If I could have earned a prize for prayer effort, I would have collected the grandest, most beautiful, sparkling, shiny trophy that ever existed. (Clearly this trophy wouldn’t have been issued in the Humble Olympics, but I digress.) For years I was Type-A-level committed to a particular prayer for a person I cared about very much. I prayed all over the world; I kneeled in ancient churches, lit candles in cathedrals, and whispered the longings of my heart to God atop landmarks in different time zones. Due to my all-in commitment to this prayer, I was convinced God would answer it the way I hoped he would. I clung to the verses that said God would give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4), that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26), and that if I had faith as miniscule as a mustard seed, it would happen (Matthew 17:20). I waited and waited, psyching myself up during the “in the meantime,” sure that if I just tried harder and prayed more, God would give me this thing I dreamt of.
But it didn’t happen.
And when it became clear to me that it wasn’t going to ever happen, oh, did it ache. The ache was strong - too strong - so I tried to numb the agony by running from the feeling of isolation that God’s no sent straight to the center of my being. The only way I knew to try and run from God was to stop praying. I felt like if I shut him out, He couldn’t hurt me anymore.
It crushes our spirits when we boldly utter the innermost desires of our tender hearts to our Father and it feels like he doesn’t hear us. When the prayers go unanswered, we often decide God isn’t trustworthy because it seems like he took our desires, squandered them, and crushed our hearts into smithereens in the process. But is that really the story God wrote, or did we write that story ourselves and plagiarize His name?
When the unanswered prayers come, it doesn’t make sense. Why are some prayers answered with a yes and some are answered with a no? Instead of running from the confusion, the questions, or making the choice to shut God out of our hearts, let’s simply be still. Let’s allow the pain from the unanswered prayer to come, mourn it, and then let it go. But let’s let it leave us with a burning desire to turn to our Father and get real with Him - maybe more real than we have ever been before.
We get to decide among the wreckage that comes from unanswered prayers to take a brave, shaky step into holy intimacy with God. Sometimes I feel really broken God, and the no from this prayer has me feeling more broken than ever before. Sometimes I don’t believe you’re good. Sometimes I don’t believe you have my back. But I want to, so Holy Spirit, will you please change that? We get to pray these prayers not because we’re driven to pray them, but because we’re given the freedom to pray them. Our hearts don’t want to shut God out - instead, our hearts long for the One who understands its pain even more than we do.
Frustratingly, we may not know the whole truth of why certain prayers go unanswered until we see God face-to-face, but right now, we have enough of the picture to keep pressing on - we know that the nos and unanswered prayers are for His glory. But maybe today, you feel crushed and honestly, that doesn’t feel like it’s enough. If that’s where you find yourself in your journey, that’s okay.
Just tell Him how you feel.
I'm praying for you, sisters.