In an instant-gratification-addicted world, where we need and want answers, meals, information and almost everything instantly, we sometimes treat our prayer life the same way. If we don’t get an answer or see a situation change in about a week, we assume God’s either not listening, or it’s just another failed prayer attempt. But looking back on life, I see now that some of my best prayers have been the unanswered ones.
This would be the obvious one. Think about the times we’ve prayed for a job to come through, or banged our heads against the wall in frustration when we didn’t get the call back for that umpteenth interview, only to discover a better opportunity just around the corner. If God answered my fervent, borderline whiney prayers-“God WHY are they not calling me back…open the doors and give me favor, Lord!!” – I’d be a digital marketing associate at an ambulance – chasing law firm, instead of my current dream job. I can only imagine what it’s like for God listening to our prayers asking for less than he wants to give. “Alright Holy Spirit let’s amp up the comfort over there…she’s losin’ it.”
Seriously, how did God even keep a straight face in ’09 when you prayed sweat and tears for it to “work out” with the tribal-tattooed guy with the anger issues? I can’t even think about the number of times I’ve prayed for some of the most ridiculous relationships to workout, without cringing. Proving he’s as good as he is patient, God still comforts us through relationship disappointments while thankfully answering “no” to so many prayers about relationships we shouldn’t have been in to begin with. If God let me have my way at 19, I’d probably be four babies deep on the Jersey Shore with a guy who thought car detailing was fine art.
It May Not be About You
I’ve been in so many kinds of ruts, wondering why God hasn’t come to my rescue, and in hindsight I can always see the purpose of letting me “suffer” a little. Sometimes it’s to build my character, and give me the grace and long-suffering I’ll need for an upcoming season of life. Other times it’s literally not about you. I’ve been able to minister, be-friend and help so many people while praying to get out of tough situations. Anyone who’s eventually been delivered from food, substance abuse, smoking, anxiety, depression, and any of life’s other struggles usually has much empathy and a passion to help others. As shocking as this is to our narcissistic selves, our prayers just might go unanswered for the sake of others. The key is to focus on God, instead of our problems, and the wait becomes much more painless.
When I think about some of the tougher seasons of my life, I see now how God’s delay wasn’t a ‘no’ but a ‘not now,’ for my own good. There might be a spouse, better job, better living situation, better learning opportunities that just aren’t quite ready for us yet. If He lifted our circumstances or freed us from whatever we were praying about, like singlehood, we might never have met the spouse of our dreams one year later, as torturous as the wait might be. If God had brought us out of the insane workload we thought we could barely handle, we might never have made that connection that led to a huge opportunity six months later. Just know that eventually, God works all things for good.
When you’re tired of repeating the same prayers like the Hail Mary, remember God is absolutely listening. He’s the creator of the universe, he knows you deeply, and has the best answer, best timing and best version of the answer you’re hoping for.