The “Problem” of Unanswered Prayer (2) – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoIn connection with our church’s (Faith PRC) Sunday night discussion groups, we have been considering some of the subjects covered in Prof. Herman Hanko’s book on prayer, When You Pray (for the previous posts on this book, visit the Sunday posts beginning in January of this year; look at the calendar on the upper right-hand side of the homepage and click on the Sunday dates).

As I pointed out last Sunday, in chapter 14 (“a problem connected with petitionary prayer”) Hanko treats something every believer has wrestled with – the problem of “unanswered” prayer, or perhaps better, “unfulfilled” prayer, since as Hanko points out, no prayer of the Christian is unanswered; God answers every single one.

Today I quote from the section where Hanko continues to give the“solution to the problem” of apparent unanswered prayer in the life of the Christian. May these thoughts also serve to provide us peace as well as direction as we pray.

…The solution lies in a close examination of Jesus’ words [His ‘seemingly unconditional promise to give us whatever we ask’, Matt.7:7-11]. These words will make clear to us that whatever we ask will be given us only when we ask according to God’s will or ask in Jesus’ name. This is important and a severely limiting qualification. The text makes clear that we will be given what is the will of God because it speaks of asking in Jesus’ name.

If we look at this qualification from the viewpoint of God himself, the meaning very obviously is that he will grant us only what he has willed to grant us. Never will he give anything contrary to his will. And he will grant us only that which Christ, who perfectly knows the will of God for us, asks the Father to give.

We may be thankful for this, for only what God has willed, and what Christ asks, will serve our salvation. Anything else would destroy forever the possibility of our being saved.

But if we look at this qualification from our viewpoint, the limiting factor means that we are to make our prayers with the humble petition that God’s will be done. We may ask whatever we desire from our Father, but we must always qualify our requests with the prayer ‘Thy will be done.’ This should not be a routine addition that we hope will, after all, be a magic formula to secure for us what we want, but it needs to be our humble confession that we want nothing else but God’s will.

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are really praying for God’s will to be done. We ask in the full consciousness that all that the Father gives us comes only because of the meritorious work of our Savior. We deserve nothing, after all. …What have I deserved? What have I merited with God? Nothing, for all is forfeited by sin. What we do receive is given us according to the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Thus we pray, always in humble dependence upon the great wisdom of our God. The unconditional promises are made concerning true prayer; and true prayer is always made by one who lives in conscious dependence on God and prays in humble submission to his will (121-122).

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