I’ve prayed for many things over the years. Favor on job interviews. A loving husband. Car repair bills to be lower than I expect. Benign biopsies. A baby. My list of desires can go on and on.
Then I’ve also prayed for friends, family, and acquaintances. Healing from accidents and diseases. Cancer to go into remission. Successful surgeries. Safe travels. Those lists can go on and on too.
I’ve also prayed for more ethereal things for myself and others. Wisdom. Mercy. Compassion. Strength. Courage. Patience. Discernment. Hope. Peace that passes understanding.
It seems that God is much more likely to give the ethereal things because He is much more worried about my character and growth than my physical and life status problems.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)
This Scripture passage speaks of making every effort to respond to God’s promises and add to my faith moral excellence, and to that knowledge. Then add self-control mixed with patient endurance. And godliness. And brotherly affection. And love for all. The more I learn and grow in those ways, the more useful I will be on earth.
God always answers our ethereal and physical prayers. But the answer isn’t always a “yes.” Sometimes it is “no” and sometimes it’s “not now.”
Wouldn’t it be great if I could ask for something from God and He always answered quickly with a definite yes? It seems like that would be wonderful, but would it actually be a good thing? Here are 7 things to remember when it feels like you're facing unanswered prayers.
Our whims aren’t necessarily God’s will.
I don’t always pray for His will. My imagination can come up with tons of things that seem like great ideas. I need to take all my whims and thoughts to God so that He can shape them into something more fitting to the way He originally designed me. God doesn’t owe me anything, especially not my whims. However, He does promise me that He will provide the things I need—food, drink, clothing, etc. Read Matthew 6:25-30 to see how valuable you are to Him.
We can’t see the entire situation.
I can only see what is right in front of me. I don’t have all the facts. So, I need to rely on the judgment of an omniscient God if I truly desire what is best. However, hindsight is 20/20. I can keep a prayer journal so I can read about things that I desired in the past. Then I realize that God did indeed answer a lot of those requests. Sometimes with an “immediate yes.” Often with a better “wait for this other thing.” Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past helps me to stand strong in my present.
Trials are a part of the process of learning more.
Sometimes I must go through one thing in order to find out something deeper. Someone could be having physical pain in their abdomen. They could ask God to take away the pain. If the pain doesn’t go away, the person goes to a doctor and through testing finds out that their appendix needs to be removed. If the symptom had gone away, they wouldn’t have known there was another worse problem. Look deeper at why you’re experiencing the thing that you’re praying away.
A yes to everything we want is not how we were created.
If I did indeed get a yes to every prayer I prayed, wouldn’t that make me more of a god than God? In that scenario, He would be at my beck and call. I should always be coming to Him to ask if something is a good idea or not, not the other way around. Even though my wants seem great in the moment, God’s ways are so much higher than mine. He is able through His mighty power to accomplish infinitely more than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Me getting everything I want in the moment isn’t really a good thing. It could lead to me being ungrateful, entitled, and unable to see my need of God. On the other hand, trials, faith, and working at things, even when I don’t see the answer, brings challenges that help me grow and learn. The testing of my faith produces perseverance and perseverance helps me to finish well (James 1:3-4).
Unanswered prayers lead us to stronger relationships with God.
God wants me to come to Him with everything, not just get what I want and then forget about Him. He deserves my attention even when I don’t get what I want. God desires me to want Him, even more than what I’m asking for.
When I pray, the most important thing isn’t that I hear a yes, a maybe, a not now, or a no. The most important aspect of my prayers should be that when I call, “... the Lord will answer, ‘Yes, I am here’” (Isaiah 58:9a). God is there for me no matter what His answers to my prayers are. He will walk with me, talk with me, and always be there for me. I have the promises of Psalm 23 that He watches over me, leads me, and walks with me through anything and everything.
Being there for me means helping me to see where my prayers might have gone astray. They might have been selfish or short-sighted. They might have been based on a lie that I believed. They also could have come out of fear or anxiety. I can trust God to know where my prayers fall short, which they often do. I need His wisdom and discernment. As I continue to listen to Him, He will gently turn me in another, better way.
Unanswered prayers teach us to put our hope in God.
Psalm 62:5 says, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” My hope is in Him, not in my wants or even in my needs. He knows what I need before I even ask Him anyway. He is patient with me until I see my subtle real needs instead of my glaring wants.
Unanswered prayers serve the purpose of leading me to the ultimate gift—peace of mind and heart (John 14:27). A peace that comes from trusting my Creator and Designer with EVERY aspect of my life. I’m not saying that this is easy to do. It’s a constant battle of my will vs. His best. But when I do finally relax and stop fighting, there is a peace and an absence of fear. Peace of mind and soul is much better than a temporary “yes.”
Trust God’s will to be done in your life.
I always remind myself of two things: it comes down to me agreeing that His will is best and that is what will be done. And that my life really isn’t all about me. He designed me for His purposes. Both trials and affirmative answers play a part in His purposes.
But don’t give up on those “yes” answers—that is always one of the options to each prayer. Pray about everything and let God sort out what’s best. Then His peace will mean more to you than your own understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
Pray with me:
Dear Lord, I love that you always hear my voice when I pray for grace and mercy. You bend down to listen to every word of my prayers. When I see fear and trouble and sorrow, I can call on you to help and save me. How wonderfully kind you are. Your goodness and mercy are everlasting. You protect me as I trust you with my childlike faith. When disappointments are all around me, I can rest knowing you are always good to me.
My past has shown that you have saved me, dried my tears, kept my feet from stumbling, and picked me up when I’ve fallen. So, I continue to walk with your presence right beside me. My anxieties help me to see my need of you. You help every time I cry out. I will keep on praising you as I seek to continue to walk in your ways.
Your ways are best and they’re based on your immense love for me. You free me from the chains that try to hold me back. I will continually offer you thanksgiving as I seek to fulfill the calling you gave me. Amen. (Prayer paraphrased from Psalm 116)
Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.
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