But What If God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

But What if God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Perhaps you are one of those people whose recent prayers were not answered.

Or at least not answered in the way they had hoped. Their home was still destroyed in the hurricane. They didn’t get the job. They still miscarried. And no, chemotherapy has not healed their cancer.

What do we do when we feel God hasn’t answered our prayers?

Well I distinctly remember hanging up the phone and crying…

That answer was not the one I had hoped for. Prayed for.

I wanted “yes.” Would have settled for “wait.” But what I got was “no.”

I had followed Paul’s instructions: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” (Philippians 4.6)  But how could I take the hardest step of all, to “thank him for his answers?” 

Yes, even if it wasn’t the answer I wanted. The one I needed.

I have lived my entire life on these words today from God’s Word. In fact, I memorized this same translation as a teenager with my brand new dark green Living Bible. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything;”  

What are you worried about today?

Okay, go ahead and write down three of your current concerns.

  1. _______________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________

Now, what would happen if you chose instead of worrying, to pray about them? Go ahead, do it. Offer each one to God in prayer.

A great model for life.

But only if we always end our prayers with “Thy will be done.” After all, that’s how Jesus taught us to pray. After being very specific about our wants, our needs, our great concerns, we then relinquish all that into the powerful and worthy hands of our Savior. Allowing Him to answer in His way and His timing.

Because, we really do want His will to be done. And even if we think we know exactly the path that should take, we must hold our expectations very loosely.

When I was much younger, Elisabeth Elliot once encouraged me to tell God everything I was feeling about His answers to my prayers. She pointed out that He already knew anyway. But she warned me to share with others discreetly; “God can take it — others sometimes can’t.”

From what she had shared, I knew that even this strong woman of God occasionally struggled with getting a disappointing answer to prayer as she told me,  “I have often asked why. Many things have happened which I didn’t plan on and which human rationality could not explain. In the darkness of my perplexity and sorrow I have heard Him say quietly, Trust Me. He knew that my question was not the challenge of unbelief or resentment. I have never doubted that He loves me, but I have sometimes felt like St. Teresa of Avila who, when she was dumped out of a carriage into a ditch, said, ‘If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!'” (Elisabeth Elliot)

In the Old Testament God, through the prophet Jeremiah, not only encouraged us to cry out to Him, but assured us that He would always answer. “Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.” (Jeremiah 33.3)

That answer? The one you didn’t want? It may just contain a “wondrous secret” later to be revealed.

Trust Him and keep praying. Always with thanksgiving.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

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6 Responses to But What If God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

  1. Jim Douglas says:

    Great devotional. I wrote my 3 worries down and prayed about each. Really inspired me …keep on writin girl, you gotta gift!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. maggierowe says:

    Our friend Amy once said that our sovereign God works through flawed human instruments to whom He has given the power of choice. Sometimes those choices are mistaken, but in His divine sovereignty He permits those mistakes. This reminder has been helpful to me lately.

  3. Emily J. M. says:

    “Thank God for answers that you don’t want” – hard words! But true, when I remember that perhaps thanking Him for answers I don’t want is the same as thanking him for himself, since He is the ultimate answer, and all things are part of His plan.

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