Unanswered Prayers. Or Are They Really Answered?

Unanswered Prayers. Or Are They Really Answered?

Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

~~ Garth Brooks~~

Why yes, I DID just quote Garth Brooks lyrics. I didn’t really want to, but it’s really the most fitting set of lyrics I could find. Plus, ever since I read this post by my friend Julia about When Prayers Go Unanswered, it’s been in my head — just like this post has. It’s been two weeks now since she wrote that. My brain hasn’t been able to turn off the thoughts in my head thinking about this question.

What DOES happen when prayers aren’t answered?

prayer ribbons

Prayer Ribbons -- photo via flickr user notspavin


(Disclaimer: When I say “praying,” I mean praying to anything… God, Buddha, Mohammed, Mother Earth, Father Time, garden gnomes, whatever your choice is. I’m non-denominational on this here blog as far as all that’s concerned.)

I guess the first thing to ponder is what do we pray FOR? I’m sure we’ve all prayed to win the lottery or get a new car for our 16th birthday. It’s likely some of us have prayed to start our period when we didn’t want to be pregnant or to NOT start our period when we did want to be pregnant. I’m sure you’ve prayed for someone who is sick — most likely for healing.

Some of our prayers are big and huge and for really scary things. Some are small and seem trivial after the fact. But they’re things that you feel strongly about and want to ask for help with.

I truly believe that through prayer, and through gathering people together (either physically or remotely) to pray for one person or situation, well, prayers CAN be answered.

But sometimes they’re just not.

For instance: I prayed so very hard for Charlie to be healed while he was in the hospital. There were hundreds of others who were praying right alongside me and Jason and our families for the same thing. I wouldn’t say I physically dropped to my knees in prayer (maybe I should have), but I prayed with all my being to God or whoever would listen, for him not to be taken from us.

Those prayers were 100% unanswered.

And I was pissed. I still am, really.

I’m sure you’ve prayed for the same types of things. Right now, I would love to pray for healing for a wonderful woman who is fighting a fierce battle against Cancer. But I’m scared to. Instead, I pray for peace and comfort for her. I pray for extra moments and memories for her husband and children. I hope that by doing that, those prayers can and will be fulfilled.

But what if those prayers that go “unanswered” are actually the answers to prayers? (confused yet?)

What if your unanswered prayer is the answer to someone else’s prayer?

What if God (seemingly) ignoring my pleas to save my son actually led me to a place where I could be the answer to another person’s prayer? Hmm…

I’m just using myself as an example since this is my site, but the same holds true for so many people I know. By not receiving the answer to my prayers, I have become a shoulder to lean on and an ear to bend.

I learned from our family’s heartbreak how to be compassionate and loving and open and caring.

I learned that it’s ok to go to a total stranger’s house to hold their hand as they grieve their son or daughter who died 10 days earlier — maybe they were praying for someone who “got it” to reach out to them.

I learned that talking about it helps others to open up about what is hurting their heart. Maybe they just needed it to be ok to say that something was wrong.

Sometimes I pray for specific things but most of the time I don’t. Maybe I’m just so afraid of my prayers being unanswered. I don’t know. Even knowing that they can be used as a blessing to others, it still hurts me to the core. It makes me wonder if my prayers don’t get past the ceiling or if my faith isn’t strong enough. Who knows, maybe they don’t and maybe it’s not.

But I can honestly say that I feel like when my prayers went unanswered, it became a way to help others along the way — and maybe even be the answer to their prayers (in a very small way).

How do you feel about unanswered prayers?

Do you pray for specific things?

Do you feel like your prayers are always unanswered or answered?

(It should go without saying, but please be respectful of any differences in religious views. I have a variety of beliefs represented by my readers and all thoughts are welcome here.)




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  1. I have a hard time remembering to pray that “not my will, but thine be done” leaves room for these other things to take their proper perspective. Of course, we all have our preferences when we pray for specific things, but to put our trust for the outcome into the hands of a Higher Being who can see the whole picture ….. that is what faith is really about. May we all grow in that realm. And peace be with us all !!
    I hope that all makes sense; it does to me.

    • Exactly. You have to put your trust in that higher being and sometimes that means we don’t get what we ask for. Which is sometimes a good thing… sometimes not :)

  2. I love this post. Tears to the eyes. I always remember something my Sunday School teacher, Mr. Markward, said back when I was maybe 16 or 17. He always said there’s no such thing as an unanswered prayer. That all prayers are answered. Just sometimes the answer is no. And we don’t like it. We don’t understand why. And we get so angry. But to always have faith (which needs to be no bigger than the size of a mustard seed) that the prayers are always answered. And like Peggy said, “not my will, but Thy will be done”. If the answer is no… there’s a reason. As much as we hate it and as much as it can have devastating consequences… there’s always a reason. And there’s always an answer.
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  3. I really like those lyrics. I remember listening to that song while I was in university (I went through a country music phase) and really getting what he meant.

    I like the “sometimes the answer is no” perspective too. It’s hard, but sometimes that’s the way it is.

    I prayed, as it were, for my son to sleep and for my horrible PPD to go away. He didn’t (still doesn’t) and the PPD hung on much longer than I would have liked. But now I understand why. (Okay, I don’t really understand the not sleeping thing. I mean, come on, 3 1/2 years?!)

    I think you’re right that sometimes we don’t get the answer we want because we’re meant to help someone else. But I also think that not getting that answer is about us – there’s a reason directly about us, or for us, or something. We may never know, but maybe we don’t want to.
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    • I do like the “sometimes the answer is no” perspective, too. My mom’s pretty smart :)

      Wonderful thoughts… that now have me thinking more! And you’re right — 3.5 years is total bs. :)

  4. Jana,

    I’ve been thinking about you and this all day, and since yesterday finding out that an old school mate’s family has lost a young mom to cancer (his sister-in-law). I only now had the chance to sit quietly and read your friend’s blog post.

    I am not a religious person, though I know, respect and love some wonderful people who are. I was raised within religion and lived in some very religious areas of the world. I have not been able to reconcile the strongest of believers with the actions some take in the name of their religions, so I let it go.

    But I share your thought, that often the world unfolds in ways that none of us would choose, that none of us can understand.

    My sisters and I have a saying: It is what it is. Funny how that little sentence has brought my siblings, both followers and non, the same simple comfort. Because it is where we go with and from from the places of pain, sorrow and difficulties, and what we choose to do to help out that will bring each of us solace.

    Our actions (even if they must sometimes be inaction), I believe, is the true showing of faith, regardless of the stripe.

    Sending you love, Jana, to hopefully ease a tiny bit the pain and sorrow you are feeling. This post is thoughtful and, ultimately, beautiful.
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  5. I know, this is such a hard topic. I guess for me it’s because my ideas change as I age and come into the way I worship God, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with “Do Unto Others” instead of attending worship somewhere.

    As for prayers, I don’t know. I have a really huge disconnect with thinking God doesn’t answer our prayers so we can help someone else. I think our experiences allow us the chance to help someone else, but there is still free will involved. I could go another path and the outcome with my kids be the same, but then I wouldn’t know some incredible people if I’d not chosen to use my experience to help someone else.

    I struggle with the concept of a God whose will it is for my kids to suffer. When people say it was “God’s will” when something tragic happens I respect it (honestly I mean NO disrespect to you Jana) because it was what they need to get through it and that represents their relationship with God… I respect and honor anyone’s way they handle their spirituality. I even learn from it.

    But my God is loving and not only does God not want my kids to suffer and die, I can’t believe he wants me to suffer, either.

    • It really IS such a hard topic. And one that is ever-changing for me, too. I’m with you on the fact that I don’t have to physically worship anywhere to be comfortable with my spirituality. A building doesn’t make a person any more faithful.

      I struggle, too, with the concept of a God who allows suffering. I don’t want anyone to, but especially not kids.

      I love that the comments here make me think of it in even more ways. It’s a topic that swirls around in my head in almost an infinity loop, with no real answers or stops or solutions. There just continue to be other ways of looking at it.

      Adding to my list of things to ask when I get to heaven: Why do some kids have to endure suffering?

      Much love to you! Thanks for weighing in and for inspiring me.

  6. There are a lot of insightful comments here. I agree that as I grow and change, my perspective of prayers being answered also changes. I remember pleading for help in my prayers as a young mother of 3 little kids. I wanted help. The answer I got was I was loved and doing OK. This was the day that I learned that God’s idea of OK and mine don’t always match. I am also a believer that sometimes Crap happens. It just does. It is part of being in a world that has aardvarks and platypus, over 20,000 species of butterflies, and other oddities in the world. I am starting to believe that much of life is not about what happens to you but what you do about what happens. People with similar experiences have been an answer to my prayers. I have also been blessed with the knowledge that I have been the answer to someone’s prayer. I know for myself when I pray I do find comfort but not always the answer I wanted. Some times an answer takes years to unfold. I am now getting answers to prayers that I first said 40 years ago. God’s time table isn’t mine. I hope whatever people believe in that they find answers that can bring them peace.
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    • I am starting to believe that much of life is not about what happens to you but what you do about what happens.

      This. This is so true. Thank you for YOUR insightful comment!

  7. I was told one time “If you pray for patience, God will give you the opportunity to be patient.” Now whether that is really how God works, I cannot say, but keeping that in mind has helped me through a lot of situations.
    I pray for specific things, like “please let Colt go to sleep”. Which of course is a silly prayer. Then I have prayed for God not to take my child, I prayed for my son to be healed of his heart defects, I have prayed for his to just go one day without being in pain, and I have prayed for God to end his pain. God answered my prayer; my son was taken away to forever live with Him. Corbin is no longer in pain. Corbin’s heart defects have been healed and he never has to suffer through another IV, another heart cath, and never again does he have to have heart surgery.
    I love my son, I miss my son, but I’m not mad at God for taking him away. I truly feel that God gave me Corbin for a reason. “Everything happens for a reason” is a very common cliche but I believe in it. If I had never had Corbin, if he had never had his defects, and if he had never passed away; I would never be where I am now. There wouldn’t be a bill named after my son, making it’s way through the law system, with a goal of saving lives in my son’s honor. I never would have known heart defects affect 1 in 100 babies and that this information needs to be shared with the world.
    So yes, it’s not fair and it’s cruel to lose a child, a newborn. But had this experience never had happened, more mothers would be losing their children to this common, treatable disease.

    By no means at all, am I dismissing your feelings Jana. You have every right to be mad. I get mad too! I just like to focus on all the good that has happened because of Corbin, my Peanut. Lives are being saved and it’s all because of my angel.

    • I don’t get mad often. Because like you, had my experience never happened, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today (likely). I certainly wouldn’t be advocating for Group B Strep protocols and trying to help those who have lost a baby like me (and you). I spend 99% of my time now being thankful for the good that has come from it, but sometimes that 1% sneaks up :) Stinks that we had to give up something so precious as our sons to be put where we are today, though, isn’t it?

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