What am I supposed to think when God doesn’t answer my prayers?

This is a question most of us have asked, and I’ve been asking it a lot lately. And the answers I’m looking for aren’t “Keep praying,” “He did answer; he said no,” or “You have to trust God.” I know all of those things. I do keep praying. I do trust God. I believe he’s good and that he wants good for me. My question runs deeper than doubting God. I’m really asking, what am I supposed to do with promises in scripture like “The one who asks will receive” when I ask and I do not receive. What do I do with unanswered prayers?

Maybe we should ask a different question.

In doing some reading about Luke 11, where Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer and making promises like “The one who asks will receive,” I came across a Spurgeon sermon on Luke 11.11-13. Instead of the question I’ve been asking, he asks this question:

“It may be God will hear, and as a general rule will make replies in mercy. But I am an undeserving one. If the Lord should be incensed at my prayers and answer me in wrath instead of love, I should deserve it. If after having made my confession, He should deal with me, judging me out of my own mouth, and then and there condemn me, what should I say?”

Now that’s a different question altogether, and it’s focus is much more squarely on the one who created prayer and rules over all who pray. And it’s at this point that I find some perspective in my praying and my questioning. Instead of assuming that God should answer my pleas, maybe I should approach prayer assuming that God is actually God, and he can do whatever he wants. And I should pray with humility.

I still have my questions, and those questions still don’t threaten God, but in adding a question or two to my list, I find perspective that influences my prayers and my view of God. And that is always for my good.