You don’t want to ask me to pray for your marriage.
In 2017, I prayed weekly for three couples. The first one divorced at the beginning of the year, the second one a few months ago, and the third a few weeks ago.
Three marriages, 52 weeks of prayer, three divorces.
I still love the individuals, but my heart grieves for the end of their marriages. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not—their names and situations are not important to this post. God knows all the details. Their marriages included infidelity, abuse, deceit, and more. God hates divorce but loves the people (Malachi 2:16).
But that’s not the point of this post. I’m not here to argue marriage and divorce or God’s view of their situations and decisions. Instead, I’m here to ask (and partially answer) the question, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers?”
16,800,000 Google Fans Can’t Be Wrong
Apparently, I’m not the first person to ask this question. In fact, 16,800,000 other people have addressed this question in some form or fashion.
Sometimes I thank God for them. Garth Brooks thanks God for them. If God answered all my prayers the way I wanted Him to answer them:
- I’d be married to someone other than Kristen.
- We wouldn’t have four boys we love so much.
- We wouldn’t be in Texas and I wouldn’t be on staff at Watermark—that would stink!
- I wouldn’t be a graduate of Wake Forest University.
- I wouldn’t be weak or struggle. This would lead to an independence I don’t want or need. Rather, when I’m weak, then I’m strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I have many reasons to thank God for unanswered prayers. But, those unanswered prayers don’t make life easier for us.
How Can You and I Best Respond to Unanswered Prayers?
If I’m honest I wonder why God won’t answer my prayers for something that should be a good thing. Why wouldn’t God keep these three couples together? How is that possibly a good result? Why did I seemingly waste prayers for one full year on these couples? Did God hear my prayers? Does He care for their marriages? How can I thank God for those unanswered prayers?
I’m discouraged and need answers for myself as much as for anyone else. I can’t fully answer the question of why God didn’t answer my prayers in the way I wanted Him to, but I will share with you some things I’ve learned along the way in the midst of my unanswered prayers.
1. God is still God, whether He answers my prayers the way I want Him to or not. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). My trust in Him and understanding of Him cannot be dependent on how my prayers turn out.
2. He’s worthy of my trust and devotion (Proverbs 3:5-6). It’s a verse many of us have memorized, and there’s a reason for it. This verse reminds me that I can’t lean on my own understanding of situations.
3. God ALWAYS answers prayers. He just might not answer them in the way I want Him to answer them. I need to redefine what I mean by “unanswered prayers.”
4. He doesn’t make mistakes (Psalm 145:3).
5. Do not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). Sometimes I just want to crawl in bed and hide. Rather, I need the reminder to keep going, to keep praying, and to keep trusting the Lord.
6. He loves me, and He loves these three couples (John 3:16, 1 John 4:7-12). His love for these three couples (and their children) is so much greater than my love. I prayed for them weekly. He sent His only Son to die for them.
7. My job is to be faithful and steward my time well to love and pray for others. I trust God with the results. The parable of the sower reminds me to pray (scatter seed) and trust God with the result (Mark 4:1-20).
8. Somehow everything will work together for God’s glory and for the good of those who love Him. Even in the midst of divorce, broken homes, and single-parent families, God will get the glory He deserves (Revelation 19:1, Romans 8:28).
9. Countless other couples, that I have prayed for, have grown in their love for Jesus and each other. If I focus on the three couples, I’ll get discouraged. Rather, I need to shift my focus to all the great things God is doing in couples all around me and in my marriage (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
We all know what it’s like to live with unanswered prayers. I can’t know the mind of the Lord (Isaiah 55:8-9), but I can remind myself of truth in the middle of unanswered prayers. I pray you’ll do the same, whether your prayers come out the way you want them to or not.
I’ll continue my job at Watermark doing what I love—preparing nearlyweds, establishing newlyweds, and enriching and restoring all marriages. The work isn’t remotely close to done. I’ll keep going and I’ll keep showing up. And sometimes I’ll need to re-read the words of this post and remember what’s still true, even in the midst of unanswered prayers.
- Which of the 9 reminders above resonate with you the most? Which truth most encourages you in the midst of unanswered prayers?
- What else would you recommend we do in the middle of unanswered prayers?
- If you’re interested in more resources about prayer, here are a few recommendations:
- I’d love to pray for your marriage/relationship. I know I’m not responsible for the ending of these marriages and I’ve prayed for hundreds of other marriages in 2017, most of whom are thriving and love each other. If I can pray for you, let me know in the comments below or you can send me an email through the contact page of this site.