There seem to be those who live a "charmed" existence, whose prayers are always answered and who are always getting great press because whoever they pray for gets healed, or a job, or whatever, - and whatever they pray for happens.
Hm. Well, I guess I am glad it happens for some people. I have to wonder what might happen to their faith if for some reason there was an "answer" that didn't come.
The term "unanswered prayer" is a red flag for those who consider themselves Christians. Yet ... I think this might have more to do with the idea that we have to protect God's reputation than it does about actually being honest.
The truth is that prayer (and for the moment, let's keep our definition to the more accepted one of asking God for what you want) - carries with it the option of God saying "no". And speaking as a parent, the more my kids hound me to do something with the attitude that I HAVE to give it to them, like it's their right or something, the more likely I am to either say no, or walk away and ignore them. (They are starting to learn this!) See, it works this way: we ask for what we want, we say please, and God decides whether to say yes, no, or wait a while (sometimes a LONG while). We DON'T demand. We DON'T manipulate or "quote scripture" back to Him (after all, He knows what it says!!) as a way to get what we want. We don't even have to ask Him for something that we know is His will! if it's His will, He will find a way to make it happen because - well, because He is God and being Divine and all-powerful and all that, He can.
I'm beginning to see prayer in a different light these days.
Less and less I pray for "what I want." More and more I see prayer as a way to develop and deepen my relationship with Him. A conversation between friends, in other words.
Okay, so if I am upset about something, I tell Him. I don't hold anything back because after all, He made me, and He loves me. But most of the time I'm inviting Him into my situations, to take control of them, to not let me grab the reins and try to do His job in my life or anyone else's. I accept things, people, and circumstances the way they are in reality. I try to remember that He's God and I'm not, and that He can do a far better job of running the universe than I ever could. And I have discovered that for me - this leads to far more peace than I have ever known in my life. Before, I was so dissatisfied with the "way the world is" and what people "should" be doing. I was constantly angry. Nothing or nobody could satisfy me - and that included God. He was too slow. And then I prettied it up and turned it around to blame myself. I'm not saying the right words in the right way. I don't have enough faith. I must have sin in my life. It was all a smokescreen. It was all "I - I - I." I wanted things to change and change "now" like I was some old dog chasing its tail and never catching anything but a dizzy spell - what a waste of energy that was.
I stumbled about a year ago on the only kind of prayer that always gets answered and brings the kind of peace I was looking all my life to find.
It took taking me through quite a journey for God to get me to the idea that prayer isn't about changing things. It's about walking with Him. It's not about me hanging on for dear life to Him - but about Him never letting go of me. It's not about me getting what I want. It's about growing in my love-relationship with Him. It's about Him freely and graciously giving me the one thing I need in life: the awareness of His presence.