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Divine Silence and Unheard Prayers

If you have ever felt like your prayers weren’t being answered, this post is for you.

I had the honor of spending last weekend with an incredible group of ladies. We focused our thoughts and time together on the One who brings us unnumbered blessings: The Joymaker. As I prepared to speak about talking to this Incredible One who gives us such joy, it was blaringly obvious that joy wasn’t the consistent emotion among my faithful Sisters.

This life is such a buzzkill sometimes.

I know a teenager who is tired of school because of a nasty rumor. A friend heartbroken because her best friend’s marriage is in shambles. A servant heart who has been diagnosed with cancer. A young mother frustrated with playing church.

There’s a friend grieving over the loss of a pregnancy. A daughter disappointed in her parents’ life choices. A girl who is lonely from a lack of a relationship. A handful of people exhausted from battling depression. A wife hurting because her husband is not fulfilling his role as Spiritual leader and companion.

 

If you fit into any one of these categories and you are a believer, I know what you’ve been doing.

You’ve been praying.

You’ve been begging God to stop the madness. Asking Him to heal the hurt. Pleading with Him to relieve the weight of a tormented soul.

Seriously, God. Just give me a break!

Have you been there? Are you there now?

Sometimes it’s hard for us to get real with God in our prayers to Him. If the words we speak don’t sound just like, God is great, God is good, we’re not always confident He will hear them.

I think it’s time we took a lesson from Lamentations {I know, where all your favorite memory verses are found…}.

I’m fascinated by this book. Here’s the skinny on what’s been happening in Jerusalem.

God’s people were slaves in Egypt.
He rescued them.
He brought them to a beautiful land that He had promised.
They wanted a king.
He didn’t want them to have a king.
He gave them a king.
The kings turned wicked.
Jerusalem forgot about God.
Babylon was powerful.
Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon.

Guys, this was not a good time to be in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar comes in, takes treasure from Solomon’s temple, and forces 10,000 of the richest, smartest, got-it-together men into captivity in Babylon.

After ten years of wickedness in the city, he comes back and surrounds the city for two years until everybody runs out of food. The king tries to escape, but they capture him, kill his sons in front of him, and then claw his eyes out. Not pretty stuff.

The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, and the temple was burned down. Basically, God’s chosen people have been placed in a less-than-let’s-praise-Jesus situation.

Starting to relate?

If you can, stop and read Lamentations 3:1-18. I’m imagining an ugly cry from Jeremiah. He writes about a funeral of a city. Here’s a quick picture from verses 7-9:

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; He has made my chains heavy. Though I call and cry for help, He shuts out my prayer;
He has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; He has made my paths crooked.

Have you ever talked this way about God?  Actually admitted that you feel like He has shut out your prayers?

It can be scary to admit you feel like your prayers aren’t being answered. We are Christians, and we of all people should be encouraging prayer and talking about its awesomeness.

But when we keep on praying and God is unresponsive, it makes us think that He doesn’t listen. That He doesn’t care. That our sin is blocking His blessings.

I remember my first year of marriage quite vividly. I moved from a large house and a family of six to a 600 square foot apartment with a man who talked about as much as a sedated hermit crab.

Ok it wasn’t that bad. But it felt like it.

We had no internet, no TV, and no entertainment budget. I was dying for a little excitement.

I asked Gavin for a baby, but quickly realized that was a joke. So I focused on begging for a cat. I probably brought up the subject once a day for several months, and each time he reminded me that we had no money, no space, and no time to be responsible.

So I sat in the floor and cried my eyes out, asking, Why don’t you want me to be happy?????

Yes. Totally practical.

But isn’t prayer like this sometimes? We think we know what we want or need to be happy. And God doesn’t deliver it on a silver platter. So we turn things around in our heads, believing that He just really doesn’t care.

Maybe it’s because we teach our kids to sing songs like, The blessings come down as the prayers go up! And the prayers go up but no blessings come down. And our whole belief system crashes as God remains in Divine Silence.

I’m starting to believe that God’s silence is meant to help us outgrow the inferior reasons for praying. Maybe prayer is less about getting relief, and more about coming into communion with our Joymaker.

Pain makes us incredibly honest, doesn’t it? When you stub your toe, you don’t dance around singing, Oh, my Jesus!

Well, you may say that, but it’s probably not followed with a praise song.

We can’t view prayer like a vending machine: prayer in, blessing out. Cha-ching. If we continue in this pattern, prayer can become an idol. It can become a way to manipulate God instead of simply being in conversation with Him.

If God immediately responded every time you prayed, you would begin to think the power lay within prayer, not within HIM.

Even Christ didn’t get what He asked for in the garden of Gethsemane. It’s fascinating to me that He knew this and still He told His followers, Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

I’m comforted in the fact that my conversation with God can be real. It can be questioning. It can be truthful and whiny and pitiful. But this honesty brings about a realization.

God is in control, and He can only do good.

In Lamentations 3:19-33, Jeremiah turns the tables a little. He brings joyful confidence to an otherwise bleak situation. He writes that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. That God does not willingly grieve His children. And proclaims it is good to wait quietly for God. Here’s verse 55

I called your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea,
‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you; You said, ‘Do not fear!’

I’m not saying that it’s bad to ask God for what you want. There are plenty of passages that encourage this concept. Ask, and ask in faith! Read this passage and know that God cares about what you care about, especially if you are persistent in your asking.

But if you’ve been asking for a while and you’ve not been granted your wish, maybe it’s time to lament. Drag your cries out before God and let Him hear your anguish. Soak up His silence and petition His power.

Maybe He’ll respond with, Not yet or In My time. Maybe He’ll just flat out say, No. You ask wrongly.

Have faith in the fact that He works in every dark time. My prayer is that everyone reading this will soon experience a time of relief, of joy, and of healing.

But for now, sweet friend, draw near to your Silent God. Find comfort in knowing that He understands your hurt.

Lay at His feet and experience how it feels to be completely out of control before an all-powerful God who seeks honest communion with you.

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Disclaimer: Many of these thoughts are a product of sitting and learning at the feet of my wise husband, who also learned at the feet of a wise Bible scholar, Dr. Kevin Youngblood.

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What does God’s silence lead you to believe about prayer? How can you practice being more honest with Him?

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