Christian Living

When God Doesn’t Answer Our Prayers the Way We Think He Should

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When our prayers are not answered in the time or method we desire, what is our response? We cry. We agonize. We grow weary, anxious, or even discouraged. We petition God for healing, deliverance, success, provision, but He does not always say, “Yes.” How do we react when God says, “No,” or “Not yet”?

Did you ever consider that your anger and/or disappointment are directly linked to pride? Smack dab in the middle of the word pride, is the letter “I.” It is fitting because pride puts self at the center of its focus.

I am important.”

I have needs.”

I know what is best.”

Pride leads us to believe the following three statements:

“I know it should happen now”

When God doesn’t answer our prayers on our timeline, we ask questions like, “Why not now?” or “Doesn’t He know how critical this is?” and “Why is He taking so long to answer?”

You and I are not the first to wait on the Lord’s timing. Joseph waited 20 years to see His dream fulfilled. Moses lead a bunch of difficult people through the wilderness for forty years. Early Christians waited for God to end their persecution from the Romans. If we are waiting on God, we are standing in good company.

When we read the scripture regularly, we begin to see the value of God’s timing. Waiting teaches us patience, strengthens our trust, and brings about true humility. God is not slow, forgetful, or indifferent; He is shaping and refining us into something beautiful. Since we are time-bound, that shaping process requires time. He is setting up something even better than we can visualize. He is working in us, around us, and through us, to bring about His good purpose.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

~ ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“I know it should happen my way”

I often petition the Lord for particular outcomes.

“Please heal my child.”

“Please help this person overcome their addiction.”

“Please put a decent President/Senator/Congressman/Representative in Office.”

“Please allow us to have that increase in our wages.”

When God says, “No” or “Not yet,” what is our reaction? Do we accept his answer? Do we rage at Him for withholding something we believe is “good,” all the while being ignorant of what problems His “Yes” could create?

Our pride tells us we know exactly what should happen, when it should happen, and how it should happen. Pride whispers, “I know better than God.” We may not consciously think or say those words, but our anger or disappointment with God reflects that sentiment.

James says this about our unwitting arrogance:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

~ ‭‭James‬ ‭4:13-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬ (emphasis mine)

We desire to please God, but sometimes we err in our mindset. Be aware of pride, even in its subtlest forms!

Jesus gave us the perfect example of humility during His prayer in the Garden. He said, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” He laid out His plea to the Father, but ultimately submitted His request as secondary to God’s perfect will. Jesus, God’s own Son, humbled Himself.

Lay out all your requests to the Lord, but always conclude, “In all things let your will be done, for your will and your way are always more perfect than mine. You see the outcomes I cannot see. I put my trust in You, Lord.”

God’s way is perfect. I have a nice string of disasters in my past that prove my way is rarely best. Even when I thought I was making a good decision, I had no foresight of the dangers barreling toward me. I am learning that my prayer should always be, “Here is my request, but Lord, you know best. Do what you know will be best for my soul, for your eternal purpose, and for your glory.”

“I know I deserve it”

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

~ ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have you ever heard anyone say, “How could God be loving if he allowed this awful thing to happen to me?” Or, maybe you’ve heard, “I work so hard for the Lord, I’ve tried doing everything right. Why is He allowing me to suffer?” You may even be perplexed when you’ve been praying for a righteous person and they just can’t catch a break.

Maybe, like me, you’ve wondered these things to yourself in the dark valley of suffering.

This is pride in its most insidious form. We are not entitled to anything except death. We have been given eternal life through the gift of God’s grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. We have been given a gift we don’t deserve. Anything else we receive is over and above the riches we have in Christ.

He has already given us Himself as our inheritance. We have eternal salvation. We have an abundance of blessings we do not deserve, and yet… we still think we are entitled to more.

Whatever blessings we have in this life—a home, a loving family, money in the bank, food in the pantry, a job, a car, etcetera—are beyond what we “deserve.” God has promised to provide and He does! He often gives us more than we need, and He definitely gives us more than we deserve.

God sees our present need, but He also sees the needs of our eternal soul. He may withhold something physical to protect the spiritual. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Humility of spirit says,

“God knows when (and if) my request should be granted”

“God knows how to care for me”

“God loves me and knows what is best for me, even though I don’t deserve His love or provision.”

Pride leads to discouragement and destruction. Holding on to God’s steady hand, leads to joy, peace, and an abundant heart. If we let go of how we think life should be, our eyes will be opened to see how abundant life is with our Heavenly Father.

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14 thoughts on “When God Doesn’t Answer Our Prayers the Way We Think He Should

  1. Elihu, thanks for this. I pray that some will come to understand that what we want is not always the best thing. We, along with many, have prayed repeated prayers for a healing for my Father in Law. Of course, it can still happen, but it doesn’t seem like that is the plan thus far. Naturally, that is not our preference. Yet, as this unfolds, we can see that even in the midst of it that God is working. The ways are too numerous to take up your post with, but they are there clearly. Just one would be the grace with which he is dying, and the people with whom he has taken the chance to explain why he is not worried at all. The list goes on. God’s got this, just as He has all things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so sorry, Wally. It is so painful when someone we love isn’t receiving the healing we pray for. We lost a dear friend to cancer this year, in spite of daily prayers and petitions. It’s hard to see good in those cases, and yet, I also know that she is no longer in pain. She was suffering so severely in her last few months. She is now safe in the arms of Jesus, rejoicing. For her, this is the best things; for her children, it’s been a year of grief. I may never understand the “why,” but as you say, God’s got this.

      It sounds like your Father-in-law is in Christ, and is resting in the assurance of hope. I wish more Christians approached death with the same grace you describe, because it strengthens the faith of those who remain. I am praying for you, Wally, and your family. May the God of all comfort strengthen and assure you, surrounding you with His steadfast love and peace.

      Like

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