You need a major change to occur in your life. This isn't just something you want, but you feel that you desperately need this. So you pray. But years later nothing has changed. Perhaps over those years you have made every effort to persuade God to act.
While it isn't stated this explicitly in Scripture, you've always believed that God helps those who help themselves. David didn't just wait for Goliath to fall. David did his part. If you just work long enough and hard enough, you can surely make things happen. So you make every effort, exhaust every resource, and explore every avenue. You work yourself to exhaustion in an effort to do your part. But nothing changes.
So you reason that perhaps God is trying to show you what he can do on his own power without your help. You sit back, relax, and wait for God to act. Still nothing happens.
So you may reason that you just aren't praying hard enough. You combine prayer with fasting attempting to bring your prayer to the next level. God needs to see you're serious about this thing. Perhaps you have friends who love you enough to even fast with you. Still no response from God.
So maybe if just more people were praying, that would make the difference. Then God would be persuaded to act. This approach seemed to get Peter out of prison. So you have fifty friends praying in twelve states. Nothing changes. Maybe prayer vigils are held. Nothing changes.
You finally conclude that maybe you've been traveling the wrong road. You must change the entire direction of your life. So you start to travel a strange and unfamiliar path. Not a wrong path, but just a different path. But it seems that this road likewise leads to nowhere.
Okay, so it must be the sin in your life that hinders your prayers. You decide to purge yourself of every bad habit and every character flaw. You kick yourself for every relapse and every failure, thinking that maybe you're sabotaging your hopes for an answered prayer. But even during long stretches of committed faithfulness, nothing changes.
So you conclude that maybe it isn't God's will for your circumstance to change. You try being contented with the state you're in. Things change alright. They get worse and you become more miserable.
Throughout these years of wrestling in prayer, well meaning people cite all the cliches, platitudes, and pertinent Bible verses:
- All in God's timing. Sometimes he says "wait."
- God's ways are beyond our ways.
- God has his reasons. Just trust him.
- God is not a vending machine.
- No one ever promised life would be fair.
- Good things come to those who wait.
- It's always darkest before the dawn.
- Just tie a knot and hang on.
As true as some of these statements may be, they aren't that helpful when someone is wondering why God seems so distant. So can God be persuaded to act? What are we to make of it when he doesn't?