answer – and isn’t that why we pray to him and not to anyone else? We believe we’re in contact with a God who knows our needs before we even ask him for help, and he created us to have these needs so we’d turn to him, and in his answers to us we’d realize he knows us backwards, and knows exactly what’s best for us because he loves us, just as a child learns that Dad sometimes delays his answers because best answers need time.

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