What do you do with unanswered prayer?
I have been praying for one specific thing for a long time, but in 2011 I ramped it up and prayed for it every day. Literally. Each morning I woke up, brought my request to the foot of the throne of God, and waited with faith and hope for Him to answer. 365 days. The caveat was that I was asking for Him to answer positively by the end of the year.
All during the year I was hopefully expectant – knowing that in His sovereignty He could make it happen anytime…even on December 31st.
But He didn’t. As the night drew to a close, I realized that once again, His answer was “no”. And my response at first was disappointment. I know He loves to show up at the very last minute, just when you think He’s not going to. And so I was hoping that was His plan. I was excited to see how He was going to answer, how He was going to provide, and I was waiting expectantly on the 30th and 31st, and then, nothing. Again. Just like 2010, and 2009, and 2008, and so on.
And I began to wonder…when do I give up? When do I stop waking up, coming before His throne and laying down what is on my heart?
Our main speaker last week at IndyCC was Mike Erre (excellent, excellent speaker/teacher, by the way), and one of His talks spoke directly to my heart. He talked about the “gap” that we are living in, between how life was meant to be, and how it is now that sin entered the world. He explained how our imperfect lives are a result of God’s mercy on us. If we had everything we asked for, if life went just like we wanted it to, then we would have no need for Him. And we do need Him, desperately. So God allows brokenness, and unanswered prayer, and delayed hopes, and lost dreams, because we need the reminder that this world is broken, and He is the only remedy.
Which means that I don’t give up hope that one day He will provide. Ever. Even if I pray every day for 10 years, and His answer is still no. He has proven Himself faithful over and over, and He has called me to trust Him. A “no” doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love me. On the contrary, it means that He knows what I need and what is best for me so much better than I ever could, because He is the very One who created me. His “no” is because He knows that at this time that is the exact response I need.
O, Praise Him.
And so, disappointment turns to hope. And then trust.
This summer I was journaling after the loss of a relative who didn’t love Jesus, and I wrote this about hope:
Hope is a verb. We “hope” that something will happen. That some unseen or unspoken desire will in time come true. Regardless of the evidence, we hope. When things are at their worst, we hope. We the impossible comes, we hope. In life, we hope. In death, we hope. We hope in the future. And when hope seems lost, we trust.
Trust that God knows. Trust that He is big enough, strong enough, alive enough, faithful enough, enough.
Trust when we can’t see, can’t understand, can’t control, can’t hope, can’t walk….we trust that He can.
And someday, He will.