Weather Alert:

Church programs for Monday, Jan. 22 will resume their normal schedule at all locations this evening.

Programming Note:

Leawood’s Sunday night in-person worship has been moved to 4 pm for Sunday, February 11. 

Close this search box.

Jesus' unanswered prayer

May 2, 2023

Daily Scripture

Mark 14:32-36, 41-45

32 Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. 34 He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” 35 Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

41 He came a third time and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One [or Son of Man] to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.” 43 Suddenly, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a mob carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests, legal experts, and elders. 44 His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss, and take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as he got there, Judas said to Jesus, “Rabbi!” Then he kissed him.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Mark (also Matthew and Luke) said Jesus himself prayed, intensely, for a result that did not happen. Pastor Hamilton found a web site that listed “common reasons” why prayers go unanswered. The list included, “You are not seeking to please the Lord, you have unconfessed sin in your life, you pray with improper motives, or you lack faith.” He said, “I find this list obscene.” * Speaking to hurting people, it was obscene. But to explain Jesus’ unanswered prayer, it was also utterly ridiculous.

  • Luke recorded that Jesus also urged his disciples to “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation” (Luke 22:40). Pastor Hamilton noted one important factor when we think about the “power of prayer”: “God will not suspend another’s free will to answer my prayers.” ** What temptations did the disciples face (and, mostly, give in to) in the hours ahead? In what ways can prayer strengthen your free will to meet the temptations and other spiritual struggles you face?
  • Pastor Hamilton often shares that, when someone is ill, he always boldly asks God to grant full physical healing. He always asks, but knows that, by definition, miracles are rare. Jesus in the garden plainly asked God for what he wished for, though aware it might well not happen. Does fear of disappointment keep you from asking God for what you most want? Practice this week: pray a prayer about a concern (big or small) on your heart. Model it after Jesus’ prayer.

Lord Jesus, obviously you know how disappointing it is to ask for something important, and not receive it. You know what I sometimes go through, and I thank you for promising to go through it with me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

“I’m fine.”

If you ask someone how they’re doing, that’s going to be a very common response. Asking how someone is doing and hearing that they’re fine has become such an automatic part of our everyday conversations that it’s often reduced to a formality before we move on to what we really want to talk about. For many, “I’m fine,” is the most common lie they tell. I’m one of those people who always means it when I ask how someone is doing. In the interest of honesty, let me be real about the other half of that question: I am not fine right now.

I’ve opened up about this on the GPS before, but I have very bad depression. This, much like the thorn Paul mentioned in yesterday’s passage, is a lifelong medical condition I have, and one that I’ve accepted will never be taken away. The serotonin and dopamine receptors in my brain are fried, so the chemicals my body releases to give me feelings of happiness, contentment, and achievement just don’t always work. Now is one of those times when I’m really feeling the lack of serotonin and dopamine in my body. I cried on my way home from the gym today. That’s my thorn in the flesh.

In my years talking about this, mostly online but with some conversations in person too, I’ve heard a variety of statements that suggest that my condition is my fault. I’ve heard that I’m suffering from a demon attack, and when I tell them that it’s actually a medical condition, I’m told that I just don’t want to get better. I’m told that God will heal me if I just have the faith—with the implication that my continued suffering is due to a lack of faith. I’ve heard that God won’t heal me because of unconfessed sin in my life. On some level, I know that each of these people was trying to solve the problem of my condition; but their responses were thoroughly unhelpful.

As a society, we are very uncomfortable with problems that do not have an easy solution. People will often ignore systemic injustice and complex social issues when someone offers a simple, albeit incorrect, explanation to take their minds off the issues. Deep-seated relationship issues are often avoided in polite conversation, with much of the advice people receive on those issues being simple platitudes that do little to address the situation. In my experience, any conversation about pain or suffering is often met with an attempt to resolve the source of that issue in a single conversation, which is, of course, impossible—and then, frustration when the problem is not easily fixable with a few simple phrases.

In 41 years of living, God has not taken away my pain. I don’t hold this against him, or anyone—in fact, to me, depression is just as much of a warm blanket as it is a curse, because of how used to it I am. I don’t say this to garner sympathy; I just want readers of this post to know that sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers, and that is not the fault of the pray-er. I don’t have an answer for that—and believe me, I’ve searched for one. Unanswered prayer in the face of suffering is something we all experience in life, but all too often, we talk about it as an abstract concept or a theory that we speculate on. I just wanted readers to know that I am intimately aware of this issue, and continue to be. It’s part of my life. And that’s OK.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Hamilton, Adam. Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will. Abingdon Press. Location 399-403, Kindle Edition.
** Hamilton, Adam. Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will. Abingdon Press. Location 544, Kindle Edition.