What if God Doesn’t Answer?

Willow Creek | March 28, 2022

When we follow Jesus or are exploring faith, there’s a common practice people point to as a way to connect with God: prayer. There are different types of prayer—adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, etc.—but they’re all a means of communicating with God. 

When we are happy? Thank God in prayer.

When we are in need? Come to God in prayer.

When we are broken? Seek forgiveness and healing through prayer.

When a family member or friend is suffering? Advocate for them through prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

So what happens when we go to God in prayer, but nothing happens? Or the thing we prayed wouldn’t happen, does? What does that say about who God is?

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches His followers about prayer and then tells a story about two neighbors interacting. One man opens his home to a traveling friend only to realize he doesn’t have food to feed him. Naturally, he asks his neighbor for help, but the neighbor is resistant. The man persistently asks until the neighbor gives in. 

Why did Jesus tell this story? To show what God isn’t like. God is not like the resistant, cranky neighbor. Instead:

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If then you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” —Luke 11:11–13 (ESV)

The story Jesus shows us is that God is a loving father, not resistant or unwilling to answer the calls of His children. But what happens when you ask, but it’s not given? You seek, but you don’t find?

When Jesus teaches about prayer, His wisdom allows us to see our circumstances in a different way. So often, we allow our circumstances to shape our view of God, but Jesus asks us to flip it. The truth we believe about God should dictate our circumstances, so when prayers aren’t answered in the ways we expect, we can lean on God’s goodness and plan for our lives and the restoration of all things. 

Today, in the midst of your prayers, take a moment to reflect on who God is and see what He wants to shape in you. Here are some names of God from the Bible:

El Roi | The God who sees me (Genesis 16:13–14)

Yahweh Yireh | The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:13–14)

Yahweh Rophe | The Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26)

Yahweh Shalom | The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24)

Yahweh Tsuri | The Lord is my Rock (Psalm 144:1)

Yahweh Roi | The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1–3)

Mahesh | Refuge (Psalm 91:1–2)

Abba | Father (Luke 15:20)

To Phos you Kosmou | Light of the world (John 8:12)

Artos Zoes | Bread of Life (John 6:48–51)

Iatros | Physician (Matthew 11:5, Luke 4:23)

Sar Shalom | Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Philos | Friend (John 15:13)

Poimen Kalos | Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Ga-al | The Redeemer (Mark 10:45)

Have prayer requests? Our team would love to join you in prayer. Call 847-765-5000 (9 a.m.–4 p.m., M–F) to speak with a response pastor or submit a request here.