Unanswered Prayer

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. – I Corinthians 12:1-11

Now consider the implications of this for unanswered prayer. There is more than one reason why we may pray for things and yet not receive them. Reasons may include 1) because we don’t trust God (James 1:6); 2) because the answer would not glorify Christ and sanctify us as much as something else (2 Corinthians 12:8–10); 3) because the answer is coming later than we think (Joseph waited 13 years before he saw the reason for his afflictions, Genesis 37–50).

But here is a reason we may not think of very often. God may intend to give us the blessing we long for not directly in answer to prayer, but indirectly in answer to prayer—through the spiritual gifting of another believer. And the reason we don’t receive the blessing is that we don’t avail ourselves of the power God intends to channel through the gifts of his people.

For example, the gifts Paul mentions include wisdom and healings and miracles. This implies that God intends that sometimes wisdom and healing and other sorts of miracles come into our lives through other believers ministering to us. If this were not true, there would be no point in spiritual gifts. They are one way God brings about the “common good” of the church.

If we pray and pray for some change we want to see, but we never consider seeking the ministry of a fellow believer, we are like the eye that says to the hand, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

So in your small groups (which is the most natural place for such ministry to happen), seek the fullness of God’s “good” (1 Corinthians 12:7), and minister to each other—and seek to be ministered to—in this way.

– John Piper
Desiring God Devotionals

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