A friend of mine says she doesn’t believe in God because He’s never answered one of her prayers. I suggested that she might be asking for the wrong things in her prayers. She prayed that her 50 million year old dog wouldn’t die. And it did–so since God didn’t answer her prayer, she isn’t going to believe in Him. I suggested that her dog was WAAAAY older than most other dogs (but maybe not 50 million years old) and that if God HAD kept her dog from dying, exactly how long was the poor old thing supposed to suffer? There aren’t a lot of dogs that live for forever and people might start to talk. But she didn’t care; no answered prayer, no God.
Another friend recently played me a song by Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers” and it really struck a chord (HA) with me. How often I too, have prayed for things to happen/not happen and THANKFULLY God has not answered my prayers. Isn’t there a saying, “when God wants to punish us, He just answers our prayers.”
Actually, I tell my children that God DOES answer all prayers, but sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ Like the Garth Brooks song, I SO vividly remember praying that my high school sweetheart and I would be together forever. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the “man” for me (being that we were 15/16 at the time I use the term “man” loosely). Then there was my college boyfriend and I just KNEW was the right man. After all, my high school sweetheart–well, we were young–we didn’t know what we were doing. But NOW, NOW I was in college and CERTAINLY knew that this was the man (okay, at 20+ I don’t need air quotes) for me.
Again, God WISELY answered ‘no.’ How could He? Didn’t He realize that I knew what I was doing? Then came my post college dating and met my best friend for the last 16+ years. Let me stress–we were just friends. Not a boyfriend. We most certainly were not planning on dating. All the while I was hanging out with my friend and desperately dating dorks (well, not all, but it felt that way at the time), I kept praying that God would show me the right man that I was supposed to be with. I was terrified I was going to end up as some crazy, unmarried, cat lady. And to help out God (because OBVIOUSLY, God so needs my help), I dated a lot of people. Well, not “a lot” a lot, really–not by some people’s standards. I don’t date well. But it was a lot for me. I even dated a Marine. If anyone knows me, then they realize the depths of my desperation. I don’t do well with following orders and well, Marines like orders–following them and giving them. We fought a lot. Luckily, through all my dating, my best friend was there to listen to my troubles. To bail me out (figuratively) when a date stood me up. We became each other’s de-facto dates when we needed one for work or other events. I even had a couple of people convinced that we were actually brother and sister.
Experience is teaching me that part of praying successfully is changing how I pray. If I take something to God I try to put it in His hand, “Show me what I’m supposed to be doing, show me where you want me to be, show me how to make that next mortgage payment….” and that if I REALLLLLLLLLYYYYYYY want something badly, I pray that God will comfort my heart, no matter the outcome.
Joyce Meyer once spoke about praying that her children would be popular in school. I don’t remember the entire sermon but I guess Joyce wasn’t popular in school and she wanted that popularity for her kids. I think she said that they had friends, that they weren’t ostracized or anything, but they certainly weren’t part of the “popular” group. I guess she mentioned this to her kids who are now adults and her daughter said,”Thank God he never answered your prayer. The pressure in the “popular” group was terrible in high school. I would have had to have done things that I really wouldn’t want to do in order to stay ‘cool.'”
God knew Joyce’s children better than she did. And while he didn’t answer Joyce’s prayers, he very well might have been answering her children’s prayers. Think about it–what if my prayers directly conflict with one of my friends prayers (even though we have the best intentions at heart). He cannot answer both of us. He sees the bigger picture. He knows what is in store for both of us–and knows what is best for both of us. Now I’m sure there are some believers who would say, “Oh, but God COULD grant both prayers even if they are in conflict because God can do anything.” And there are non-believers who would say, “See, that proves there isn’t a God because He can’t do everything. He can’t make a rock too heavy for Him to pick up. He can’t answer two directly conflicting prayers.”
But He does answer all prayers–it’s just that sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ And the whole “rock too heavy” argument that I had with people in college–it’s just nonsensical. And I like this web site for the answer.
When I graduated from college, I decided it would be smart to follow “the man I was going to marry” down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I also decided it was a good thing to go to graduate school to get my MFA in writing. Because, I reasoned, the only way I could be a writer was to have an MFA. So I applied for grad school and prayed I would get in.
I then decided to move to Pennsylvania after the “man I was going to marry” broke up with me and started dating my best friend.
I applied to Temple’s MFA program and prayed I would get in.
I couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t answering my prayers. Didn’t he want me to be a writer? Why would he put this on my heart if I wasn’t supposed to write?
I suppose it might have been smarter to pray BEFORE making these decisions but that’s only for the wise to look back and judge. I needed to go to graduate school, get married, buy a house–I had it all planned out. But I’d been painfully rejected from two MFA programs and all the guys I was dating were not “marrying” material. I cried about it to my best friend–and then it hit me. I was staring at the man I was going to marry. God hadn’t been saying, “no”–He’d been saying, “not yet.”
Sixteen years later, we have three kids, a mortgage, and I have the graduate degree I wanted so much. And it isn’t in creative writing. If I had gotten into those writing programs, I never would have gone back to school for my MS. I never would have become a graphic designer, a multimedia programmer and and instructional designer. My non-MFA degree enables me to work part-time, from home, while I raise my kids–something that would have been almost impossible with an MFA.
And see, honey, I don’t ALWAYS blog about all the terrible things you do. 🙂
Thank God that he didn’t answer my prayers. What prayers are you grateful that they went unanswered?