Praying for Unanswered Prayers
by Lisa T. Bergren
I’m terrible at waiting for anything I want. Almost as bad as my kids. Instant gratification? I’m all about that. Expedited shipping? Sounds good. Take it home today? Please.
I like streaming movies. Texting. Fast food.
More, more, more. Faster, faster, faster.
So when I have to wait, I find it incredibly frustrating. Especially when it comes to prayer. Why, Lord, why? I rail at the heavens. Why do you not answer? When you KNOW how much I need to hear from you? I wonder if he hasn’t heard me. Or if he didn’t quite grasp the depth of my longing. I question whether he’s paying attention. Why he doesn’t feel my visceral, raw need.
Eventually, I wonder if he’s trying to teach me something. If I need to course-correct to get things in order. In other words, I start trying to figure out how to Get What I
Or maybe it’s patience he wants me to develop?
Or to wait upon his timing?
Sigh. Right. His timing.
It reminds me of the kids eagerly eying their Christmas gifts. Needling us, trying to finagle the parental nod to open an early present. “Just one,” they plead. “Just one.” That’s how I plead with God. “Just a hint, Lord. A tiny sign. A whisper. A nudge. Please! C’mon! ”
Why do we make our kids wait? Why not give in, allow them to do as they ask? In my family, it’s because Tim and I want to make the day special. Because the timing will be Upside right. And because anticipation results in fuller appreciation of the gift. Even beyond Christmas, when it comes to many of their other requests, we require them to wait because they’re asking for something they’re simply not ready to receive. We know that the longed-for item or experience will be better, more suitable, more right, in a year, or two, or ten.
Could those things also be true when it comes to answered prayer? I need to share with my kids both the power of prayer and the power of sold-out faith in the God who sees but is sometimes silent in his response, insisting that we wait. They need to know that some prayers go unanswered for years. Decades. Even generations. But that doesn’t mean God is absent.
Because in the end, we see. Oh, we see. If not here, we will understand in heaven. How a quicker answer might have changed things—but not for the better. How if he’d granted that desire, we would have settled for so much less than what he had promised. How, if he’d spoken earlier, we wouldn’t have leaned ever so much closer to him, listening, listening, listening. The gift of time allows us such perspective, doesn’t it?
Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything” and urges us to present our requests “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). He’s not describing fretful, hand-wringing believers. He’s describing how we all aspire to be in the waiting: Hopeful. Expectant. Trusting. Praise-filled. Such attitudes will come more easily to those whose hearts and minds are guarded by the peace of God (verse 7). And isn’t that what we want for our children, as well as ourselves?
Excerpted from Upside-Down Prayers for Parents by Lisa T. Bergren by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.