Ever been in a situation where you feel your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling - no-one is there - you feel nothing and all is silent?
I have - and it's very disconcerting to say the very least.
Many leaders in our churches and well meaning friends take a leaf out of Job's friends and point out to you that God has sent this silence. God is really pointing out that maybe you have sinned and turned away from Him and now it's really up to you to fix the problem.
Some may tell us that we get no answers to our prayers because we are simply overwhelmed with guilt and it's fairly and squarely our own fault. We are afraid and self centred and have no real faith in God.
Then others may say it's because of our deliberate and continual sin that's stopping communication with God.
When we look at Job's three friends we can see those very points leaping out at us and basically what they were saying can be correct, sin is wrong very wrong and nothing will ever change that.
If we continually sin and feel nothing, never asking forgiveness, never repenting just expecting God to automatically forgive us, then we are doomed never to feel the gentle touch of the Lord or experience the confidence He gives us of being one day eternally with Him.
So it feels like God's not listening when we pray and we seem to be getting nowhere?
It's so easy to say God isn't listening to our prayers because we are disobedient; it's so easy to say rid ourselves of guilt and keep asking God for forgiveness, over and over again.
It's so easy to accept that I must have sinned so badly that God has cut me off from His blessings - I must repent and keep on doing so.
I feel the answer to our problems is not so much as we have sinned and have to go looking for that illusive problem from way back when,
It's not so much as we are consumed with our guilt and therefore separate from God, It's simply in the word "feel" - think about for a moment.
The question I had to ask myself was - How do I expect God to answer my prayers?
Do I expect God to answer me in a set way? Should I 'feel' something when I pray? If so what should I 'feel'? If we expect God to answer us with feelings then often we will be mightily disappointed.
Of course God can do anything, but praying to Him just to feel good or to get some sort of warm and fuzzy, then it's no wonder he doesn't 'seem' to answer.
Of course God answers our prayers - thing is are we listening? I feel God mainly answers us through His word. Read it and draw closer to Him - feel the words as you read ask Him to reveal Himself through them.
God doesn't turn His ears off and turn away from us - it is more like we are not listening properly when He does answer us.
My suggestion: (and only what I have learnt myself) Get familiar with His Word and He will speak to you through it.
Another problem of seemingly unanswered prayer is giving up on God - our prayers for deliverance of some problem, family, illness, you name it, often never sees results. So we give up.
My mind goes back to Paul. He prayed and prayed that he would be delivered of a problem that was obviously holding him up in his ministry.
Paul was given the answer 'My grace is sufficient for you'. In other words what I have done for you is enough for now.
Often we don't ever find out what the long-term answer will be - we need to accept that God's grace is indeed sufficient for us and learn to trust Him with the solution.
So instead of questioning God, giving up on Him or feeling our prayers are just going nowhere, let's get closer to Him by reading his word, asking Him to reveal Himself there. Let's grab hold of the promise that indeed His Grace is sufficient and that His will for us is perfect.
As we go about this week, let's pray that His will be done in our lives. let's be aware of Him in every situation we find ourselves, knowing that He hears our prayers regardless of how we are 'feeling'.
Let's dedicate our very lives to Him and ask Him to make them a prayer for Him so that everything we do, say and think brings Him honour.
God bless you as you step out with God this week. My prayer for you is that you experience His closeness regardless of your feelings, doubts or insecurities.