Some people are concerned with what they call ‘unanswered prayer’. They think that God hears their requests and makes no response. However, it seems to me that while there may be prayers which God does not hear, all the prayers that he hears are unanswered – though not, perhaps, in the way that we want!
Isaiah 59:1-2 shows that God does not always hear the prayers of those are separated from him by sin. God does sometimes graciously hear a sinner’s prayer – as in Luke 18:9-14. But there is no scriptural promise to hear and answer the prayers of a person who is not ‘in Christ’.
The story of Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is significant. Three times, Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed – and Gid did not remove it. But Paul’s prayer was not unanswered. 2 Corinthians 12:9 makes it clear that God spoke to Paul. God’s answer was a reminder about the all-sufficiency of God’s grace. God loves us and knows what is best for us – this means that his answer will often differ from our request. But it will be an answer. (to be continued) (From Colin Dye, Effective prayer, 2007, pp. 131-132)