Trivial Prayers and the Silence of God When It Matters

The Bible tells us that our God is a God of love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8, etc.). He is more willing to give good gifts to His “children” than even the most loving earthly father is (Matt 7:7-11). To put it in other words, God enjoys showering His beloved ones with little gifts. Just to say, “I love you.” And I believe He loves to do this in some of the most personal and practical ways imaginable. Perhaps you’ve just lost hope of finding a parking spot in time to meet a critical appointment. You send up a desperate prayer and suddenly a space appears. A worried mother wonders where her boy is and sends up a quick prayer. Just then the phone rings and she discovers all is well. Or you survive a harrowing experience and discover later that several friends felt impressed to pray for you at exactly that time. Millions of believers around the world have experiences just like this every day. It is reasonable to suggest from this that God is real and that He loves to make His presence known to those who are open to it.

But just now the skeptic in you is saying, Wait a minute! Are you trying to tell me that God manages the comings and goings in every parking lot around the world just in case one of His followers needs a spot at the last minute? If prayer is sometimes timed to remarkable events, what about all the times when people pray and “nothing” happens? What about all the real heartaches in this world that are met with silence? What about women who are raped and their cries for help go unheeded? What about men who contract terminal cancer in the prime of their life and feel as if their prayers go no higher than the ceiling? What about parents who pray for wayward children and go to their graves without a clear response from God?

These objections have serious weight. Believers often fail to realize how trivial their experience of God’s presence may seem to others who have suffered deeply in this life. Our glib expressions of how God is working in our everyday lives can be like a knife in the heart to someone experiencing the absence of God. I know this from experience. When my father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, we hovered by the bedside for several days as he fought for his life in a deep coma. On the fourth day the doctor informed us that things had reached a critical phase and imminent death was likely. We assembled the elders and the pastor of our church for an anointing service. I prayed with great passion that God would either heal my father or let him go. The last thing anyone wanted for my father was years of living in a vegetative state. But God chose neither of the options I so earnestly gave Him. My father could neither walk nor communicate for the six plus years that followed. Caring for him all those years destroyed my mother’s health. It has seemed to me that the most serious prayers are also the ones that don’t get answered.

We must never forget that the absence of God in everyday experience can seem the norm to most people. It is even something Jesus experienced when He was on the cross (see Matt 27:46 and parallels). In spite of the deep intimacy with God that characterized every day of Jesus’ ministry, in the 24 hours before His death Jesus experienced increasing darkness to the point where He could no longer see the Father’s reconciling face. The withdrawal of a sense of God’s approving presence caused Jesus the deepest anguish (see Desire of Ages, page 753). To experience the silence of God, then, is no indication that a person is actually forsaken by God or is an incorrigible sinner. But at times like that it can feel as if God answers only trivial prayers.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series.

2 thoughts on “Trivial Prayers and the Silence of God When It Matters

  1. Duncan Henry

    That the Almighty would deign to grant us an audience with Him is beyond belief. That He commands it and even seems to enjoy communing with us is even more unbelievable. Can any request we could possibly make be worth more than even a little knowledge of this incredible and benevolent Lord? “And this is eternal life, that they might know You…”; whatever we ask, and however He answers, we should be so fortunate if the result is we grow even ever so slightly in the knowledge and faith of Him.

    Many thanks for the joy you have in sharing your faith and the fruits of your years of study. My wife and I recently finished re-watching your youtube series on Revelation with Dr. Graeme Bradford. We have been truly blessed as a result (Revelation 1:3 is a promise!), and recommend the series to friends. We attended church with you a number of years ago, and you always greeted me with a smile when I came to collect offering at your pew. Best wishes to you and your family!


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