If you were around in the 1990’s and you listened to country music, then you are familiar with Garth Brooks’s hit song “Unanswered Prayers”. If country music wasn’t your first love, the song was so widely popular, chances are even a (crazy) country music hater could hum along.
“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.”
The song tells a story of a happily married man who runs into his high school sweetheart at a football game and remembers how hard he prayed for her to be his gal, then his wife and love of his life walks up to him and he thanks God that the prayer went unanswered.
I was in high school when I fell for this song.
I remember being 16 years old, a tad bit dramatic, and laying on the floor in my room listening to this song and thinking about the boy I loved, praying this song would not apply to my life. As it turns out, I married that same boy four years later and we’ve been married now for close to 14 years.
It was a few years into my marriage when I experienced what it really was like to sit in the dark places of unanswered prayers. For the first time in my privileged and cushy life, painful, life altering realities, came at me swinging, often punching me square in the face, knocking me to my knees.
Some of my prayers were not answered in the ways I had hoped for, but were quickly met with satisfying alternative outcomes. In those moments I would thank God for His swiftness and recognize His plan was so much better than my own.
Other prayers of my heart weren’t so swiftly satisfied.
These prayers were ones I felt my very life hinged on. Maybe you are familiar with these prayers. Maybe you are in the midst of praying these kinds of prayers in this season of your life. The kind of prayers that bring us to our knees, pleading with God to give us some kind of an answer but instead, all we hear is a deafening silence.
For years I sat in that silence, praying, pleading.
I begged God to make me a mom, prayed for an answer to my mysterious infertility, pleaded for Him to fill my womb with the child I desired.
I prayed this prayer for years and for years felt my cries were met with a big fat silence.
More than seven years have passed since that season of heartache in my life.
Today I find myself on the other side of things.
Today I can look back to what was and clearly see how God was working. How much God loved me.
Today I can look at my three children, the breathtaking human beings who call me mom, the three children who grew in another woman’s womb and came to be mine through adoption, and with a deafening shout of joy, I can thank God for my unanswered prayers.
And as I do so, I realize my prayers today look a lot different than my prayers years ago.
I’m not saying it was bad or wrong for me to pray that I would get pregnant or for me to desire to start a family. I’m just saying that through that experience, I learned what it meant to chase after God’s heart and plan for my life, rather than trying to convince Him of my own.
This doesn’t mean we should stop praying for the things in life that matter.
Of course let’s continue to pray for healing or a job or restored relationships. Let’s keep praying for safety or peace or provision. Because God wants us to to bring it all to Him. What I am suggesting, and what I’ve learned with each and every unanswered prayer, is to bring it all to Him with my hands wide open.
To say “God what I want more than anything else is what you want for me.”
Or, as Jesus said: Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.”
It’s a bold prayer my friends, because chances are the God who created you, who adores you more than you could ever fathom; the God who put you on this earth for a reason and a purpose, wants even bigger and greater things for us than any prayer we could think to pray.
His love and care are too large for us to hold onto with a tight fist.
I still ask God for specific things to happen or not happen in my life, because I believe He cares about the things I desire and the hopes hidden in the corners of my heart.
But more than that, I know His plan for my life blows my plans out of the water. And so I’m learning, more and more, to come to God with my hands wide open, asking Him to give me a heart that longs for the heart of God.