Often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far).
–Romans 1:13

In Romans 1, Paul said that genuine faith encourages other people. When we trust God in our present circumstances the way the Roman Christians did, then our faith will spill over to other people as well.

Genuine faith also endures unanswered prayer. Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? I know technically God answers every prayer. There are three possibilities of how God can answer a prayer: yes, no, or wait. God always answers prayers in one of those three ways. But the real question people are asking when they say, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” is this: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers affirmatively and immediately?” That is what most people want to know. “Why doesn’t God give me what I want when I want it?”

Paul had to deal with the problem of unanswered prayers. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul said that he had been afflicted by what he called “a thorn in the flesh” and had prayed for deliverance. Theologians differ about what that thorn in the flesh was. I think it was some type of physical affliction, probably his eyesight. But whatever the affliction, Paul said he prayed three times for God to remove that affliction, and each time God said no (12:8). Finally, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (12:9).

We see another case of unanswered prayer for Paul in Romans 1. In verse 13, Paul said, “Often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even among the rest of the Gentiles.” Paul prayed that God would allow him to go to Rome, but up to that point God had said no.

Why doesn’t God always answer all our requests affirmatively and immediately? One possibility for unanswered prayer is unconfessed sin. In Isaiah 59:2, the Lord said, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Other times, God does not answer our prayers because of idolatry. In Ezekiel 14:3, God told Ezekiel that he was not to pray for the leaders of Israel because “these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?” Another possibility for unanswered prayers is a lack of generosity. Malachi 3:8 is clear that if we do not give God the offering that belongs to Him, then we are robbing God. This passage draws a relationship between robbing God and unanswered prayer. Sometimes unanswered prayers are the sovereign will of God. Paul wanted to go to Rome, but God had a different plan for Paul. He wanted Paul to preach the gospel where it had never been preached before. Saving faith trusts God to do what is best. It is a faith that can endure unanswered prayer.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “(The) Just Live by Faith” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.