The truth is, unanswered prayer can be frustrating and sap our faith. But it doesn’t need to. A simple answer to the complex question of why God isn’t answering prayer how you expect is that God is infinite and we finite. He sees all, the end from the beginning, in a manner that we can’t possibly see.
In this regard, Bill Hybels says, God can give four answers to prayers:
1 If the request is wrong – he will say NO.
2 If the timing is wrong – he will say SLOW
3 If you are wrong He will say GROW (incorrect motives for instance)
4 But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right – GO.
Any one of these options from God will be the right one. And the one that is opposite to what you wanted or expected may be the best one! This takes real faith to accept!
Tim Keller says, “God answers our prayers exactly how we would answer our own prayers if we could see everything like he does with his eternal perspective and the depths of his knowledge”. If we could see like he sees we would do exactly like he does.
This is why it is so important you see God as your father when you pray (our father who art in heaven…). If you don’t see God as a father, when your prayers aren’t answered, you will find that you will be either cold or anxious. However if you see him as your Father, while you may not understand, you will know He is good.
Beyond all this, there are times when bad things happen to good people and all the prayers in the world don’t seem to be heard. Babies die, mums get cancer, earth quakes kill people gathered for a church service. We need to remember that despite the victory that God has achieved over Satan in the ministry and resurrection of Christ, everything is not yet submitted to God. The enemy is still active. His years are counted and his end is sure. But in the meantime, he still remains the prince of this world, and he opposes the ways of God, causing suffering and at times it seems he wins. However God will have the final say.
Of course… no matter what, we keep praying (Rom 12v12).