Unanswered prayer does not always lead to bitterness and cynicism, but once in a while it does. How will we respond when we pray for protection, and our mom dies instead? How will we respond when we cry out for years for the seemingly good gifts we believe the Father would give us — return of a wayward child, freedom from deeply rooted sin patterns, relief from chronic pain — and yet, with the Psalmist, we seemingly hear no answer (Ps. 22:2)?

Some, after weeks or months or years of such disappointment, sadly or angrily turn their backs on God. Others resign themselves to a safe and stagnant faith. They mumble a blessing over meals and slap an “All things work together for good…” (Rom. 8:28)1 on the unendurable pain of prayers left unanswered.

And yet, many persist in prayer, in faith, in hope, in love, despite the unceasing suffering of unanswered prayer. Not only do they endure thorns in the flesh that will last a lifetime and grief that will end only when Jesus returns, they mature spiritually. They are transformed into people of strengthened faith, confident hope, and extravagant love. If unanswered prayer can lead to greater spiritual maturity, how might such transformation take place? It begins with a sound understanding of the richness of prayer.

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with Journal author Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage about her article in the current 44:3 issue of the Journal entitled, “How Unanswered Prayer Grows Faith, Hope, and Love.”

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