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PRAYER, unanswered


Sermon Illustrations

PRAYER, unanswered

In October, 1983, I was painting Van and Juanita Clark's home. They had a small black dog who would go to the back door and bark and bark until someone finally got the message and let it out. One day I was there, painting the outside of the home, while everyone else was gone. Their little dog, however, took up his station at the back door and barked incessantly all day. The sad thing was that it never dawned in his little brain that all his barking was totally useless--no one was home to hear! 

Warren Wiersbe, Famous Unanswered Prayers.


Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;

Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;

The work began when first your prayer was uttered,

And God will finish what He has begun.

Though years have passed since then, do not despair;

His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.

Ophelia Adams.


Cable television mogul Ted Turner criticized fundamentalist Christianity and said Jesus probably would "be sick at his stomach" over the way his ideas have been "twisted," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Turner made his remarks Friday evening at a banquet in Orlando, Fla., where he was given an award by the American Humanist Association for his work on behalf of the environment and world peace. Turner said he had a strict Christian upbringing and at one time considered becoming a missionary. "I was saved seven or eight times," the newspaper quoted him as saying. But he said he became disenchanted with Christianity after his sister died, despite his prayers. Turner said the more he strayed from his faith, "the better I felt."

Spokesman-Review, May 1, 1990.


In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up. . . until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.

"Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town."

His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. "Son, he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience." 

Kirk Russel.


In an essay on prayer, C.S. Lewis suggested that God treats new Christians with a special kind of tenderness, much as a parent dotes on a newborn. He quotes an experienced Christian: "I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic."

 At first glance, such a suggestion seems to have it all backward. Shouldn't faith become easier, not harder, as a Christian progresses? But, as Lewis points out, the New Testament gives two strong examples of unanswered prayers: Jesus pled three times for God to "Take this cup from me" and Paul begged God to cure the "thorn in my flesh." Lewis asks, "Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle." 

Quoted in Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey, Zondervan, p. 208.




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