Many times you hear believers rationalizing unanswered prayer. They usually say things like, "His ways are above our ways." Or, "He knows me better than I know myself." "God knows best." "Where God closes a door he opens a window." Is it possible to debate things that exist in the unseen unheard realm? One could perhaps hypothesize that things or events, which happen in the natural world, are byproducts of the supernatural. But we'll never know.
Suppose you ask your friend for a ride to work. You call your friend “Bob” up on the phone and ask, "Hey Bob, can I get a ride to work?" How long does it take Bob to respond to the request? And, if Bob denied you the ride to work, would you ask him again? If Bob denied you a ride five times in a row, would you keep asking him? Or, would you move on to another petition? How often does the prayer need to be answered in a favorable way to make this form of petitioning valid? Twenty-five percent of the time? Fifty? Ten?
What kind of friend would you think Bob was after denying you a ride to work? What kind of friend would you think Bob was after denying you a ride to work over and over again? Would you rationalize it, saying, "Maybe I wasn't meant to have a ride to work." This train of thought could, perhaps, be justified if there was a mass shooting at work that day. But, if it was an uneventful day, would you think that Bob was smarter than you for not giving you a ride to work? "Bob knows better than I do about what I need and what I don't." And, if you were unable to show up for work, and your employment fired you, would you say to yourself, "Where Bob closes a door he also opens a window."?
Let's add to the scenario just a little bit. Let's pretend that you don't even know this guy “Bob." You don’t know anything about Bob. You don't know where he came from, or even if he is a “he.” You don't know where he's going. You don't know what language he speaks. You don't know what color he is. You don't know if he's an American citizen. You don't know if he has mental illness. You don't know if he is heterosexual or homosexual. You only know what you have been told by people who have never laid eyes on him. Would you still ask him for things? Would you still ask him about his thoughts? Would you still ask him about your thoughts? Would you ask him what you should do with your life?
If one is going through a troubling time and seeks a solution that never comes-and then something else good happens which takes the edge off of it-does this mean that the prayer was actually answered? This surely is the logic utilized by many of the faithful. “I was bit by a rattlesnake and lost two fingers of my right hand. Then, I won five dollars playing scratch and wager. God is good.”
Believers make extravagant and elaborate claims regarding prayer. "God always answers prayer." Believers are encouraged to pray as often as they possibly can. Jesus said, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (NIV) That really puts bump in the Bible trunk. Too bad the almighty couldn’t make up his mind. Try five.
Believers will claim they have heard from God at times and impose their message or divine decree on the rest of the flock. In evangelical circles it's not uncommon for one believer to get a particular message about another believer. The recipient of this “whisper from god” sometimes acts upon what they think they heard; rather than simply relaying the edict. Chaos often ensues. Upon receipt of this message from God the party who was spoken of, by the divine, is left to wonder whether the message was authentic or not. If they do not behave like the message, from above, was authentic they run the risk of being viewed as sinful or apostate. Often times, these messages or "prophecies" become authentic with the consensus of the church.
It is not uncommon for church leadership to publicly make a “news update” about a particular sheep within the flock. The message is not always positive in nature. It can be very condemning, humiliating, and critical. And, it can be completely baseless. It can also be a power trip from a megalomaniac.
It is not uncommon for the pastor of an evangelical church to foretell the future of a given individual. Your author knows of one case where an individual was prophesied to become a millionaire. To your author’s knowledge, this is yet to happen. And, it's been more than a decade.
What is sad about something so outrageous is:
1) Claiming you actually heard from the Almighty an immutable truth about a fellow human being and then having to save face.
2) Relaying a “message” from The Way, Truth, and Life which completely falls short of being an actual truth.
It is funny to note that these "snake oil salesman" continue to have paying audiences no matter how many times they've received the ol’ “egg on the face.” Consider the doomsday sayers which believed the Mayan calendar spelled the end of the world. Some, in response, stopped paying their bills and closed their bank accounts. Shouldn't such people be disqualified from giving any form of advice no matter how insignificant?
The simplest answer for unfavorable or unanswered prayer would be: You had a solution which may or may not have worked but it was shot down. And if your potential solutions are routinely shot down what does that mean? It could be you simply do not know how to converse with the Almighty in ways that are efficient. It could mean that you don’t have enough intelligence for basic problem solving.
Your author realizes that he has, in essence, disqualified himself from rational thought since he was a member of an evangelical church and did most of the above. Your author has been given forum in Catholic youth groups, youth prisons, secular middle schools and high schools, and various other Christian churches. He has spoken of god to friends, family and coworkers. What he thought he knew and believed has been proven to be superstition and hoax. He perpetuated a lie.
One might even suggest that any renderings from your author should be subject to much scrutiny and criticism and possibly even totally dismissed. Your author has spent some of the best years of his life trying to convince others of something he would later become unsure of himself. And, for that there is deep regret and shame. To be fair, however, your author has always addressed his listening audience with words such as, "Don't believe me. Check it out for yourself." That's as big of a disclaimer your author could ever give and one that should be taken very seriously." Sometimes, when you look close enough that something, it changes in appearance. And when it does, one becomes better equipped to deal with what is in front of them.
Your author has spent years outside of the fold. Communication with an invisible deity ceased roughly six years ago as of this writing. What has life been like since severing contact? In short, it's been pretty much the same. There've been good things, which have taking place. And, there have been bad things, which have taken place. Trouble has lasted only as long as it's taken to find a solution or for it to work its way out. A cancer scare was abated. A shitty employer tried to ruin a career. Taxes went up. A raise was procured. A nice vacation was taken. A dog was put down. Over payment on child support was reimbursed. A tire was trashed. A crappy apartment complex is currently seeking a bogus sum of money for breaking a lease; even though they broke the contract by providing less than prompt maintenance service; spoken of in the contract. Visitation with his daughters over Christmas break was wonderful. A new and healthy relationship is being enjoyed.
It was a mixed bag back when your author sought help from God. And, it is a mixed bag now. Nothing much has changed except the fact that your author is no longer confused by the lack of correspondence from this invisible deity.
Should you be confused, what is sure is that your author will perish. Death will come knocking and will claim another life. How will it happen? Disease? A home invasion? Heart attack? A wild animal? A jihadist? An aneurysm during sex? Mercury poisoning from a Godzilla maki? A car accident? Rest assured, the more spectacular the death, the more believers will claim revenge from a god who will not be mocked.
You say that prayer is useful and effective? How long have people been praying for peace on Earth?
Here a simple test for the effectiveness of prayer: The next time you are with your dinner plate, do not use your hands nor utensils. Simply pray for the food to enter your stomach. Continue this with each meal until your miracle arrives. Don't forget to pray in tongues.