When Our Prayers Go Unanswered
What do you do?
I’m sure you have prayed to God for something that you haven’t yet received. One prayer I know you’ve uttered was for healing in our land, but you’re still waiting for answers in these turbulent times. What do you do when you don’t get the answer you’re looking for?
You may have heard of people, or you yourself may be one of them, who despite the odds have turned the “Why me?” question into “Why not me?” They didn’t receive the answers they were looking for after enduring painful situations, such as becoming disabled or getting diagnosed with a life-changing disease, losing a loved one through violence, or going through a divorce or bankruptcy, and yet they were able to achieve the healthy mental state necessary to ask the latter question. I imagine the difficulty in doing so, and I applaud them. They looked beyond their circumstances to the possibilities of getting back on track.
Biblical scholars have many theories as to why our prayers go unanswered, and most of them suggest that regardless of our not getting answers, God is still with us. When I’m confronted with a bad situation that doesn’t resolve itself even after I pray, I change my focus. I follow the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” It’s like seeing things through a different lens. However, I didn’t always have this view and would question the cause, be peeved at not seeing a change, ignore the problem, wait in annoyance instead of anticipation, and become impatient wondering why He wouldn’t answer a simple thing! While I still have some of these reactions during His silence, I now can flip the switch a bit more quickly knowing that His presence in my life gives me the strength to see it through.
So, what can you do when you hear crickets after you pray? Apart from changing your focus, another response is to continue praying. We all pray more earnestly when we have a big problem and less so when we do not. However, when you make it a practice to pray regularly, it’s more time you’ll spend with Christ developing your relationship and deepening your spiritual life. The additional benefits this provide is that you can suddenly get insights or be content with the circumstances.
Then there's this…being thankful our prayers weren’t answered! You probably cringe as you recall praying long and hard for something you wanted badly and being relieved that God didn’t answer your prayer because you would have ended up drowning in debt, having a job you hate, living in a town with few friends, or marrying the person you thought was the one but who clearly wasn’t! This last scenario is wonderfully depicted in the song “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks:
Just the other night at a hometown football game My wife and I ran into my old high school flame And as I introduced them, the past came back to me And I couldn't help but think of the way things used to be
She was the one that I'd wanted for all times And each night I'd spend prayin' that God would make her mine And if he'd only grant me this wish I wished back then I'd never ask for anything again
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 'Cause some of God's greatest gifts Are unanswered prayers…