by Whitney Hopler
The following is a report on the practical applications
of Pete Greig's new book, God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of
Unanswered Prayer, (Regal Books, 2007).
You've prayed repeatedly for God to intervene in a situation close to
your heart – but all your requests have been met with silence. You've
prayed with great passion and faith – yet still, God doesn't answer.
Do unanswered prayers mean that God doesn't care, or worse, that He's
not even there? When you're heartbroken over His silence, it can seem
But God has a message to send you through the silence. Here's how you
can hear Him, even when He doesn't answer your prayers:
* Be honest.
Admit your disappointment, frustration, confusion, doubt, sorrow,
anger, and any other feelings you have about the fact that you haven't
yet received answers to your prayers. Don't be afraid to express
yourself completely to God, without shame or pretense. Pray about
every concern you have. Ask God hard questions.
* Trust in God's love.
Know that nothing – not bankruptcy, divorce, illness, death, or
anything else – can ever separate you from God's love. Regularly
remind yourself of specific ways God has already shown you that He
loves you, such as through answered prayer in the past and His
promises in Scripture. Recognize the blessings you currently have that
you haven't noticed before, and thank God for them. Remember that God
often expresses His love through the kindness of faithful people.
Choose to take God at His word and believe that He cares about you, no
* Seek God Himself instead of just His miracles.
Understand that, although God sometimes does choose to perform
miracles for certain purposes, He often decides not to do so. Believe
in the truth that a miracle is always possible, but remember that
miracles are rare by definition. Check your motives to make sure
you're not just vying for a miracle, but instead are seeking to grow
closer to God. Don't expect God to be like a divine vending machine
who dispenses miracles on demand. Love God Himself more than what He
can give you.
* Realize that silence doesn't mean absence.
Know that God is still present with you, despite His silence. Remember
His promise never to leave or forsake you. Understand that God
sometimes decides to withdraw from your conscious experience and
deliberately make Himself less obvious and less immediately available
in order to reduce your dependence on outward things and help you live
by faith instead of sight. Ask God to reassure you of His presence as
you struggle with unanswered prayers.
* Be willing to accept "no" as an answer.
Consider carefully whether God has truly not answered your prayer, or
whether He has answered it, but chosen to deny your request. Ask God
to give you the strength to accept His will, even if it's contrary to
your wishes. Realize that your power to choose God's will over your
own preference is a significant opportunity to grow in faith and
maturity. Remember that God's wisdom is often beyond human
understanding, but He is always working out the best for you from His
eternal perspective. Ask God to help you learn the valuable lessons He
wants to teach you through your suffering, so that suffering will
ultimately lead you to greater joy.
* Ask yourself if your prayers are trivial.
Acknowledge that some prayers are inconsequential or just plain
stupid, such as praying for God to miraculously fill your car's gas
tank when it's nearing empty and you haven't yet found a gas station.
If that's the case, choose to pray in another way or do something
* Ask yourself if your prayers are conflicting with someone else's
prayers. Remember that God considers prayers from all the more than
six billion people on our planet. Realize that He may say "no" to your
request so He can say "yes" to someone else. Know that God won't act
if your prayers contradict something He wants to accomplish in another
* Ask yourself if your prayers would impact the laws of nature in a
destructive way if they were answered.
Understand that some prayers aren't answered because they would be
detrimental to the world and other people's lives in some way.
Remember that, although your prayer may seem reasonable to you, God
may be protecting people's lives by refusing to answer it.
* Ask yourself if you're expecting God to spare you from the normal
consequences of living in a fallen world.
Acknowledge that, in our fallen world, suffering is common for every
human being. Expect to have trouble in this world, as Jesus predicted
we all would. Discuss your situation with some faithful friends and
honestly consider whether God is asking you to pray against your
suffering, or whether He simply wants to give you the grace to endure
it with Him alongside you.
* Ask yourself if your understanding and expectations of God are wrong.
Seriously consider whether you're asking the wrong thing of God based
on an unbiblical set of expectations. Make sure your prayer life
reflects God's character and His promises in the Bible. Talk with
someone you trust about whether or not he or she thinks your request
* Ask yourself if you're praying for the second best when God wants to
give you something better.
As you keep praying for the good outcome you hope for, remain open the
possibility that, at the right time, God will give you something even
better, something beyond what you hope for now.
Recall the ways God has given you the best in the past and know that
He may be delaying His answer to your current prayer until it's time
to give you the best again.
* Ask yourself if your motives are selfish.
Don't covet anything, seek something that's inherently sinful, or
insist on something and try to manipulate God to get it. Feel free to
express your desires openly to God, but always with the overriding
desire to fulfill His purposes for your life. Ask God to help you
approach Him with pure motives, genuinely wanting what He wants for
* Ask yourself if your unanswered prayers are leading you into a
deeper relationship with God.
Understand that God will sometimes not answer your prayers because He
is the ultimate Answer and He wants to draw you closer to Himself.
Decide to pursue God Himself rather than what He can give you. Know
that when you make your relationship with God your top priority,
everything else will fall into place.
* Ask yourself if you're asking God to override someone's free will
and force your desires on that person.
Rather than expecting God to mechanically control someone (which isn't
a loving thing to do), expect Him to just influence that person while
still respecting his or her free will. Pray into the situation
creatively and one step at a time.
* Ask yourself if Satan is opposing your prayers.
Know that Satan will sometimes try to block your prayers from being
answered by contesting them. Ask God to help you persevere in prayer
and stand in courage against evil so you can break through spiritual
opposition. Learn about spiritual warfare and use Scripture as your
weapon in the battle. Ask God to reveal how you should best pray into
the situation. Try fasting. Spend more time worshipping Jesus than
thinking about Satan.
* Ask yourself if you have the faith to believe God will answer your prayers.
Realize that some prayers aren't answered simply because you just
don't believe that they will be. Ask God for the faith to believe.
Seek to grow in faith by worshipping, fasting, and memorizing God's
promises from the Bible.
* Ask yourself if you want an answer enough to keep praying.
Don't give up. Pray about the situation regularly and ask God to help
you persevere until He is ready to give you His answer about it.
* Ask yourself if there is a secret sin you need to confess.
Understand that disobedience may block your prayers from being
answered. Find a Christian friend you trust and confess any sin you
haven't yet confessed. Repent of that sin by turning away from it and
turning toward God. Pursue healing for wounds that keep you tied to
sinful thought or behavior patterns. Ask God to give you the strength
to forgive or apologize to people to whom you need to do so.
* Ask yourself if you're actively pursuing justice.
Know that some prayers aren't answered because of disregard for
oppressed people – in your own community, and around the world. Make
sure you're seeking to express God's love for people who are
marginalized in society, such as the poor and the disabled. Practice
hospitality. Volunteer for service projects. Act politically to
support causes that God leads you to support.
* Ask yourself if you're trying to find answers in situations where
you need to simply trust instead.
Realize that if you're doing everything right, but your situation
still doesn't make sense, you can still hold onto God like a hurting
kid embracing his or her father. Stay connected to God and keep
trusting Him while you go through your current challenges. Know that
your challenges are not in vain because God will use them to make you
a better person.
Adapted from God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer,
copyright 2007 by Pete Greig. Published by Regal Books, a division of
Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com
Pete Greig is an author, church planter, and one of the founding
leaders of 24-7 Prayer, a British charity that has grown in six years
from a single night-and-day prayer room into an international,
interdenominational Christian movement committed to prayer, mission,
and justice. A popular speaker, he has spoken to hundreds of thousands
of people on five continents. His books, which have been translated
into a number of languages, include: Awakening Cry, The 24-7 Prayer
Manual, Red Moon Rising: The Adventure of Faith and the Power of
Prayer, The Vision and the Vow: Rules of Life and Rhythms of Grace,
and Practitioners: Voices Within the Emerging Culture.