There was a long season of my life, about ten years, when , under the influence of the writings and teachings of the revivalist Charles Finney and his modern-day endorser Keith Green, I made daily prayer a matter of intense discipline. I enjoyed, yes thoroughly enjoyed, at least an hour a day of early morning prayer on my knees. I followed the ACTS outline: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication, and I felt it incumbent on me to spend as much time as possible on adoration and thanksgiving so that God would not deem me an annoyance—always asking for things. But, even in my supplications and petitions I asked not for my wants or needs but rather for the advancement of God's glory and the conversion of individual souls: co-workers, family, friends.
When I was "baptized in the Spirit" in my sophomore year of high school and discovered glossolalia or "speaking in tongues," my prayer life changed and became more infused with zeal and sincerity. With my bedroom in the basement, I added dancing and singing to my prayers. I would literally "dance before the Lord" with all my might, singing praise songs and signing out in tongues. No one could hear me as it would be early morning and I was at a distance with my family upstairs and me in the basement, dancing on the concrete floor. I would dance. I would cry tears of joy, tears of repentance, and tears of supplication. I was sincere; I was zealous; I was the real thing. I looked forward daily to these times with God—they were very much a part of me.
Never, in all my time supplicating and seeking God, did I ever experience an answer to prayer. Yes, there were events that I attributed to God's providence or even to the miraculous, but nothing that now in retrospect I see as God's doing. I have never experienced an answer to prayer. During these early years of my faith, in my zeal I faulted myself for unanswered prayer. I often thought upon John 14:14, "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." I reasoned that if God was not answering my prayers, then the fault is not God's but mine: my disobedience or lack of faith. This rationale was fueled by I John 3:23 which conveniently states, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Hence, if God was not giving me what I asked, I knew it must be because I was being disobedient in some arena, some secret sin.
When my Father was sick and dying with cancer in August 2003, we gathered together a group of believers around him. I anointed him with oil and called upon God's promises to heal the sick in response to the prayer of faith. I felt that any doubt in my heart that God would not heal my Father would jeopardize my prayer's efficacy. I fasted that day, and I confessed extra long that morning of any sin, real or imagined, that the "Holy Spirit" would convict me of. I expected God to show. My dad died thirty days later. God did not show.
God does not answer prayer. Prayer may have a place—it might console a person or be a practice that quiets the heart from the bustle of daily routines, but it is not efficacious in the real world. I have never seen an undisputable answer to prayer. For the Evangelical and the Christian believer, God has an eternal regress—an escape route that will always exempt God from answering prayer. This excape route is you. You are why God is not answering your prayers, and, despite how pure you might think you are, there will never be an answer to prayer that cannot be attributable to other than God. God does not answer prayer.