A friend of mine and I often discuss the various objections atheists consistently raise against the Christian faith (this is what I am interested in defending).
Numerous objections are normally brought up in our conversations including the problem of evil, naturalism, and alleged contradictions in the Bible.
However, we both agree that many of the objections raised by the unbeliever often have to do with God not working in the manner they think He should.
The following are examples of these types of objections:
"God would not (fill in the blank)."
"If God existed, He would....(fill in the blank)."
"God didn't answer my prayer..."
While discussing these objections (and others like them), my friend provided the following fictitious conversation to illustrate the atheist's position: (admittedly, this does not apply to atheists universally)
Atheist: God should have given me cookies. ("cookies" could be anything here)
Chad: Maybe God doesn't give out cookies.
(Meaning, maybe God had a purpose for not answering your prayer in the manner that you pre-determined was acceptable. After all, if the God of Christianity exists, I believe it's completely logical to conclude that He most likely has a better vantage point in which to decide what we do and do not need.)
Atheist: I used to believe that God would give out cookies, but I didn't get any. So, my experience tells me that God doesn't exist. Therefore, your suggestion that maybe God doesn't give out cookies doesn't make any difference.
(Translation: God didn't give me what I wrongly believed He should; therefore, He obviously cannot exist.)
Please consider the following:
1) If the Christian God exists (and I believe we have good reason to believe He does), then I see no logical reason to assume that He is required to act in any way that we (finite humans) pre-determine to be acceptable.
2) It is completely reasonable to believe that God has reasons for answering prayers and reasons for not answer prayers. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God provided everyone with everything they wanted.
I myself can look back and remember prayers that I shared with God that were not answered, and I can honestly say that I am now thankful that He did not answer them the way that I had requested. See Isaiah 55:8-9
3) When someone requests something it is important to remember that "no" is a valid answer. It may not be a desired answer, but an answer nonetheless.
4) Answered prayer can certainly be considered evidence for the existence of God; however, it is not necessary evidence for the existence of God.
5) The purpose of prayer is not to treat God like a cosmic drive-thru, but to shape our character to be more like His own.
6) Finally, could it be that God is not the problem? Could it be the Asker of the prayer? Scripture does provide us with reasons as to why God may not answer specific prayers:
We really don't believe God can answer (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6-8).
We ask with wrong motives (James 4:3).
Unconfessed sin separates us from God so He will not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2).
We set up idols in our hearts that come between us and God (Ezekiel 14:3).
We don't answer those who cry for help (Proverbs 21:13).
For myself, I believe the most important question is- "Do I have good reason to believe that the Christian God exists and has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ?" I have concluded that I do; therefore, He is sovereign over all things and knows what I need better than I do.
Jesus Himself, when faced with the crucifixion, prayed:
"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39b, ESV; Emphasis mine).
There are no easy answers to the mystery of unanswered prayer; however, perhaps unanswered prayer is a necessary part of the growing process for every believer.
Each of us either desires the will of God or our own will. When all is said and done, God is gentlemen enough to say, "as you will..."
Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross
1) Dawson McAllister, Why aren't my prayers answered?, http://christiananswers.net/q-dml/dml-y002.html, 1997.