I prayed a lot for you tonight. My mom called me and we always pray together, so we both prayed for you –to get a job, to be encouraged, and to have hope.
Let me make a few suggestions that could be the possible answers to your questions, though I certainly do not claim to know the reason so many of us have gone through, or are going through, struggles of agony. But let’s remember, “But God! But His Word! But His promises!” That’s why I hold up my Bible downtown. Because it truly is our hope, our comfort, our guidance. It is a supernatural book. But to tap into that supernatural book, which is actually Jesus (see Rev. 19:13 & John 1:1,14), we have to read it and meditate on it. We can’t expect that it will nourish our spirits (it’s our spiritual food) unless we eat it. It won’t be ingested into our spirits by osmosis.
Also, since Jesus and The Word are one, then to understand the Word of God (the Bible), we must have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) indwelling us. Otherwise we will not understand what we are reading. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14)
So step one in having our prayers answered is: Belonging to Christ, being adopted into God’s family, being His child. Unless this is the case, He has no obligation to listen or help.
Another reason God may not answer our prayers is if we are not being obedient to what we already know He expects. Ps. 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” So step two is confessing our sin and repenting of it –a 180 degree turn-around– and walking in complete and committed obedience.
Now, if we have sinned, we get up. We do not wallow in guilt. That is the enemy! No, we who love the Lord go to Him in reverent, genuine, weeping repentance… He stoops to lovingly and completely forgive. Now… –forget it! Never turn back to it, and never LOOK back at it. 1 John 2:1 was written for our comfort and courage: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense –Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” And as 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Now, if we belong to Jesus and we are walking in obedience, then another reason, as you mention, can be that we are being trained for strength –that strength needed for many future things. Such as more trials, or acquiring the discernment necessary to help others in their trials, or so as to learn God’s character and ways and become “conformed to the likeness of His Son.” (Rom. 8:29) And we know also “that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (5:3,4) And again, as James 1:3,4 puts it, “…you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Wow. That’s a pretty cool achievement.
So the goal is:
1) –being just like Jesus
2) –being mature
3) –being complete
4) –not lacking a thing
How is the goal achieved? –Through trials. Through suffering.
Believe me, I know this all can sound discouraging when we are smack in the middle of the raging sea. But God does bring His children through the flood, the fire –without drowning, without being set ablaze. (See Isa. 43:2) And we can “soar on wings like eagles.” (40:31) HOW…? It’s by T – R – U – S – T . “For those who hope [–another word for trust–] in the LORD will renew their strength.” (same verse) “In His Word I put my hope.” (Ps. 130:5) “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (34:19) That’s God’s Word. Remind Him that He never lies. If He says it, then it is so –for the one who TRUSTS in that Word. For the one abiding in His Word. (See John 15:7)
God will not turn a deaf ear to His trusting child who comes to Him in that childlike faith saying, “Oh, Heavenly Father, please in Your mercy, grant my request. I love You, Father. I adore You. I cling to You. I know You want the very best for me.” (Kiss, kiss, hug, hug, love, love.) Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, coming to die for me, watching over me, caring about me…” Just as we want our own children to speak to us, He wants us to speak to Him not with complaining, pouting words, but with positive, expectant words of love. He will answer, for He is too compassionate to ignore this from His adoring, trusting child. I have, however, found He usually doesn’t answer immediately –like He makes it seem natural, rather than miraculous– but He answers soon enough.
So “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Ps. 31:24)
One last thing: What if the water is already swirling over our head and we can barely utter a prayer, much less battle with praise? Well, we are called “the body of Christ” (see 1 Cor. 12:21,27), are we not? So we do sometimes need to have another take our care and cast it for us onto the One who can command the deliverance. Do you have people in your life who can do this for you? I do, and they are priceless to me.
Well, ________, let me know if this helps. I will definitely be praying for you; so I will be expecting new and good things for you –for we petition “the God who performs miracles.” (Ps. 77:14)
“Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)