Thank God for Unanswered Prayers

Garth Brooks has a song called “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers.”

      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

As I listened to this in my truck the other day, I reflected on how many times I had prayed for things that seemed to go unanswered. Looking back, I now see that I’m truly thankful that God didn’t answer some of those prayers. I’d offer prayers regarding business, relationships, partnership, jobs, and more; expecting God to answer according to my directives.

I would expect God to say yes to my every request, but often, I received nothing but silence. Have you ever asked God for help and feel like your prayers go unanswered?  We often think that God’s answer should always be in the affirmative. We want God to say ‘yes’. We want Him to work in our timeframe. Does that make us selfish or are we simply shortsighted to God’s better plans?

In John 17, Jesus’ High Priestly prayer makes it pretty clear where His priorities lie. He wants us to be saved, holy and unified. Moreover, He wants men like you and me to bear much fruit, lasting fruit (John 15). The Creator of all things knows better than you and I. We are likened to branches on a tree. Branches don’t exercise authority over the gardener. They respond to the gardener’s grooming and grow as He sees fit. If He wants you to bear fruit (in fact much fruit) then occasionally He will have to prune a branch or two, or else your fruitfulness will be impaired.

Years ago, I was dating a girl who would have been a disaster if I had married her. Deep down, I knew she would have prevented me from a vibrant, fruit-bearing life. So, I prayed, “Lord, show me the way. Do you want me to marry her?” Well, God answered that prayer by taking her away, but the crazy thing is that I wanted her back. I wanted to pick up the branch and glue it back on. It wasn’t until years later, after finding the most Godly woman I know, that I realized what God had done. The sting of unanswered prayer (or prayer answered differently than expected) can either make us dark and bitter or stronger, sweeter, noble men. God created us to be strong oak trees, not weak grass that can be mowed over with a dull mower (Matthew 26:42). Before Jesus went to the cross for our sins, He asked the Lord if, at all possible, the cup could be taken away, but then He said, “Nevertheless, may Your will be done.” If God is for us and not against us, as mentioned in the verse, then it’s fine for us to pray for what we want and need. However, if He is growing us to be strong oak trees, ones that provide shade for others and produce sweet, not bitter fruit, then our prayers should be centered around God’s Will, not our wants.

As a child, I prayed that my dad would stop drinking. Despite my nightly prayers, he would come home drunk and abusive to my mother, brother, and me. Looking back, I use to wonder why God didn’t answer. Why didn’t He come to my rescue? Men, here’s the truth. God was present. He answered my prayers but according to His timing and plans. God gave me strength to endure and resolve to break this generational curse. Today, both my brother and I have hearts for kids facing similar obstacles and for men seeking change.

John 17:21 is clear in Jesus’ prayer to His Father – He wants us to be one with Him, to be strong saintly men completely dependent on God (the Gardener). So, in times of hardship or prosperity, as you pray, always remember to ask for His Will to be done. He listens and He responds in His timing. Never forget that He is raising up oak trees!

RTM, Stephen Thomas