Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers
I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.
For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.
During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either. Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.
And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.
You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?“
All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”
Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.
A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”
“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”
Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for. Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.
That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.
Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.“
I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”
Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael, who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.“
As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.
There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.
So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:
1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.
2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.
3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.
4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.
5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.
6. Sin. It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)
It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14
How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?
This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.