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Why won’t God acknowledge our prayers?

One reader wrote, “I just lost my wife of 62 years and 134 days, and I’m devastated. I prayed and prayed for my wife, and the more I prayed the worse she got until she succumbed. My question is, Why doesn’t God acknowledge our prayers? Not answer them - just acknowledge them.”

First, please let me begin by simply expressing my condolences. 62 plus years is a lifetime, and I am sure that it was filled with countless examples of great joy. Losing a spouse is never easy, but when you have been so knit together for such a long period of time, it truly is like being torn apart. We can understand in situations like this, quite clearly, how the Bible describes a marriage as two becoming one flesh.

I know what you are asking, but I would be a fool to respond without hearing the pain trapped behind the question. Let me assure you, that God was not ignoring your prayers, he simply had another plan.

Job 14:5 states, “Since [mankind’s] days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass…”

Similarly, we read in Psalm 139:16-18, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”

From these verses, I think we can at least answer some of the thoughts and emotions surrounding your question.

First, I want to reassure you that God knew the number of your wife’s days. I don’t know the long circumstance surrounding her passing, but I can assure you that it did not take God by surprise, nor was he distant or aloof to it. Indeed, God knew the exact date and time that your wife would pass before she was even born. Prior to her days being a reality, God was already fully informed. I share this because even though you may perceived God as absent or disinterested in your prayers, he was very much present and engaged.

Her days were written. In Job is stated that God has appointed limits that man cannot pass. We may be spectacularly advanced with science and technology, but at the end of the day we still fall quite short of the divine. Our days are established, but that does not diminish the pain. Your hurt is real, but I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that God was not ignoring your prayers. The answer was simply already written.

Second, I want to bring to mind the second half of the verses which I shared from Psalm 139. When the psalmist says, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast the sum of them!” he is speaking of God’s thoughts for him.

Have you ever paused to reflect on that reality? How vast are God’s thoughts for you? They are more numerous than the sand on the seashore (which if you have ever been to Wildwood you know is quite a lot!). When you wake in the middle of the night, groaning in sadness and disappointment, still God is with you - thinking about you long before you opened your eyes from restless slumber.

Allow me to point you to the cross and the empty tomb. God indeed acknowledges all of your pain, your sadness, and your prayers. He know the pain cause by the sin-scarred world that took your wife’s life and will, inevitably, take yours and mine. He knows the tears that were shed and those that continue to fall. He wept too over the loss of loved ones, but more he wept in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose separation over communion and relationship with their Creator.

So many are God’s thoughts for you, so intimate his acknowledgement of your need and your pain, that he carried it on his whip-rent back, along with a wooden crossbeam and the spit of soldiers, to a hill where he would be executed… for you. Even if you were the only, he still would have had to and been willing to go to those great lengths.

He bore your sin, becoming a curse on your behalf, in order to die so that you might live. He conquered death, raising from the dead three days later, that you - and your wife - might live. The life he gives is not resuscitation, to be brought back to life only to die. It is resurrection, to be brought back to life to live eternally.

How? “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Trust in his goodness. Surrender to his kindness. Submit to his love. That is the essence of faith.

My friend, God does hear you. He does acknowledge you. His response is for you to come to him and find rest.