Why? Why doesn’t God answer prayers? Why didn’t God give you that promotion you deserved? Why did God let you get fired? Why did God let your relationship break apart? Why did God let him die? There are so many why’s to be had in this world. Why are there so many of the why’s that have no answers? I am not at all going to try to answer any of those questions, but maybe we can find some understanding together as to why it is that God doesn’t always do the things we want him to do.
Before we get into anything though I think the first thing we have to understand is that God did not create the why’s. From the very beginning he intended for us to live without ‘why’ in our lives. When we ask ‘why,’ what we are really seeking is a justification of good vs evil. We desperately want to ask, “well I am good so why did evil happen to me?” We don’t ask too many questions when a person we have deemed a bad person meets an untimely demise. We don’t ask why a gang member gets shot. We don’t ask why a shooter going on a killing spree turns the gun on themselves. In our limited understanding of good and evil we are so quick to say evil for evil; good for good. When the tables get turned on what our perspective of good and evil is, and good is met with evil and evil is met with good our world is turned upside down. Our ancestors, Adam and Eve, chose this finite knowledge over a permanent relationship with God. They chose having any comprehension of this paradox over knowing only the love of God their creator. As a result we are all stuck facing this paradox of a concept that we were never meant to understand. You see it was not called the tree of wisdom of good and evil. It was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge as God will tell us throughout the Bible is a far cry from wisdom. Knowledge leaves us questioning because all knowledge on a human level is horribly flawed, and up for questioning. That being said I believe that our knowledge of good and evil is a far cry from what the wisdom God holds in those same categories. Now that I got that out of the way let me move on.
There are many prayers that go unanswered every day, but if we really want to look at the kicker of all unanswered prayers we can turn to Jesus, himself. He had just given the horrible news to his disciples, and I can only imagine the amount of dread that was washing over Him. Yes, even Jesus felt dread. He knew his time was coming. He knew the moment that would matter for the rest of existence was at hand, and He did not want to face it. He may not have even really known the level of abuse that was about to come his way, but I’m sure he googled crucifixion and saw that even if that were the only thing to happen to him, it was going to hurt like nothing anyone would want to experience. As he went up to Gethsemane to pray it is quite clear; He wanted out. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42) In a very, very human moment Jesus expresses that what is about to happen is anything but his will. He doesn’t want anything to do with it, and according to Mark, he begged three times with this same prayer. Luke even goes so far to say that he was “…in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44) As a side note, if you don’t think that’s possible our beloved science has proven that that actually can happen, but only in the most extreme of circumstances. So here we are, Jesus – who, by the way, could make all of this go away with wink of his eye – is so distraught that he is sweating blood and begging God to allow this to pass over him.
I can only imagine the sobbing that God was doing at this time. Here he is, the God who promises good gifts to his children, is unable to give this gift to his own Son. More than anything I can only imagine the heartbreak he felt that he had to smack the big ol’ deny stamp on this prayer. He had to reject his only son’s prayer – who loved Him more than anyone else ever had – so that an eternity of people who would come to reject Him, kind of love Him, or have this roller coaster ride of in love, out of love with Him would have the ability to be saved from their sins. This was the one prayer that I am sure God desperately wanted to grant, but He knew that it was the one prayer that could not be answered the way someone wanted it to be.
Jesus knew this though and as a good and faithful servant he prayed the way we should all pray when we ask God for anything. “…Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” This is the part that Jesus knew mattered, and it is often the part of the prayer we want to skip. We want God to justify our knowledge of good and evil. We want God to give us what we ask for because we asked, but we leave out the most important part. “…Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” We want to tell God that if he doesn’t adhere to our concept of good and evil, if he doesn’t play by our rules; then we don’t know if we can believe in Him. We want to use our prayers and the way He answers them as an ultimatum for our faith, but let me go back and reiterate what I said in the beginning. The tree of knowledge of good and evil left us with a flawed concept of good and evil. It left us with a bitter taste in our mouth that we never fully understood.
I know, that if you are going through a hard time right now, and you have been asking the same prayer over and over again this can come off as painful, or harsh. It may sound like I am coming down on you, but I can only say that as I write this I am also battling one of the hardest times of my life. These words, this conviction, that I am sharing with you hits me just as hard as it hits you. It is reasonable to dread. It is only human to question when things don’t go the way we expect. I think its perfectly acceptable to lament to God and share with him your frustrations with Him, but if you are holding our understanding of good and evil over God’s head as an ultimatum I am sure you are going to be very disappointed with the outcome. Have faith that even when the prayer isn’t answered the way you want it to. Even if the prayer warriors prayers are ineffective, and your loved one dies. Even if you prayed and prayed for the promotion, only to be fired and struggling to figure out how to make ends meet. Have faith that God is good. Be mad, be angry, but in the end know that God is good. Again, I apologize if this comes off harsh or abrupt, but I guarantee you that you never prayed like Jesus prayed to not have to hang on that cross. If you are going through a hard time, know that if God would have let our understanding of good for good and evil for evil stand. Jesus would have lived a lot longer, and we would all be without salvation today. Take a honest moment to let that sink in.