When Prayer Doesn't Seem to Help

by Jan Silvious

I've been praying for a particular person for several years. The more intense my prayers, the more aloof and untouchable this individual seems to become. I know that God has given me a burden to pray specifically and constantly for this dear soul, but I just can't see any results.

Have you ever wondered if the Lord really understands what it's like to pray and pray and yet see nothing happening for a long period of time? Or even worse, have you prayed and seen that individual go in the opposite direction?

That thought has come to me from time to time, but I never got past the thinking stage until I read these words by Amy Carmichael in her devotional book, Edges of His Way : Jan Silvious"Our Lord Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail, and within a few hours his faith did fail.

"The more we think of those last hours of our Lord just before Calvary, the more we see every kind of trial compressed into them. It was not only that His cup was filled to overflowing with suffering, but that every variety of suffering was there. It is easy to escape from the intolerable sense of such suffering by saying, ‘He was God'; for example, where Peter was concerned we may say that He saw across to the victory that would be given. But we know, though we cannot understand it, that He was man, too, and the word in Hebrews says that He suffered being tempted; to suffer means to endure or experience pain, so there is no escape by that door.

"Is there one for whom we are praying who seems to be unhelped by that prayer? Are we suffering, enduring, experiencing the bitterness of disappointment? Our dear Lord has been this way before. We shall find Him there. He who ‘turned and looked upon Peter' will give to us, will maintain in us, His own eternal tenderness of spirit, the love that cannot be tired out of loving, the patience that will not let go."

My friend, if you are tired of praying because it seems your prayers are making matters worse, I would encourage you to remember that God often has to do a stirring up and breaking down that creates pain and pressure in the life of the person in whom He intends to do a mighty work.

I spoke with a young man the other evening who was bemoaning a situation he's in that is crumbling before his eyes. While I feel compassion for him, I know that this seeming disaster in his life is a breaking that God must do before the prayers of his family and friends can possibly be answered.

Never give up, even when it seems that your prayers are achieving nothing but problems for the object of your loving concern. God is still on the throne, and though He understands and sympathizes with your feelings, He knows what He is doing. Be patient. Things are not what they seem.

From The 5-Minute Devotional © Zondervan, 1991