By Pastor Glenn Pease
The story is told of a Russian scientist who was found guilty of a crime against the state. He was sentenced to a prison in the middle of a desert. His cell mate was another scientist. He was determined to escape, and he urged his cell mate to join him, but he refused. After much planning he did finally escape, but the heat of the desert was unbearable, and the lack of food and water plus in the inability to locate another human being almost drove him mad. He was forced to return to the prison. He reported his terrible ordeal to his cell mate, and he responded, "Yes, I know. I escaped and failed for the same reason." The scientist was beside himself with frustration and said, "Why in heaven's name didn't you tell me what it was like out there?" His cell mate replied, "I didn't want to be a negative thinker."
For lack of negative thinkers, that is people who will tell it like it is, even when what is is not what we want it to be, there are masses of people who, if they do not die in the desert of despair, survive with weakened faith, and scars on their soul. The more I study, the more I realize how absolutely vital it is that we listen to our Lord. He told it like it was, and like it is, and like it shall ever be. Jesus tells us in all honesty that there is a desert out there. He warns us of the dangers, and does not shy away from being a negative thinker.
"Be careful," he warns as he opens this chapter. There are all kinds of ways you can lose out and damage your relationship to God. The paradox is that all of the areas of danger are good things. They are things like giving, prayer, and fasting. You can do all these good things in such a wrong way that they drive you from God rather than draw you near to Him. This is not a pleasant reality for Jesus to lay on us, but thank God for one who tells us of the dangers, and gives warning so we can avoid them.
Most godly men will not give us such warnings, for they are fearful of being negative thinkers. Jesus makes it clear that it is the truth that sets us free, and truth covers a lot of territory, and it includes the dark side as well as the light side. Only the whole truth will make us free. S. D. Gordon was right when he said, "It is always bad to have the truth hid from our eyes." This means that if there is a negative side to an issue, it is bad not to think about it and be a negative thinker. I want to focus on the negative truth Jesus tells us about prayer. There are many books on prayer that will not tell you what Jesus tells you, because they do not want to be negative thinkers. They hope by avoiding the negative they will protect you from that side of reality. But what they do is force you to learn about the negative the hard way, and risk permanent damage to your faith.
Jesus will not do this, and that is why we must listen to Him, and test all others by the light of His Word. You will have to read far and wide on prayer to find anyone who comes close to Jesus in telling the negative side of prayer. I see three major reasons why prayer is not answered in the teaching of Jesus in verses 5 through 14.
1. First is the matter of motivation. You can pray for the wrong reason, and when you do your prayer never reaches heaven at all. It is a bird without wings.
2. There is the matter of misconception. You think that quantity is what impressed God, and so by vain repetition you hope to storm the gates of heaven. Jesus says forget it, for prayer is not magic, and God is no machine.
3. There is the matter of missing mutuality. If you do not have the same spirit as God does in forgiving others, do not expect Him to answer your prayer for forgiveness. God's love is like electricity; it will not flow in where it cannot flow out. You can't receive what you will not give. Jesus promises us that if we refuse to forgive our prayer for forgiveness will not be answered.
So Jesus tells it like it is in the world of prayer, and in so doing He complicates things, and forces us to wrestle with the conditions for answered prayer. What happens when we do not want to wrestle with such things, and take the short cut of teaching very positively that God answers all prayers? Such positive teaching may induce faith in those whose life is smooth sailing, but injures faith in those whose voyage is across stormy seas. The only real question is this: Is it true? Does God answer all prayers? Let's look at how this teaching has affected the lives of those who have believed it.
1. A young girl tore her new geography book just before school ended for the day. She put it in her desk and went home feeling bad about it. She remembered her teacher had taught her that God would do anything for her. So she prayed that He would fix the book so that it was not torn anymore. She prayed with persistence, and with faith. She eagerly went to school the next day expecting the book to be as good as new. It was a great disappointment to find the page was still torn. Her faith was thrown for a loop, and she struggled with many questions. Was she a bad girl? Didn't God like her? Was she rejected by God? How many millions of children go through terrible times of self-rejection because they are taught that God will answer all their prayers?
2. Somerset Maugham in Of Human Bondage has the character Philip praying that his club foot would be healed so he could play sports. With no doubts in his mind he prays fervently, but in the morning he comes limping to the breakfast table. Now he is not only defective of body, but damaged in spirit.
3. Mark Twain's greatest objection to Christianity was the teaching of children that God answers all their prayers. He writes of how Huckleberry Finn had such a teacher, and of how he experimented with prayer. He once got a line he said, but no hooks, and it warnt any good without hooks. He prayed 3 or 4 times for the hooks, but couldn't make it work. Huck said he went into the woods and had a long think about it. If prayer can get anything, why don't deacon Winn get back the money he lost on pork? Why can't the widow get back her silver that was stole? Why can't Miss Watson the teacher fat up? He concluded, "No, says I to myself, there ain't nothin to it."
4. R. F. Horton gives this testimony: "I remember as a child putting God to the test. I placed a bright farthing in a drawer, and then knelt down and prayed for God to transmute it into a half-sovereign. With trembling eagerness I opened the drawer, and found that the copper was copper still. That was my dawn of skepticism in prayer." If pennies could be prayed into dollars, all Christians would be faithful in prayer, and even eager for all night prayer meetings. This childish dream does not last long, of course, because one is quickly disillusioned about prayer as magic. This fairy tale level of prayer, however, is still often imposed on children and adults by those who do not want to be negative thinkers.
5. A study of the Civil War reveals that the South had as many godly leaders as the North, and the prayers for victory were as sincere and fervent as those in the North. Many godly Christians had their faith shaken when the South lost the war they had bathed in prayer. God refused to give victory, even to His own, when they fought for a cause which was not His will.
6. Madue Royden tells of the British soldier who came home from World War I, and his family rejoiced as they told him how they had prayed for him, and knew that he would come home. He protested, "Don't talk like that. I can't bear it." He had seem dozens of his comrades killed who were equally prayed for, and some he had watched die while he prayed with passion for them.
Illustrations of unanswered prayer are endless, and you need look no further than your own life, for any body who is into prayer at all has experienced unanswered, as well as answered prayer. Unanswered prayer is most dangerous when you don't believe it exists, and you twist and turn reality to fit your notion that all prayers are answered. Like Miss Marshall and her aunt Miss Marsh who prayed for Captain Hedley Vicors to be spared as he fought in the Crimean War. He was shot and killed, but they refused to believe their prayer was unanswered. They rationalized and said that we prayed for life for him, and God gave him life forever and ever.
This kind of mind trick may work for some, but the fact is, they prayed he would not die, and not that he would live forever in heaven starting then. They made the opposite of what they prayed for to be the answer to their prayer. Those with this gift can, of course, always hold fast to their faith that all prayers are answered. But if you define answer to mean getting what you asked for, the fact is that many prayers are not answered. I do not like it anymore than you do, but I prefer to face this reality rather than to pretend that whatever comes is an answer. With this view there is no distinction between an answer and no answer. It is popular to say that all prayer is answered either yes, no, or wait. This is a clever way to include unanswered prayer in answered prayer. It is saying that since God always has some response to our prayer, even if it is total rejection, it is still an answered prayer. It fools a lot of people, for I hear this quote quite often. The motive for it is good, for it is designed to comfort, and some people do get comfort out of the idea, or it would not be so popular. The problem is too many people get to thinking about how no is an answer. It is like trying to comfort someone who sent out a thousand surveys and only got 47 back, by saying their was a 100% response. Some said yes and sent them back; some said no and threw them away, and some said I will wait and throw it away later. Do you really think that this Pollyanna perspective will convince him that it was a perfect success because every survey got a response?
It is true, however, that sometimes a non answered prayer is the best answer. This was written by an unknown Confederate soldier. "I asked God for strength, that I might achieve: I was made weak that I might obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things: I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy: I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men: I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life: I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I received nothing that I asked for, but all I had hoped for." God gave him what was best for him, but the fact is, his prayers were unanswered. He got God's will for him and not what he prayed for, and so God in His wisdom will not answer our prayers because they are not the best for us. So our trust is to be in God and not in prayer.
There are many illustrations that come out of the Civil War, for both sides had many thousands of prayer warriors. Equally godly people were praying for victory for their side. The Confederate troops prayed on their knees with all the fervency that men can pray with before the battle of Sharpsburg. General Gordon was confident with such earnest prayer they would win and press on the Washington within a week. The next day the battle went against them and they were so discouraged with God. But years later General Gordon admitted it was a blessing for the country that they were defeated that day, for had they won and defeated the Union our nation would be among the weaker nations of the world. In other words, God could not answer their prayers for victory, because it was contrary to His purpose in history. We need to keep this in mind when we pray. The very non-answer could be our greatest blessing.
A false view of prayer that makes it the object of one's faith is a subtle form of idolatry. It is surprising, but a false view of prayer is the door to atheism for many. Faith Baldwin tells of the girl whose fiancée was killed as a pilot, and she said, "I went to church everyday and prayed. I prayed every night and almost every waking hour. But he was killed. I shall never pray again, nor enter a church." Prayer changes things alright, and sometimes for the worst when it is exalted to the level of magic, or as the key to one's faith. It becomes a subtle form of blackmail where you, in effect, say to God, "You either answer my prayer, or I cancel you off my list. I don't want anything to do with a God who does not do things my way."
Job said, "Though he slay me yet will I trust Him." Now that is faith in God. Faith in prayer says, "God, if you let me down, I will forsake you." It is the ultimate in presumption, for in essence it is saying, "God, you do my will, or you are fired." Man just loves to be in control of God. There are only three possibilities.
1. God answers all prayer.
2. God answers no prayer.
3. God answers some prayers, and does not answer some prayers.
The first two are the only two that people want to believe because that gives them control. If God answers all prayer, then God is the servant of man, and all we have to do is manipulate God through prayer. We have the secret formula, and He is in our hands. The unbeliever and atheist goes for number two, for if God answers no prayer, He is of no use, and so for all practical purposes does not exist, and man is in control.
The third alternative people shy away from because if that one is true, we don't have any control over God. He is free to chose to answer or not, and we do not like God having that kind of freedom. It takes Him out of our hands altogether, and it leaves us at His mercy. Like it or not, that is the way it is. God is free, and in His sovereign freedom He can, He does, and He will chose not to answer prayers for any number of reasons. Here are some-
1. Because of hypocrisy to be seen of men. Jesus said false motives will lead to unanswered prayer. Matt. 6:5
2. Because of double mindedness. James says, "Let not that man think he will receive anything from the Lord." James 1:7. James 4:3 makes it clear that wrong motives will lead to unanswered prayer. He writes, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." It is just common sense that if you are on the wrong road you will not get to where you want to be. Speed will not help, nor will sincerity benefit the cause. If you are going the wrong way, nothing will help but turning around and going the right way. Not even prayer will make a difference. God will not answer even good prayers when the one asking is going the wrong way. This is praying so as to use God for your genie to get your will done. It is saying, not Thy will, but mine be done.
3. Because you refuse to be reconciled with a brother. Matt. 5:23-24
4. Because you refuse to forgive another. Matt. 6:14-15
5. Because of a thousand and one ways by which we refuse to listen to the Word of God. We become stubborn in disobedience, and like a rebellious child who does not get his way. Prov. 28:9 says, "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law even his prayers are detestable." Prayer does not always change things, for if the one praying does not change, the prayer changes nothing. Prov. 20:28-9 says, "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord." A good example is Saul who was totally out of God's will seeking the Lord, and we read in I Sam. 28:6, "He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets." God sometimes refused to respond at all. In Mic. 3:4 we read, "Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done." God makes the principle very easy to grasp in Zech. 7:13 where he says to His people who refused to listen to His laws for treating people in loving kindness, "When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen, says the Lord Almighty."
6. Some requests are just plain contrary to His will. Sometimes they are like the man before the firing squad who was asked for his last request, and he asked for a bullet proof vest. It was, of course, refused. And so it is with many things we ask that have no place in God's plan. You cannot expect prayer to take the place of work and study. You cannot pray to get good grades and not put forth the effort to know the subjects. You cannot pray for your house to get painted and not do it, or hire it done.
7. Prov. 21:13 says very clearly, "If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." Prayer is conditional in so many ways. It is not automatic at all. Many times God had to say to Israel that their sins had separated them from Him, and He would not even hear their prayers.
8. In I Sam. 8:18 God says to the people who have refused to let His Lordship be sufficient, and who have demanded a king like the nations surrounding them had, that he would grant them a king, but that that the king would become a burden rather than a blessing. Then He adds, "When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day." Here is a promise, not to answer their prayer, but a promise to not answer their prayer. I don't think this has ever been anybody's favorite verse, but it is a fact, and God has promised unanswered prayer to be a fact of life. It is not just possible, it is guaranteed. We reap what we sow, and very often we cannot undo our choices by prayer. God in mercy often brings good out of evil, but the fact is, He also often lets us reap the evil of our choices. Even this may be good for us in the long run, but it is not an answer to our prayers.
9. In I Peter 3:7 we read, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." Peter makes it clear that we can hinder our prayers by behavior that is not pleasing to God. Many prayers are likely not answered because of bad relationships and negative behavior between mates.
10. Jesus said if two agree on anything their prayer will be answered, but James and John asked for seats at His right and left hand, but Jesus said it was not for Him to give, and so the request was refused. Prayer that is asking for what is out of God's will cannot be answered by the very nature of it. They also asked if they should pray for fire to come down from heaven to destroy the Samaritans, but Jesus told them they had the wrong spirit. Here were two Apostles who knew the experience of unanswered prayer because they had a spirit that was not of God.
11. Reginald White has an example even of the unanswered prayer of Jesus. He writes, "Jesus prayed for Peter, before the great denial, in view of the denial, about the denial-but Peter still denied. Even the Lord's intercession could not evade the crucial test, or prevent the shameful fall." The point is God cannot answer prayer by rejecting the very freedom he made man to have in His image. He will not change the basic structure of man's nature in answer to prayer. If prayer could do this, all people would be long ago saved, and nothing bad or foolish would ever again be chosen by God's people.
John R. Rice traveled across America, and he reported that the number one prayer in churches is for unsaved husbands. Why is this prayer so often unanswered? He says because it was a sin for those Christian girls to marry them in the first place, and if God just fixed it up every time what is the point of forbidding it? But God cannot violate their will and force them to be saved. Prayer will not give anyone power over another person's will.
12. James 5:15 says, "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up." Again, by the very nature of reality as it is, this prayer cannot be answered always, for then no one would ever die, and we would have eternal life now by prayer. This prayer will always be unanswered at some point, and nobody can expect it to always work.
13. Prayer will not be answered when it is contrary to the laws of nature, usually. I say usually, for that is what a miracle is, something contrary to the laws of nature, and miracles do happen, but the fact is, they are rare compared to the regular operation of those laws. The little boy who prayed, "Lord, please let the vitamins be in pie and cake instead of spinach," will not likely see his prayer answered. Nor the one who prayed, "Lord, please let Detroit be the capital of Illinois." God will not make 2 plus 2 equal 5 just because it is not to your advantage that it is 4.
Jesus is not anti-prayer anymore than He is anti-giving or anti-fasting, or anti-anything that is done for the glory of God and the good of man. But Jesus deals honestly with the negative side of these things, for the only way you can avoid pitfalls and disillusionment is to know the truth. The truth is that there is more unanswered prayer in this world than we can imagine. The billions of prayers said by rote, prayer wheels, or other methods of vain repetition, plus numerous Christian prayers based on ignorance and a false foundation, go unanswered every day. Fortunately, many of life's blessings do not depend on prayer at all. God sends His rain on the just and the unjust alike, and both good and evil enjoy the energy of warmth and light from the sun. Even those who never pray at all experience a multitude of God's blessings.
We can be thankful that God does not let everything depend upon the prayers of man. He permits prayer to influence His providential plan in nature, but it is primary objective and independent of the subjective wills of men. Every weekend of the spring and summer some bride and groom, and some sports lovers, are praying for sun, and at the same time there are farmers who are praying for rain. If God permitted prayer to control the weather, a majority on one side or another would create havoc. I'll leave that realm of reality in the hands of God, but even in the areas of life where God invites the input of our prayers, there are many reasons why they are not effective, and why they go unanswered. Don't feel bad if you have unanswered prayer. You join the great company of the heroes of history. They were great persons of prayer, and they changed the course of history by their faithful prayers, but they also experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer.
Jesus, of course, is at the top of the list. The perfect Son of God, whose prayers were always ideal, and yet He had to hear God's no. "Let this cup pass from me," he prayed, but He had to drink it to the last drop. He was ready to surrender, and He added, "Not my will but Thine be done," but His will was not to drink it, and He did not get His will, for there was no other way. Jesus also prayed for Jerusalem, but they rejected Him anyway, and His prayer was not answered. He said, "I would, but you would not." Jesus did not always get His way, and that is why He wept and experienced sorrow to the depths. He knew the frustration and the agony of unanswered prayer. God cannot meet every desire, for many call for the cooperation of man, and if man will not cooperate, God cannot do it alone because it would violate the free will of man.
Paul knew plenty of this burden, and one personal problem stands out. Three times he prayed for the removal of his thorn in the flesh, and all he got in return was a no. Moses pleaded with God to let him enter the promised land, but God refused to hear him, and he was not permitted to enter. David pleaded with God to let his child live, but the child died. Sometimes God's no makes perfectly good sense. When Elijah pleaded with God to take his life, we can see why God refused that request. If God took home to heaven everyone of His children who cried out in depression for escape, the rapture would be a continuous process, rather than an event at the end of history. If you give the issue some concentrated study, much unanswered prayer makes good sense.
In the first place, life would be a nightmare of uncertainty if God let the universe be controlled by the prayers of His people, rather than by natural law. The legend of King Midas illustrates this. He prayed that all he touched would turn to gold, and he was just delighted as he began to touch things and increase his fortune. But then he touched his daughter, and he lost a treasure that gold could not buy as she became a statue of gold. Thank God He does not grant every whim and wish of His people. Once when He did it and granted Israelites their wish for meat, they got with their miracle of the quail a plague that killed them by the thousands. God granted their wish, but sent leanness to their souls. In the light of this we should often thank God for unanswered prayers. Shakespeare was right when he wrote, "We, ignorant of ourselves, beg often our own harms, which the wise powers deny us for our good; so find we profit by losing of our prayers."
Longfellow was right when he said, "What discord we should bring into the universe if all our prayers were answered! Then we should govern the world and not God. And do you think we should govern it better? It gives me pain to hear the long, wearisome petitions of men asking for they know not what." Many a Christian can give testimony to the blessings of unanswered prayer. One couple pleaded with God for a certain home. They didn't get it. Later they learned that the buyer was greatly disappointed because he found much dry rot in it. We do not always know the good reasons why God does not answer our prayers, but often we can find that good reason. Unanswered prayer is a challenge to self-examination. Let's look at a couple of known reasons why God does not answer prayer and see how this reality should motivate us to self-examination.
1. We already looked at I Peter 3:7 where prayer may be hindered by a husband not treating his wife properly. This is very logical, for God certainly is not going to be a partner in making marriage the opposite of what He intended it to be. He will not reward behavior that is contrary to His will, and there is no way to calculate how many prayers go unanswered because of such behavior. The implication would be that any abuse of another person will hinder your prayers from being answered.
2. If God answered all prayers He would be far less discriminating and rational than our earthly fathers. They do refuse our requests quite often because they are selfish and uncaring. They refuse many of our requests because they are caring of us. They know that much of what we desire is either dangerous for us, or not appropriate at the time. They know some of the things we request our just plain stupid, and it would be nothing short of evil to grant the petition.
Is our heavenly Father less concerned about such matters? No way! He too refuses to grant the enormous number of immature prayers His children pester Him with daily. He would be irresponsible if He allowed the world to be run by the whims of His children. We respect parents who do not let their children turn their home and life into chaos, but who discipline them and say no. So we ought to expect as much from our Father in heaven. This means we need to examine our requests and ask ourselves if we are being selfish and unreasonable to even expect such prayers to be answered.
Is there any value in all of this negative thinking about the reality of unanswered prayer? Yes there is! It sets us free from those things that hurt us worse than the truth that many of our prayers will not be answered. For example:
1. It sets us free from the illusion that we have a formula for controlling God. This is a dangerous illusion, and leads to much disillusionment. This view that all prayer is answered leads many to give up prayer altogether. The woman who played Olivia Walton, the mother on the Waltons T.V. show, told of how she was taught by a priest that all prayer was answered. She got so excited she began to pray for a bicycle. When she got shoes instead the disappointment was so great she struggled the rest of her life with doubts. She could have been spared all of that by being told that maybe, or maybe not, her prayer would be answered for a bike. The simple truth would have set her free and given her a realistic view of prayer.
It could have saved Bob Ringer, the author of Looking Out For No. 1, and Winning Through Intimidation, a loss of faith in prayer. He wrote of his teen experience. "I prayed for some things that were pretty important to me and nothing happened. So I just gave up the whole idea. Sort of outgrew it, I guess." This is what false teaching on prayer leads to in many lives.
2. It sets us free from a false dependence on God. People who expect God to take care of everything lack initiative to take the responsibility to work out their own problems. You cannot just pray for weeds to go away, you have to get out there and pull and spray. God will not let you get by with praying about things that you can do yourself. You chances of getting a toothache taken care of by prayer is quite remote. You can go to the dentist and use the means available to take care of it. Just as the bank will not cash all checks until certain conditions are met, so God will not answer many prayers because you have not met the conditions. If you use the means available to solve a problem and it does not work, then it is appropriate to seek God's answer in prayer. But to expect God to hand you an answer when you do not even try to use the means He has made available through the wisdom and labors of men is presumptuous. The church was established to meet many of the needs of the body, and we need to take advantage of that, and not expect God to do directly what He does through the body of Christ.
3. It sets us free from the practice of Christian voodoo. We do not stick pins in dolls to try to influence people, but we do try to do the same thing, and get control over others through prayer. We would like to manipulate the lives of others by prayer, and we would if it would work. But God does not allow prayer to be like magic. He will not allow us to force people to make the right decisions through our prayers. They have to make the right choices themselves. It is legitimate to pray that they will make the wise choices, and to follow the prayer up with what influence we might have, but we cannot expect that prayer alone will make people choose wisely. When you pray for others to do what is best, be prepared for many unanswered prayers, for God does not rob people of their free will in answer to anyone's prayers.
We must constantly fight the battle for balance, and not be caught up with the extremes that say all prayer is answered, or no prayer is answered. Both extremes are false, and so we need to live in the middle where we know some prayers are answered and others are not. The Bible portrays all the great prayer warriors as suffering the agony of unanswered prayer, but never do they give up on prayer because of their disappointment. The batter that gets 3 or 4 hits out of 10 is a hero. He misses more than he hits, but he does not give up and quit. So men ought always to pray and not faint the Bible says, for those who are persistent in prayer will have far more answers than those who give up and cease to pray. Partial success always beats total failure in anybody's book. Only those who persist in prayer will taste the fruit of victory along with the agony of defeat. The absence of answers ought never to keep us from the abundance of answers that will surely come to those who do not faint and give up.
A realistic view of prayer makes us put our trust in God and not in prayer. Those who preach that prayer is always answered almost idolize prayer. It is not prayer that saves us, loves us, gives us guidance and wisdom, and seeks the best for us in all ways. It is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who is to be the place where we put our faith and hope, and not prayer. Prayer is just the means by which we communicate with God. The love and power are in God and not prayer. When we grasp this we will not be ready to abandon God when He does not answer all our prayers. We may never know all the reasons why, but we can trust Him and keep on trusting Him no matter how many unanswered prayers we have to endure. That is what faith in God is all about.
If we go to the great faith chapter of Heb. 11 we see many prayers that were answered, but a whole host of them that were not. After a long list of great victories we come to the last part of the chapter and get a list of prayers that were not answered. Many of God's children were tortured, beaten and put in prison. They were stoned and butchered and put to death. They were terribly persecuted and abused and lived a life that was very miserable. They prayed a thousand prayers that were never answered, but they are commended because they remained faithful to God, and they never gave up because they never received the promise. They knew that God would make it up to them ultimately. This is faith in God, and not faith in prayer, and that kind of faith is what enables people to endure and press on even when prayer is not answered.