What do you say to those who say they pray and pray but never get an answer?

‘Persist in prayer’

The Rev. Penny Ellwood, Blue Springs, Mo., United Methodist Church of the Resurrection: My short answer is, “keep praying.” Unfortunately, the short answer isn’t particularly motivating or helpful without a longer conversation.

Sometimes we treat God like a big vending machine in the sky. We plunk our perfunctory prayers into the slot and push a B4 or a C7 and wait, not very patiently, for God to drop our desire into the tray. But this isn’t the kind of relationship God wants with us. A true relationship requires two-way communication and the freedom to choose. It means we speak and we listen. The time we spend in prayer helps us to grow closer and become more intimately connected to God.

In this relationship, God has the full benefit of knowing what is best for us and how our requests might play out if we were to receive all that we ask for. He weeps when the choices of humanity lead to pain and suffering, and sometimes, albeit rarely, God grants a miracle.

Yet knowing all this, that we might not pray for the right things, at the right times, or for the right reasons, Jesus teaches his disciples to “persist in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) But I don’t think that Jesus’ point was to wear down God to the point of capitulation.

I believe that what happens when we persist in prayer is that our relationship with God grows and our hearts become aligned with his heart. God begins to move from the periphery of our experience, from the big vending machine who supplies our needs, closer and closer to the center.

We begin to see how our requests affect others and whether they align with God’s purposes. God is calling you to be in communion with him, to be his partner in prayer. So I say, “Keep praying!”

God answers, one way or another

The Rev. Raymond Davis Jr., founder and pastor emeritus, Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ: One of the most difficult spiritual exercises is prayer and praying. The most essential reason for the difficulty is that the human spirit is prone to doubt and lack of trust in God. When there is faith, commitment, then God gives a power to help us pray; he is the third person of the divine godhead.

Scripture lauds his help; consider Romans 8:26-28: “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.” This text gives us cause to know that not only does God answer prayer, but also that he provides for us the Holy Spirit, also called “the comforter,” who helps us in our praying.

We pray about something and some things. Prayer and praying directs us to Scripture answers. God answers prayer, in some instances, by directing us to Scripture. Any person who is deep into Scripture will know when God is directing them to Scripture for the answer.

God weighs every prayer circumstance we place before him.

Sometimes God’s answer is – “wait” (Psalm 27:14).

Sometimes his answer is – “Be still” (Psalm 46:10).

Whatever the prayer circumstance, God will answer, one way or the other.

The Negro praise hymn says: “He may not come when you want him, but he’s right on time.”