“God answers prayers.”
I’ve heard this phrase my entire life.
I’m a Christian who regularly attends church and reads scriptures and volunteers with church activities and organizations … and … I’m someone who shouldn’t be bothered by this phrase. Right?
Because it’s a phrase that I do believe.
But I am bothered by it … because, at times, frankly, it’s also a phrase that really annoys me.
Okay, hang on, let me explain …
I’m annoyed with it by how people sometimes use it.
Several years ago, I saw a Facebook post with that phrase at the top and then the person went on to explain that her home was “spared” by a tornado after she’d prayed for the safety of it. And then she went on to explain that her next door neighbor’s house was leveled. Like completely destroyed. They lost everything.
I think that was the first time I recognized my annoyance for this phrase. She prayed. She had faith that her house would be saved. And God answered her prayers.
But what about her neighbor? I know nothing about the neighbor. It’s possible she doesn’t believe in God. Or that she didn’t pray for her house. Or a number of other things.
But … what if she did believe in God and did pray that her house would be safe? And then it wasn’t. Maybe she didn’t have enough faith. Or maybe she hadn’t been obedient enough.
Or … maybe she did have enough faith and maybe she had been obedient.
Maybe God was still answering her prayer but in a way that wasn’t so obvious or the way that she wanted.
So maybe sometimes the phrase “God answers prayers” needs a disclaimer or a little asterisk or something for more clarification (and this, by the way, would just be for the people like me who have a lot of work at being more like God and who get annoyed by this phrase 😇).
Let me share a personal example.
In 2003, our family faced some very difficult challenges, and after months of praying, we decided my husband needed to go back to school and get a master’s degree. We moved from Northwest Missouri to Springfield so he could attend Missouri State University.
As he was nearing the end of the two-year program, we began applying for university teaching jobs out west in Colorado, Utah and Arizona. After being in Missouri for eight years, we were both ready to get back to the mountains. We began praying and seeking to do God’s will. We sent out a ton of applications and received back a lot of “thank you for applying” letters with no job offers.
Then out of the blue, he received a call from a principal back up in Northwest Missouri who offered him a job. He thought it was an answer to prayer. I thought it sounded more like a death sentence. I did not want to go back up there (no offense to my family and friends who live there). I just really wanted to be back in the mountains and experience summers with no humidity.
So we packed up and headed back north, me dragging my feet all the way. I spent the next few weeks feeling sorry for myself and my depressing life until one day when I was flipping through a local newspaper and saw an ad for a reporter for that paper.
Well, fast forward 11 years, and I’m still employed by that same community newspaper, which has been such a blessing, especially in recent years with my chronic pain illness. My boss has been very understanding and I now work from home.
I thought God hadn’t answered my prayers because my husband didn’t find a job in the mountains. But He could just see a little farther down the road than I could and knew what I needed. While it’s been a roller coaster of a life during that time (whose life hasn’t been?!), I’ve been blessed with many great experiences because of that move.
So my phrase would look something like this …
God answered my prayer*
*but not in the way I wanted which ended up being better than I could have imagined.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
I recently read an article in the Washington Post about God and prayer.
In it, the Rev. Sherita Seawright, assistant pastor of Union Bethel AME Church, spoke about when her mother died and the betrayal she felt because God didn’t answer her prayers to save her life.
“I don’t think we should look at God as a spiritual Santa Claus,” she said. “I know God answers our prayers. But I had to learn that sometimes His answer is no.”
Marvin J. Ashton, in a speech given at BYU, said: “Like a wise parent, our Heavenly Father sometimes says no to our pleas.”
And that’s okay. He knows better than we do. I do believe that all things work out for the best. It may take some time and a lot of wading through deep waters. But I believe it will work out and we will be better because of it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them here or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. – the Real Jacki