“Unanswered prayers” was not the theme I had planned for this week, but it was the theme that kept nagging at my mind and so I felt that it was what God wanted me to write about and think about. Maybe one of you knows why God pressed it so heavily on my mind.
I have had many prayers in my life go answered with silence from heaven. And at the time I felt ignored and perhaps even denied. I found a great article that I will post tomorrow that covers 5 reasons why this may be. I can relate my own experiences to each of them.
- Am I ready to act on the answer? God knows the intent of our hearts and there have been times that if the answer had been immediately given I would not have been prepared to do what was asked of me with the answer given.
- Have I done everything in my power? I can see now that some of my initial prayers were very lazy. I wanted answers or I wanted God to change something in my life, but without and effort on my part. Maybe in those times I wanted a genie more than a God that would have some expectations of me.
- Have I ignored the answer? Now this one is the painful one for me. There were times I prayed for things and was given an answer, but in my pride I rejected it because it was simply not the answer that I wanted. Then I just kept praying for a different one. It was only in eventual humility I was able to accept and appreciate the answer given.
- Are my desires righteous? Another one that is hard for us to swallow sometimes. There have absolutely been times that the thing I wanted most was not the thing God saw I needed. In looking back these are the prayers I am most grateful were not realized. I am so grateful God does see a bigger picture and does on occasion completely deny us our selfish or short-sighted requests.
- Is it the right time? Over the years I have learned very well how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I have also learned that what I perceived as a “NO” from Him was simply a “not yet”. He does want us to be happy. He does want to give us all we ask for in righteousness, but He also knows when there is more I need to learn and understand before an answer will be right in my life. And maybe sometimes it is not for my readiness that He waits. Sometimes there are other people that are not ready, those involved in the scenario that need more time. I try to remember when I feel these “not yet” answers how He has, in His perfect timing, woven answers to multiple pleas from multiple lives together into beautiful tapestries. I have seen this happen time and time again. I try to lean on these experiences with my faith is wavering.
- A final point that I got from listening to an amazing writer/speaker, Emily Belle Freeman, is that maybe I am holding God back. Maybe my lack of faith refuses Him permission to work in those areas of my life where He could really do the most good. Maybe I have a predetermined vision of how I want those problems to be solved. Maybe I don’t trust Him enough to turn over my control of those areas.
I recently finished listening to an audio book called The Priest by Francine Rivers. It is a historical fiction book about the Children of Israel from Aaron’s perspective and experiences. Once the Israelites were freed from Egypt they really had one desire… to enter their promised land. Yet, they were not spiritually prepared to do so. They did not trust God and complained against everything He asked of them. And so even though He answered so many of their daily requests they were denied the thing they wanted most. I found myself getting so irritated with these whiney people and their faithlessness for Moses’s sake, over and over. And yet every time I felt frustrated with them thoughts of my own faithlessness came bitterly to my mind and heart. How often do we acknowledge God and praise Him in the smoothness of our life only to turn on Him as soon as things get stormy? How often do we ignore the hundreds of tiny miracles in our lives because we are so focused on the one big one we yearn for and may not be ready for. I am guilty of this, oh so guilty, and it breaks my heart.
There is a verse in Helaman chapter 12 that I found especially poignant this week.
6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath acreated them, should brule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at cnaught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
I can see so many times in my life that even though I in theory wanted God’s help, in my pridefulness I rejected it. I pushed Him away either because I thought I knew better, or because I wanted a different answer. And still when I turned back to Him, when I repented of my pride, when my heart was once again facing Him I have ALWAYS found Him waiting. His mercy is matchless and it humbles me.
One of my recent epiphanies on the topic of unanswered prayers comes from the account in Luke I posted earlier this week. As Christ suffered in Gethsemane, in a way completely incomprehensible to us for things that were 100% our fault, not His, in His agony, so great for even One who was part God, He cried out for relief. He asked for the cup to be taken from Him, if it were at all possible. How much it must have broken the Father’s heart to deny His beloved Son that request! He withheld His hand and allowed our Savior to complete the plan that was designed long before the world was created. For the love of each of us, He allowed His Son’s prayer to go unanswered. As I contemplate those circumstances I wonder how I can at any time look at the “no” or “not yet” answers to my own trivial requests and think that they are given as a result of God not loving me enough, as if THAT is in His nature at all. And one thing I have learned for myself is that, just as He did for His Son, when His answer is not what we want it to be He will, when we ask, strengthen us and give us a measure of His heavenly peace.
Though for different reasons at different times I have felt that He was not answering my prayers, as I look back on my life and trace God’s goodness in all that He has done for me and the many ways He has orchestrated miracles for me I find how unworthy I am and how very ungrateful. I waiver often, He never does. The times where I felt ignored or denied are seen much differently in hindsight because I can see how the answers did come, maybe not in the way that I wanted them then, but in the way that really was in my best interest. I can see how He has loved me. I can see how He has always been there. I can see how it was in the hardest times in my life, my times of greatest vulnerability that He and I have built the best and most treasured parts of my relationship with Him. Yet, even seeing all this and knowing all this, I know that I will come again to those chasms where, like the children of Israel, I will waiver in my trust again. Because, as Emily Freeman says in her book Even This, “One experience with God’s goodness does not tie you to Him forever.” I am so grateful that He does not give up on us in our unworthiness and our faithless times! I am grateful that He loves us enough to wait for us to understand that an unanswered prayer has nothing to do with His lack of love for us, and on the contrary has everything to do with the immeasurable amount of love He has for us and what He knows will be best in our lives to mold us and refine us into our very highest and best self.