One of the things that I have struggled with is the question “Why didn’t God answer my prayer” in regards to the life of my husband. Jerry Sittser, who lost his wife, mother, and one of his daughters all in the same car wreck, also struggled with this question and wrote the following:
“An epic story always covers a huge canvas. Central to the plot of an epic is a journey, undertaken by an individual, family, or community, that involves some mission or quest. The main characters must locate a buried treasure, restore a king to his throne, solve a puzzling mystery, or make their way home after years of wandering.
However happy the ending, an epic often has a great deal of darkness in it–tragedy, suffering, betrayal, and terrible sacrifice. There are strange twists and turns that leave us breathless as we wonder whether the characters will complete their quest. If anything, struggle is necessary to the nature of the story itself. The success of the quest becomes all the more meaningful because of the disappointments the characters experience along the way. The resolution comes as a joyful relief in the face of what once appeared to be unconquerable.
Light shines all the brighter considering the darkness that threatened to prevail.
I believe that prayer is an epic story. In the end we receive answers, for Jesus himself promised it would be so. But the problem is, all of us pass through stretches of time—sometimes long stretches of time–when God does not seem willing or capable of answering our prayers.
Struggle and suffering are bad enough in themselves, as we all know. They are worse when we cry out to God for help, believing with every bit of faith we can muster that God will hear our prayers–yet still feel unheard. Such experiences can test our faith to the breaking point.
It wouldn’t be such a serious question (Why didn’t God answer my prayer?!) if we didn’t take prayer so seriously. Perhaps how we respond in the face of such mystery is more important than whether or not we ever find an answer to the question itself.”