Why our prayers for good things go unanswered
Our youngest daughter named the stuffed bear Beary when she saw him in that Durango boutique. She begged for him and cried when we left the store without him. She sadly whispered “Beary…” as we walked away, but there was one thing she didn’t know.
I had gone back and bought Beary for her as a birthday gift. When I reconnected with her back on the sidewalk, I held her hand in my right and the bag with Beary in the left. She had no idea I held her little heart’s desire in a brown paper bag.
Isn’t this the perfect picture of God and us?
We tell Him what we want, but He doesn’t always answer as soon as we ask, even if the gift we hope for is in His hand. We cry out about how much we want that opportunity, that life, that peace but, still, He waits.
There are four reasons our prayers might go unanswered.
Most of what we want is good—healing, promotions, our child’s success, ease from financial strain—yet, the quality of the request doesn’t always guarantee that we get it…but why?
1. We may not be the right fit for the opportunity.
There are speaking engagements that I’ve wanted but didn’t get. My response is to think that I’m the worst, but I’m not the worst and neither are you. It’s simply that God has someone else in mind for that opportunity.
We may not be the right fit for everything we want, and He has different opportunities for us that we’re not even aware of and have no ability to see.
What if “no” became our cue to pray for the person who did get the opportunity? Let the “no’s” remind you that opportunities aren’t about us but what He’s doing in His kingdom for and through His people.
2. The opportunity may not be a right fit for us.
God has a hope-filled plan mapped out for us. He knows our gifts, temperament, and flaws. Who better than Christ Himself to know if an opportunity is a fit for us and the right strategy for His kingdom?
Paul writes about his desire to visit the Roman church, but he’s prevented from going. What could be so bad about Paul visiting a church plant? Why wasn’t this request an automatic yes? Because God knew that Paul needed to write Romans, which is now considered the “most influential letter in the world.” (BSF Romans Introduction Lesson Notes)
What if we weren’t resentful toward God’s delays or outright denials but accepted any hurdle as a gift? Ask God what He wants you to do and to teach you contentment, and remember that He has you here for a purpose.
3. God has work to do in us.
Oh, sweet friends, how I like to think that I have no need for improvement, no sharp edges to file down, and no faulty perspective to change. This is wishful thinking but not reality.
Sometimes God’s “no’s” are because our hearts aren’t ready for the gift. God is a teacher whose purpose is to conform us more and more into the image of His Son. He achieves this purpose through waiting, refining, and/or changing our circumstances.
What if we allowed God to do His deep and holy work in us, even through a delay or denial? His plans are always for our good, even if they’re not what we thought. Ask God where you need to be refined and what He wants to teach you.
4. The gift is God’s to give.
The gift is His to give, in His time, to bring delight when the present is revealed. Our God is in charge of all and, in Him, through Him, and by Him, all things hold together. We don’t receive the grace-gift because we’re good enough. Out of His goodness, we receive grace upon grace.
What if we understood that we are the debtors who deserve nothing? Ask God to teach you to receive all He gives—even the hard things—with an open hand and a thankful heart.
Some of our good prayers may go unanswered, but others may not.
Three months after she first fell in love with Beary, our youngest opened up a gift bag and pulled him out. Oh, the hugs and the joy! She had finally received the gift she had whispered about all those tears earlier.
Sometimes we get our heart’s desire, the one held in God’s other hand as He holds ours. And sometimes we don’t. But our receiving the gift or not doesn’t negate that God uses our passions and prayers to redirect us to His sovereignty, timing, and good plan.
Just like our youngest received Beary, it’s in God’s timing and plan for us to receive His good gifts.