What’s the point of continuing to pray and ask God for something, if He doesn’t always answer the way we want?
Recently, this question has been bothering me. It’s one thing to acknowledge that we don’t always get what we want. That’s life and we live in an imperfect world.
But it’s another thing when the prayer that goes unanswered is a deep longing that we desperately want God to answer. In those instances, it’s much harder for me to accept the pat answer of “that’s life. Get over it and keep praying anyways.”
And so I get tripped up and find myself struggling to pray. As in, actually talking to God, understanding that He’s carefully listening, and expect Him to answer in some way.
Part of my problem is that I shut down my heart because I’m afraid of getting my hopes up. “Why would I ask God for something so important to me, hope that He’ll give it, and then later find out He’s said no? Wouldn’t it be easier just to not ask Him and save the disappointment?” I recognize that this is a problem, and that I need to keep talking with God about these things… even more because of how significant they are to me. Philippians 4:6 tells me to present my requests to God in every situation, with thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells me to pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.
But it’s a long distance between my head and my heart.
So this question was banging around in my brain as I walked into prayer meeting at church last Sunday. Thankfully, God showed me an answer later that day in the example that Jesus set for us.
I was “randomly” reading through Matthew 26, and came across this prayer that Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:38-39
I had to read it a few times to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Prior to this, Jesus had told his disciples multiple times that it was necessary for him to die in Jerusalem and that he would be raised again on the 3rd day. (Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17-19)
Jesus was about to die a terribly agonizing death, and He knew it. He also knew that this was God’s will for Him, in order to fulfill the scriptures that talked about the Messiah redeeming His people. And yet He STILL prayed and asked God “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.” He asked God for something that He knew wouldn’t be answered.
I’m not quite sure what to do with that.
But in the midst of my pain of praying for healthy pregnancies and ending up with miscarriages, I find comfort in seeing that Jesus knows what it’s like to pray a prayer that is not answered.
So that answered the first part of my question. Yes, it is good for me to continue to pray and ask God to give me children, even if I don’t know how He’ll answer, and even if His answer has been “no” so far.
But then, because God loves me, He wouldn’t let me ignore the words Jesus gives after that request… Too often I follow my requests with, “And if you don’t give this to me, I’m going to be really, really upset.”
But Jesus? I’m challenged and convicted by His attitude that, even in the face of knowing He is heading to His death, says “yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.”
We have a God in heaven who loves us, cares for us, and wants us to bring our requests to Him. That’s an incredible privilege. Do we honor that privilege by holding our requests a little less tightly and trust that God understands how important these requests are to us?
After saying “I really want this,” do we follow that up with with “But what I really want is for Your plans to be done, God, not mine”… ?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6