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I have a confession to make. Oftentimes, when I hear someone share an answer to prayer I think, “Wow that’s great. But what about my prayer? God you are awesome. But God, why didn’t you answer my prayer like that?”
I rejoice with them in their answered prayer, but then reflect on my own prayer life and wonder what God is doing. Is he doing anything? Why aren’t my prayers being answered when and how I want? With this mindset, my praise can quickly turn to disappointment.
When I get frustrated or disappointed with how God is responding to my prayers, I try to remind myself of three things.
First, I am praying – not placing an order on Amazon. The first thing we are told about prayer is that it is simply a conversation with God. We are not talking at God, but talking to him. Prayer is how we speak to God, and his Word is how he speaks to us. All too often my prayer life devolves into me just firing off my requests and then going to my spiritual shopping cart, hitting ‘place order,’ and expecting an answer to be delivered in the time I specify. But God has a different plan for how to approach prayer. In Psalm 40 David says, “I waited patiently for the Lord.” God wants us to wait and listen.
When my patience runs thin and I want an answer now, I remind myself to slow down, to listen, and to allow God to lead me to his Word. This helps me to work toward the relationship and intimacy with God that I desire. In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller puts it this way, “You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together, but efficiency, multi-tasking and busyness all tend to impinge on this space. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly.”
Making time for prayer is a crucial part of our spiritual growth that God uses to shape us, challenge us and stretch us in ways not otherwise possible.
Second, I need to be more real when I pray. Rather than feeling guilty about my reaction to unanswered prayer, I want that desire for an answer to drive me to pray more often and more fervently. Yes, David waited patiently – but keep reading. In verse 13 David pleads, “Make haste, O Lord, to help me.” Then, in the closing verse he writes, “Do not delay, O my God.” We must pray in our humanity while trusting in God’s sovereignty.
So, I remind myself that God’s timing is perfect, but I still keep praying. In our prayer lives, we need to be real and echo David’s desire for a quick reply. Submit to God’s timing, but don’t be afraid to ask with urgency for a quick answer! That’s how David prayed. “Make haste! Hurry! Remember me!” David didn’t become fatalistic and give up, he prayed boldly while he waited on God.
Finally, the reminder I need the most is that God is good. In Psalm 40 David knows this: “As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” As David prayed and waited, he got something far better than what he was asking for. He got God – and his relationship with God deepened.
When God doesn’t answer my prayer how I want him to, it only means that he has something even better in mind than I did.
Thankfully, I have enough failed prayers that I can see this. At times he has given me something else far better than what I’d asked for. At other times he has said no, but the journey drew me closer to him. No matter how he chooses to answer our prayers, we can rest assured that as believers, God always has our ultimate good in mind, even if it may not be what we want in the moment.
So let us pray as David prayed, “Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you.”