At these challenging times we are hearing so many people express the need to distance themselves from news reports in order to remain positive in their daily lives. This can be a real challenge for us all.

With Easter almost with us, our Associate Member, Anne Coutts has sent her notes on Pete Greig’s book ‘God on Mute’.

 God on Mute, by Pete Greig

These notes are mostly quotes that I felt important. I have not given extracts for the last half of the book.  I encourage you to buy or borrow a copy!

In his enthusiastic foreword Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, describes this as a profound book.

Chapter 1 opens with “If your deepest, most desperate prayers aren’t being answered, if life sometimes hurts so much that your secretly wonder whether God exists, and if He does whether he cares, and if He cares, why on earth He doesn’t do something to help, you’re not alone. Surprisingly, The Bible reveals that Jesus – even Jesus suffered the silence of unanswered prayer. … and Unanswered prayer is only a problem for those who believe.  For others, it is simply a confirmation that they were right all along.”

The book takes the form of a journey through the four days of Christ’s betrayal, death, burial and resurrection.


HOW Am I Going to Get  Through This?

Abba, Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.

  • Mark 14.36

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is wrestling for His life, in prayer…We each arrive in Gethsemane by different paths.

In Chapters 2 and 3 Pete gives the account of his wife Sammy’s terrifying seizures, trip to hospital, the bad news that she had a tumour in her brain, the successful operation, and his reflections on prayer in such circumstances.

He reflected on Christ’s prayers in the garden of Gethsemane. In saying Abba, Father, Christ reveals the tenderness of his relationship with his Father.

He quoted Karl Barth saying, “true prayer is primarily very simple; it is an asking.” He also quotes Andrew Murray, a South African writer in the last century “the power of prayer depends almost entirely upon our apprehension of who it is with whom we speak.”

Pete goes on to say that when we are scared and hurting, when life feels chaotic and out of control, it is more important than ever to anchor ourselves in the absolute and eternal truth that we are dearly loved and deeply held by the most powerful being in the universe.

C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew tells of Digory’s encounter with the great lion Aslan. Digory asks for a magic fruit which would make his dying mother well again. His wish is not granted but he sees the tears in Aslan’s eyes and realises the lion must really be sorrier…than he was himself. Digory’s prayer remained unanswered, but everything had changed, Aslan cared.

Another quote was from Hudson Taylor a missionary to China in 1900, following the Boxer Revolution he said ”I cannot read, I cannot think, I cannot even pray, but I can trust”. Pete goes on to say that when we are hurting and the pain seems senseless, we may find it hard to think clearly or to pray diligently but we can still trust, resting quietly in the Father’s love for us. It means receiving the kindness of people as gifts from God.

God cares for us more than we care for ourselves. Paul in Romans says, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Isaiah portrays God as the one who tattoos the name of his people on the palm of his hands.

Paul says in Romans 8.18 that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ‘In’ us not just to us or for us. He goes on to say God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

When Sammy was back in hospital after a vicious epileptic attack, Pete asked if she ever doubted God’s existence or power to intervene. Without hesitation she said “No, I never doubt God these days, Pete.” Then “How can I doubt God?”  then softly “God is all I’ve got”.

Chapter 4 Into the Mystery p 40

In Gethsemane, Jesus recognises that intimate love and infinite power coexist and coalesce without contradiction in the heart of God.

C.S. Lewis cautions us to remember that, for all his tears, Aslan is not a tame lion.od’s love means that He must surely want to end suffering, and His power must mean that He must surely be able to end it. So why doesn’t He? It is a profoundly important question, not least because so many people lose faith in the face of suffering.

Pete uses examples from the lives of others to help us understand.

Aaron Kushner was diagnosed with the premature ageing disease called progeria.  He would never grow more than 3 feet, have hair on his head, or reach adulthood.  His parents tried to make the most of his short life, wanting his life to matter and for him to be remembered. He died at 14.

His father, a rabbi, wrote “I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counsellor because of Aaron’s life and death ..I would give up all those gains in a second if I could have my son back….but I cannot choose”

Kusher wrote the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It proposes that the only way to make sense of unmerited suffering without losing our faith in God is to reduce our expectations of what God is able to do.

Going back to the earliest book in the Bible, we find that at the conclusion to Job’s litany of agonising experiences, God appeared and revealed his power. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations. Tell me if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions? Who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy” – “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” cries Job in awe, as if his sufferings have simply evaporated. The book of Job is therefore both the most frustrating and enlightening treatment of unanswered prayer in the Bible.

Many people resign themselves to the idea that the suffering of this world is ultimately a mystery and beyond human comprehension.

The holocaust is cited as evidence in the case against God. For this reason an American rabbi surveyed hundreds of holocaust survivors to find out how their experiences affected their beliefs about God. About half said the holocaust had no impact on their religious convictions.  About 11% lost their faith (however many continued to be angry with him). About 5% abandoned atheism and began to believe in God as a result of their experiences!

When Solzhenitsyn reached the end of his endurance working in sub-zero temperatures, he discarded his shovel and slumped on a bench awaiting a guard to beat him to death. Before that could happen, a follow prisoner came and scratched the sign of the cross in the mud and scurried away.  As Solzhenitsyn stared at it the message of the cross began to converse with his sense of despair.  At that moment he knew that there was something greater than the Soviet Union.  He knew that the hope of all mankind was represented by that cross, and through the power of the cross, anything was possible. Picking up his shovel he went back to work.

Nothing but the message of God’s suffering could have inspired Solzhenitsyn to return to work that day – he had hope that everything was possible for God.

Our God is our Father, loves us completely, is all-powerful, and will ultimately make all things new.

Revelation 21:4-5 He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

‘On P54 Pete closes the chapter with a prayer of Ignatius Loyola

O Christ Jesus

When all is darkness

and we feel our weakness and helplessness,

give us the sense of Your presence,

Your love and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust 

in Your protecting love and strengthening power,

so that nothing may frighten or worry us,

for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand,

Your purpose, Your will through all things

Chapter 5    Naked prayer p55

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was utterly honest in prayer.  He knew that His mission was to suffer many things and yet he asked God to take the cup of suffering away from Him, but in this heart-rending request, we are assured that it’s OK to grieve and cry and plead with God.  God accepts our honesty.

Pete tells of his experience as a young man struggling with belief. He found in the Psalms disgruntled prayers much like his own at that stage in his life. He reflects on the behaviour of disciple Peter often getting it wrong and in telling Mark the stories showed he refused to play the superhero and made it okay for us to struggle and fail and get it wrong.

The Christian gospel is the story of a God who breaks the rules of plausibility – often when we least expect it and in ways we could never have predicted. Our God is our Father, loves us completely, is all-powerful and will untimely make all things new.

Pete tells of two people who had suffered horribly but who acknowledged that goodness had somehow been worked in and through their lives through the excruciating circumstances of unanswered prayer.  They both discovered how deeply redemptive it can be if our hurts can be harnessed for the care of others. Paul in 2 Corinthians1: 3-4 says “The god of all comfort…comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

It is important that we learn to lament.  Jesus himself was overwhelmed by sorrow, wrestled and cried out to God and allowed his friends to see this was how he felt.

Lamenting is more than a technique for venting emotion.  It is one of the fruits of a deepening spiritual life that has learned to stand naked before God without shame or pretence.

Out of heart-rending experiences Joseph Scriven wrote this much loved poem.  He said, “The Lord and I wrote it together.”

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and grief to bear…

Chapter 6 A Darker Trust P 68

Yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42

Pete tells the story of Floyd McClung who wrote The Father Heart of God which changed Pete’s life as a teenager, who was now facing the possibility that his daughter and her unborn child would not survive surgery.  Knowing that Pete had been through the trauma of Sammy’s operation, Floyd told him of his walk on the beach where he prayed for his daughter’s life, but he also knew he had to give her back to God.

The next day Pete mobilised as many of the 24-7 networks as possible to pray for Floyd’s daughter and her child. On the fifth day the doctors took her our of her coma.  She and her child survived!

Floyd sent messages to all who had prayed, giving God the glory for the miracle but also to encourage the care of those still wrestling with their own unanswered prayer.  Some promises of God are fulfilled in Heaven.

The power to choose God’s will instead of one’s own personal preference is, according to Scripture, the defining human opportunity.  In the words of Dylan Thomas, when our lives are enveloped by darkness, our duty may not always to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but rather to “Go gentle into that good night.”

Paul challenges us to follow Christ’s example by offering ourselves to God as a ‘living sacrifice’. This could sound masochistic and morbid but counselling professionals tell us, acceptance is ultimately the healthier response to suffering than denial or defence.

Five Stages of Grief: page 75

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Pete says these five stages explain why we may initially get angry with God, then try bribery, but ultimately peace comes by accepting God knows best. You may wonder if indeed God has already answered your prayer.

On pages 77 and 78 Pete tells of his friends, Barbara and Terry, who had been missionaries in Zambia facing the diagnosis of cancer for Barbara. Terry told Pete that she wanted die well, die faithfully, die peacefully, to trust God and to love God in the most frightening days of her life.

There is faith for life, and then there is a darker faith for death.  There is faith for miracles, but also for pain.  There is faith for God’s will when it is our will too, but there is also the grace to trust God when his will is not what we would choose.

The words of the Lord’s Prayer – or the abbreviated version that Jesus uses on Maundy Thursday are worth repeating and exploring several times a day especially when we are seeking to walk through our own Gethsemane in darker trust.

The Oil of Suffering p80,81

Gethsemane means the oil press and oil was important to life in those times. It is easy to see the potency of the images of the press and oil for Jesus that night in Gethsemane to become the Light of the World, Healer of the Nations, King of Kings. Oil can flow in our lives too from the crushing experiences we endure.  We see resilient faith expressed in the rich tradition of African American spirituals, born out of slavery.

There is an anointing, an authority, that can only come to us through the darker trust of unanswered prayer, it is an illumination both in us and through us that can only come through suffering; a healing that we can only minister when we ourselves have been wounded.

GOOD FRIDAY Why Aren’t My Prayers Being Answered? p83

Jesus legitimised for all time the need we have for explanation.

Chapter 7 Wondering Why p84-89 returns to Sammy’s recovery.  Pete says through our relatively moderate suffering, Sammy and I have learned to cherish life with dimensions of gratitude that we could never know without all the pain. The journey of life proves itself more wonderful and terrifying than we could ever have anticipated.

The book goes on to focus on (1) God’s world and the way it seems to work (2) Gods Will and the way it interacts with human free will, and (3) God’s war and the cosmic struggle between good and evil

Chapter 8 God’s World starting at p90 goes through reasons for Unanswered Prayer with helpful commentary and examples:

  1. Common Sense – some prayers aren’t answered because they are plain stupid!
  2. Contradiction – some prayers aren’t answered because they contradict other prayers.
  3. The Laws of Nature – some prayers aren’t answered because they would be detrimental to the world and to the lives of others.
  4. Life is Tough – some prayers aren’t answered because the creation is “subjected to frustration” and has not yet been fully “liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:20-21). Tragically, life in such an environment is inevitably going to be acutely difficult at times.
  5. Doctrine – some prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be because our understanding and expectations of God are misguided.

Chapter  9  God’s Will page 110

  1. God’s best – some prayers aren’t answered because God has got something even better for us.
  2. Motive – some prayers (even spiritual sounding ones) aren’t answered because they are, in fact, selfishly motivated.
  3. Relationship – some prayers aren’t answered because God Himself is a greater answer than the thing we are asking for, and He wants to use our sense of need to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him.
  4. Free Will – some prayers aren’t answered because God will not force a person to do something that he or she does not want to do.
  5. Influence – Some of our prayers aren’t yet answered because they are working gradually and not as an impersonal mechanism of forced control.

At the end of this section p131 Pete summarises his reasons for unanswered prayer:

  • Perhaps God has something better for us
  • Perhaps our motives in prayer are selfish
  • Perhaps God is allowing us to struggle a while in order to draw us into a deeper relationship with Himself’
  • Perhaps a positive answer to our prayer would violate someone’s free will
  • Perhaps God is answering our prayer subtly and slowly through the power of influence rather than control.

Pete says we are discovering that there are reasons for many of our struggles, both in the complex and fallen nature of God’s world and in the benevolent complexity of God’s will.

Chapter 10  God’s War p133 opens with another of Sammy’s seizures and Pete praying with vigor and rising faith, declaring that Sammy was a new creation, that she had been made whole by the wounds of Christ.  He claimed the power of the blood of the Lamb and continued, he said like an old-time gospel preacher.  The seizure seemed to obey, and as once before, it reversed back down Sammy’s wrist and out of her body.

The two interventions they had experienced renewed their faith in the supernatural power of prayer to impact their situation.  They felt that it was a case of God saying yes and Satan saying no. He goes on to say such apocalyptic ideas may not sit comfortably with our modern sensibilities but there is no doubting the biblical position.  See Ephesians 6:11-18

  1. Satanic Opposition- some prayers aren’t answered because God’s will is being directly contested by “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). Perseverance, faith, and authoritive use of the Word of God become vital in winning.


Standing in Faith p145 

  1. Keys to Faith: Prayer and Worship
  2. Keys to Faith: Fellowship
  3. Keys to Faith: Fasting
  4. Keys to Faith: Start Small
  5. Keys to Faith: Impulsiveness
  6. Keys to Faith: Adventure
  7. Keys to Faith: Bible Study
  8. Keys to Faith: Pilgrimage
  9. Keys to Faith: Journaling
  10. Keys to Faith: Listening to God

For each of these Pete gives explanations and examples

  1. Why Unanswered Prayer: Faith – Some prayers are not answered because we just don’t believe they will be.  However, faith grows as we get to know God.
  2. Why Unanswered Prayer: Perseverance

Standing with Integrity p156

Then the Lord said to Moses “Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!” Exodus 14:15 TLB

  1. Why Unanswered Prayer? Sin

Some prayers are not answered because of areas of disobedience in our lives. Are there hidden sins we need to confess or actions we need to take in order to lend power to our prayers?

Justice – personal injustice and disregard for the poor

  1. Why Unanswered Prayer? Justice

Some prayers aren’t answered because of our disregard for the needs of others in our communities and in other nations too.

Finally, Stand…

Don’t get too daring.  Satan  has had thousands of years of practice and we do not know 100th part of what he knows – Martin Luther

Help me to Stand on p 160 is helpful

HOLY SATURDAY– Where is God When Heaven Is Silent p163

They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.

Chapter 11 Exploring the Silence page 164

Pete says no one really talks about Holy Saturday yet if we stop and think about it, it’s where most of us live most of our lives.

A God Who Speaks and Does Not Speak

Why Is God Absent?

The Miracle of Unanswered Prayer

Rushing the Resurrection

When God Goes Missing

Christ Became the Atheist

“Via Negativa”

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go  – The lovely Hymn written by George Matheson

Chapter 12   Engaging The Silence page  179

Because God lives…present in absence, praying and responding in silence, the Easter Saturday story which leaves us mute, is also our empowerment for utterance and prayer.

Martin Luther King Jr saidI have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.”  Life’s great trials can make us bitter or better.

Looking Back: Remembering God’s Word in the Silence

Sabbath of Doubt

Looking Around: Encountering God in Other People and Places

The Sign of the Torn Veil

The Comfort of Bethany

Learning God’s Language

Speaking Out: Expressing God’s Word in the Silence

Five Minutes with Rob p 189 Pete tells a story

Being in the Presence of the Absence

Prayer by Alan.E. Lewis p 193



Every Prayer is Answered

I have seen the Lord!

John 20.18

Chapter  13  Living Hope p 196

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

1 Peter 1:3

The Apostle to the Apostles

The Refiner’s Fire

Who’s to Blame?

Questions That Heal

Chapter 14  Beyond Miracles p 207

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:19-20

Imagining Heaven

A Vision of Jesus


PERSONAL CHECKLIST:   WHY IS MY PRAYER UNANSWERED P 219 – This is a very useful summary! Beyond my ability to reproduce here, I’m sorry!




A Forty-Day Journey of Prayer

AFTERWORD by Sammy Greig