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Unanswered Prayer

Are you waiting for God to answer a prayer right now? Does it seem like the answer is a long time in coming? Or, did you pray about something that God never answered at all? In this Bible study, learn more about how the Lord works through unanswered prayer.

Begin by reading about the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:1-46.

1. God wants us to bring Him our concerns. Mary and Martha had a godly desire: they wanted their friend Jesus to come heal their sick brother. At the beginning of the story, they didn’t hesitate to share their request with the Lord (v. 3). Later, neither was afraid to tell Him about her disappointment that He didn’t show up in time to save Lazarus from death (v. 21, 32).

Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

  • What is weighing heavily on your heart today? Take a minute and pour out your feelings to the Lord.

2. When God doesn’t respond as we think He should, He has a higher purpose for our suffering.

  • Although Jesus loved Lazarus, He chose to stay in Bethany two more days. What was His perspective on Lazarus’s sickness (v. 4)? 
  • What was the ultimate purpose for Christ’s delay (v. 14-15; 45)? 

In a similar way, God has wonderful plans for us that don’t always include answering our prayers in the way we expect or when we expect. However, we can trust that He will always work things out for our good and His glory.

  • Read Romans 8:28-29. For what did God predestine us, according to verse 29? 
  • Write down an unanswered prayer in your life that allowed for God’s best in your life. For example, perhaps you prayed for your spouse to change, and because he or she didn’t, you grew spiritually and emotionally, learning to trust God in the midst of a difficult marriage. 


3. Even though God knows the ultimate outcome of our suffering will be glorious, He still has compassion on us in the midst of our heartache.

  • Read John 11: 32-36. Why do you think Jesus wept? 
  • The Jews who came to mourn with the sisters had two reactions to Jesus’ weeping. What were those two reactions (v.35-37)? 

When God takes a long time to fulfill our requests, it’s easy to start to doubt Him and think, Why would a good God allow suffering?

  • When you suffer or see others hurting, do you focus on God’s love for individuals, or His apparent inactivity on their behalf? Why? 
  • A good father responds to his children with love and compassion when they’re hurting. How you think God responds to the things that distress you? Read Psalm 103:13-14 and Psalm 147:3.  

4. In order to see our prayers answered, we must sometimes obey God when He asks us to do things that don’t make sense.

  • Why did Martha initially protest that the stone should not be removed from the grave (v. 39)? 
  • Has God ever asked you to do something that, at the time, made little sense, but later on, you realized it was essential to seeing your prayers answered? If so, describe it and the ultimate result. 


Closing: Many times, it’s obvious why God didn’t answer our prayers. Maybe His initial “no” leads us to something better—such as a higher-paying job or a more appropriate spouse. Or, like Mary and Martha, we witness an amazing miracle that points people towards Jesus. On the other hand, some unanswered prayers leave us reeling in doubt.

When God seems deaf to your requests, the challenge is to continue to draw close to Him and trust Him. Ultimately, He will bring something wonderful out of the situation. Prayer: Father, thank You for having everything under control. Help me to draw near to You and trust You even when I don’t understand what Your purpose is. Use my circumstances to glorify Your name. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright 2011 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.