We have come up with many excuses why God is not capable of answering prayers. Do we just need to lower our expectations for this life?
There are a couple of things here.
One, there is, honestly, a part of me that would like to say, yes, “let’s just lower our expectations.” It would be easier. C.S. Lewis once said, I think it’s from his Reflections on the Psalms: “It’s not the unanswered prayer that bothers me so much as the promises of prayer.”
We wouldn’t have these expectations if it weren’t for all these promises. And I can relate to that. It’s the disappointments. I would rather be surprised than disappointed, so I would always want to lower the bar. I don’t like to be let down. The trouble is, however, that I regard the Bible as being inspired and authoritative, and the Bible is what gives us these promises that prayer is powerful and effective.
Two, on the other hand, we see that often prayer is not answered, and so we try to do our best in terms of thinking why isn’t it answered, given the variables we talked about, and living in the mystery of this war zone and things coming off the way they do and being real with that. And at the same time, holding onto faith and saying, I’m going to keep on trusting that prayer is powerful and effective, even if I can’t see how it is always answered. It helps me a lot to remember that faith is not psychological certainty, so that I don’t need to be trying to constantly convince myself that something is going to happen when I know that it might not. I burned out on that rather quickly. Just know, it’s okay to say I don’t know if this is going to turn out, but I do know that this prayer here and now is going to make a difference. It’s influential, not coercive. Partnering with God will bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.