The last reason we may not see answers to prayers is the reason most people give for all unanswered prayers. That reason is that what you are praying is not God's best for you.
There was a time when I suffered horribly in my marriage - some of it was due to my selfishness, some due to his. At the time, I thought it was ALL due to his selfishness and if he would shape up then I would be the most godly woman on earth - or pretty close.
I prayed and prayed for God to restore my marriage. I can tell you right now that if God had reached down and touched my marriage, it would not have been God's best for me. I needed to learn how to get my needs met from the Lord. I needed to forgive, confess, have faith and enlist the prayers of others (the last four things we discussed in this series), but it was also NOT God's best for me to have a great marriage until I learned how to be joyful and at peace when things were not as I wanted them.
At the time, I would have told you that I was certain it was God's will for my husband to be a godly man, spiritual leader and an affectionate loving husband - living with me in an understanding way. I was sure that it was God's will for me to have a great marriage. Yet, the truth is...if I had never learned to have joy, peace, laughter and be full of love towards my husband in spite of the fact that he wasn't even close to what I wanted in a husband, I would NEVER have learned those things otherwise. I would never have learned to find my peace from the Lord. A great marriage offers a woman so much peace that she can easily forget the source of all joy and comfort. I would never have grown in spiritual maturity if I had the husband then that I have now.
His will is for good, to bless us with good things. However, sometimes we must wait until we learn how to receive those good things. I wouldn't have known how to have that great marriage in my immature neediness. I needed my husband to be godly. I was sooooo needy.
After learning my place as a helper to my husband, not groping for him to bless me, God gave me what I really needed: a heart is to minister to him as my husband with no conditions. Today, he's godly because he has chosen to walk with God in that way, not because I needed him to be. I learned that what I really need is God - the only thing I really need is a close walk with God. I can have total and complete peace and joy in the presence of the Lord. I can get it no other way. But I would never have learned that if God had given me what I wanted when I wanted it. Yes, sometimes what we want for ourselves is really not God's best. It's not God's will.
But how do we know what God's will is? How do we know if what we are asking is not His will?
The answer is to have a vital, life giving, genuine walk with Him. If we draw near to God, truly draw in close and seek Him alone - forgetting all the other things that seem so important and just seek Him - many of the things we think we need or want will change, and those things which we really do need (like bills paid) will fall into place.
Seek ye first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these WILL be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
That simply means, seek God alone, and He'll take care of the rest.
You see, once I finally learned to get my needs met, my need for affection and affirmation, by the Only One who can truly make my heart whole - then and only then would God grant me the desires of my heart.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Interestingly, once my heart was knit to God, I felt a tugging on my heart to pray for certain things, and I knew that God intended to answer those prayers. It was like I became a vessel that God prompted to pray, and He worked through those prayers. God has, for some reason, ordained man's prayer as the means by which He will accomplish His purposes.
John Wesley said "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."
Now, that may be a bit extreme. But I do know that when my heart was yielded, I could feel His Spirit prompt me to pray for this or that. Sometimes He would awaken me at night to pray for specific people that perhaps I hadn't thought of in years. God works through prayer. We can know and believe that He does.
I found that when I was truly walking with Him in a vital relationship, whatever I asked for in prayer was done. Interestingly, I seemed to know what to ask and what not to ask. It was as if I was led by His Spirit in all that I would and would not pray about. And my heart's desires seemed to be aligned to desire only those things which I felt Him give me the desire to desire. Does that make sense? It's a bit strange when I try to explain it. I'm not saying that I only desired "holy" things. For example, if I was late going somewhere, I would feel a prompting to pray that I would not hit a single red light. And I wouldn't. I knew that if I prayed for it, I wouldn't hit the red lights. However, on another occasion, I would hope not to hit any red lights, but I would feel sort of a check in my spirit about praying for that. I seemed to know in my heart that God wouldn't have me pray for that - and so I didn't. And I would feel at peace about the fact that it wasn't going to be His will for me to sail down the street without stopping. I was keeping in step with the Spirit. Oh! to be there always. How wonderful that would be, huh? It only requires that we spend a great deal of time worshipping and praising and praying. Something we should make time to do even in the midst of homeschooling our babies. God's desire is to embrace us in His loving arms - no matter how neglectful we've been lately. We seem to always be wandering off like the prodigal, forgetting our place as an important and valued child of the Father. And He always waits, willing to, over and over again, run and embrace us, gather us into His forgiving arms, placing the royal robes around us, putting the signet ring back on our finger - proclaiming our place in the family of God - and celebrating our return from the land far away from our Father's embrace.
As prodigals, we aren't wasting our inheritance on wild living, only groping in the dark for peace and joy outside of our Father's embrace. Again and again we find out that there is no peace and joy outside of Him. I can't count how many times in my Christian walk I've played the prodigal.
Like the prodigal, we think that we've been away so long, living our own lives on our own terms so long that we're certainly not worthy to go home to our Father's house and be an honored daughter of the King. In our desperation and loneliness we think "But maybe He'll receive me back and drop a few morsels of His grace from the table to me." Yet, again and again, when we finally do turn back towards home - He picks up His robes and runs full speed out to meet us, embracing us and ushering us back in, forgiving us for our long absence of living in self will - and pouring out all His blessings upon us - renewing His perfect plan and vision for our lives.