A large problem some people have is unanswered prayer. I got to thinking about it again when Jen was writing about someone she knew and how they complained (and probably believed) that their efforts had not resulted in answers, yet Jen knew, from knowing her, things that were the real problem.
So why do we have unanswered prayers?
The question is easy to ask, but the facile answers often distract us from find the real answers. At the same time, the facile answers are often true. In addition, while my study of twelve step groups did not yield much of use in in grief recovery, it did give me a great deal of thought about the nature of God and prayer.
After all, most people come to twelve step programs because of unanswered prayers. Otherwise, the addiction that plagued them would not have driven them to a twelve step group, prayer would have resolved it. Yet, the key to a twelve step program is reliance on a power greater than yourself — basically on answered prayers. Such groups have well developed understandings of why prayers are not answered, and then they are.
- Lack of essential honesty. Jen’s comment was about someone who lacked an essential honesty about what they were doing, coupled with a lack of insight. Many in twelve step groups feel that the only true barrier is a lack of honesty (since twelve step programs work for atheists who are honest — including those who remain atheists).
- Looking in the wrong place for God. In spite of an incredibly amorphous definition of a Higher Power, people fail in twelve step programs when they do not deal with God as a power greater than themselves that can do for them what they can not do for themselves.
- Lack of a will to accept. If you are not willing to accept God and change, that will block answers.
- Lack of willingness to repent (or make amends in twelve step parlance). Those who refuse to make amends, fail to succeed.
- Lack of willingness to “act as if.” There is something similar that goes on in missions when an elder can feel the Spirit bear witness to those he is teaching, yet complains that the Spirit has not born witness to them. Pointing out that they had been there as the Spirit bore witness was often enough for them to realize the break in their thinking, but some insist on God taking a step past in answer before they treat it as a “real” answer or witness.
- Failure to put out sufficient effort. Prayer and answers to it are a process of attunement and receptiveness. Most of those who read Jen’s comment would have seen it as her frustration with someone who wasn’t willing to put out enough effort, though I’ve focused on the lack of the person’s honesty as to what they were doing.
- Lack of the right effort.
- Lack of patience.
- Lack of recognition when God has answered. “I pray, I feel calm and assured and reassured, but when will God answer me?”
Now, are there other reasons? Surely. Could I have written more on the reasons I’ve noted? [Hint, that is what the comment section is for.] But people who have dealt with those in doubt or who are complaining will have seen those nine reasons so often that it is easy for them to start looking for which one applies rather than to conclude that a failure to obtain a basic answer (cf Moroni 10:3-5) is caused by something else.
Which causes frustration for those seeking answers, as well as for those dealing with seekers who have not received answers. Most people seeking an answer are not pleased to be referred to a point, or points, on that list. Most people responding to those who claim not to get answers are frustrated that those with questions are not more open to being diagnosed “by the book.”
Is there a way past that problem? Are there standard problems on the list of points I have missed (after all, I started with insights from twelve step programs, shouldn’t my list have twelve points?)? Are there details I should have answered? Are there prayers to which we should not expect answers?
I’d like your comments and thoughts.