The Prayer God Didn’t Answer

Last Thursday, I posed the question: Who Has Most Influenced Your Walk with Jesus? Many of you left such inspiring answers, from grandparents who taught you what living for Jesus is really like, to pastors, teachers, friends, authors, and parents.

I had one commenter ask me if I was going to share my influences, as well. I hadn’t thought about it upon asking the question, but as I began to read everyone else’s answers something became very apparent.

I didn’t really know how to answer the very question I had posed to all of you. Truth be told, I was jealous of most people’s answers, because the reality is, I don’t really have an answer.

How can that be? Well, I’ll tell you…

I don’t have some magnificent or long list of people who have influenced my walk with Jesus. In fact, I don’t even have a mediocre and short list. Well, that’s not entirely true…

In high school and into college, I dated someone who had a tremendous impact on my spiritual growth and maturity. He challenged me in ways I could never repay.

Also, my husband has, of course, influenced me. He shows me what loving Christ and behaving like Christ looks like every. single. day.

And there is a smattering of others…my mother-in-law, father-in-law, the occasional Bible study leader, and while they have encouraged me and blessed me, I’m hard-pressed to think of people who have really influenced my walk with Jesus.

And after reading all of your responses last week and realizing I didn’t really have a similar experience, I began to do something I’m quite good at…I threw a grand old pity party.

You see, I have asked the Lord for years now, yes years, for a woman to come along and disciple me. For a person who is so passionate about discipleship, I find it a bit sad that I have never actually been discipled by anyone. I mean, I have gathered wisdom and instruction from the women around me, but never in a formal or traditional discipleship setting.

A couple of years ago, I was in the throws of feeling sorry for myself concerning this very fact. I had been daily praying, pleading even, with God to bring an older, wiser, Jesus-loving woman, into my life who could help shape and mold me into the woman God wanted me to be.

Around this time, I heard a pastor give a sermon about the exact thing I had been paying for. He began to explain, how he too, had prayed for years for a Godly man to disciple him.

I hung on his every word. What happened? How had God answered his prayer? What amazing, rockin’, man had God brought into this pastors life?

But as I listened, I realized that just like me, this pastor’s prayers had not been answered, well, at least not in the way he was expecting. He shared with those of us listening that day, that God had, in fact, answered him saying: I am making you into the man you desire to be.”

God said, “I am.” It was the Lord Himself, who was instructing, equipping, encouraging, and bringing this pastor into maturity. I was struck right then and then with the realization that this message was for me.

God was doing the same for me. For all my pleading and begging for a woman to disciple me, Jesus was already doing that work in me…and He still is. God didn’t answer my prayer the way I had expected, but I suppose He answered nonetheless.

I may not have the same story as others–a God-given individual who has greatly helped shape and influence my walk with Jesus–but I do have a Savior Who is more than capable and willing to make me look more and more like Him…and what more could I ask for?

What prayer has God not answered for you? Or has answered in a different way? How has that affected your relationship with Him?


17 thoughts on “The Prayer God Didn’t Answer”

  1. As an atheist I’m really intrigued by the differing Christian opinions on what an “answered prayer” means. A lot of people seem to believe that God could answer “yes,” “no,” or “wait,” but scripture is pretty clear that “anything you ask in [Jesus’] name” you’ll actually be granted. (I mean, if those extremely clear sentences are to be interpreted metaphorically, I don’t see how you’d ever be able to justify taking anything in the Bible as actual truth.) I even found a book at the library called ‘Answered Prayer Guaranteed’ which attempted to debunk the idea that God would ever answer “no” or “wait” to someone with genuine faith.

    I’m curious, have you seen this YouTube video which addresses this same topic? Wondering what your thoughts are on it.

    1. NFQ, First off, I apologize for taking a few days to respond to your question. Secondly, thank you for being so respectful and posing such a thoughtful question. Generally, when atheists comment here they are hostile and/or argumentative.

      I did watch the video, and while I understand the point it is attempting to make, the metaphor falls apart for me rather quickly. As a Christian, and more specifically someone who desires to follow a life after Jesus and to love others, I cannot compare God to a “jug of milk.” The metaphor does not work for someone who truly believes in God because well, we don’t believe we are praying to an inanimate object, as the video assumes. We believe (and know) we are praying to a living, active, intimate, and personal God.

      Now, the proof that our God is living and active has to come from each believers personal experience with God. I can attest to hundreds of times in my faith when I have “encountered” God, felt His presence, etc. This, I admit, may sound like crazy person talk to you or another unbeliever. These are the sentiments that often paint Christians as dumb, ignorant, fools wishing upon a star.

      All that to say, you cannot really argue with someone’s personal experience and my personal experience tells me that God is real. He is present, not absent. He is intimate, not ambivalent.

      Now to your question as to how God answer’s prayers. I suppose the “no,” “yes”, and “wait” thing mostly applies. But again, I don’t feel that I’m praying to the Holy Jug of Milk and because of this fact, I do not view answered prayers as mere coincidence. The video lacks logic by assuming the Christian believes their prayers are being answered by an inanimate object, thus making each answered prayer coincidence and nothing more.

      But since I believe He is real, a “yes” answer or “no” answer are Him directing me, guiding me, and even preventing me from/in certain areas of my life.

      I also think the process of God answering prayers is much more complex than the “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” God can answers prayers in various ways. Sometimes He answers in stages. What would we call that? Sometimes His answers are conditional. Yes, God does that in scripture and in people’s lives. We could call that “maybe.” Sometimes, although this is rare, God changes His mind such as is the case with Jonah and Ninevah.

      Furthermore, the video assumes that all Christians are praying for things like being given $1,000–for personal reward or blessing. That is certainly not always the case. The video, thus, also assumes that prayer’s purpose is to get something from God. While I admit that many Christians probably think like that, the purpose of prayer is not to receive, but to converse with God.

      It was through my process of praying to God, that I realized that He was actually already fulfilling my heart’s desire in a particular area. Prayer serves to keep us in communication and dialogue with God. It serves to keep our hearts open and humble before Him. It is the Christians opportunity to come before the Lord in reverence and love, obedience and faith.

      It is so much more than can be explained here or by the “jug of milk” video.

      As for the “anything you ask in [Jesus] name, I will do it” verse. It is John 14:14. Jesus said “in my name,” which can translate as “on my account.” Essentially, Jesus said, if you ask me to do something for My glory, I will do it. Augustine talked about the prayer being consistent with Christ’s character.

      It is also the equivalent of giving our prayers authorization. If Christians know that Jesus intercedes on their behalf before God the Father, then “in my name,” gives us authority to beseech the Father because we are coming to Him saying “Your Son told us to ask You.” Of course, once again the purpose of prayer is to align our heart’s with God, so by that process when we actually ask for something, it should (in theory) be in line with God’s will, thus allowing Jesus to simply answer on our behalf.

      Gosh, I wrote waaaay too much. Sorry for the long response, but thank you again for asking. i hope my answer helped somewhat answer your question.

  2. as i recall, the first of your blogs that i responded to convicted me in a very similar way – that i need to more mindfully disciple the young women that i know. as much as i know i’m in a position of leadership, the idea of leading, of teaching, still intimidates me. i feel inadequate to say much other than, “i’m human but daily learning to be less so.”

    i’m so grateful for those who have influenced me but, like you, i haven’t really been under anyone’s tutelage. You are influential and i sincerely appreciate what you are teaching me.

  3. Great thoughts as always Nicole. I agree that often it’s hard to find someone who disciples you and I’m glad that you have found that Jesus has been leading you into a personal discipling. I would caution people (me included) that discipleship is also about community. The last thing I would hate to see is people abandoning community and seek to be discipled by God only. Though we should all seek Him personally, we should strive to be part of a healthy community of discipleship. One of the best things that has happened in my life is being sharpened by others, shaped and challenged. I find an unusual danger in people who decide to go at it alone. I know that you didn’t mean for that in this post, since I know you long enough to find your passion in discipleship and what you and your husband are doing with it in your own personal lives.

    1. Moe, hmm…You’ve got me thinking now in terms of community and discipleship. I would never naturally place those two things together. I mean, Jesus had His twelve. I suppose they were a little community unto themselves.But He would often go off with just 2 or 3 at a time. I believe much more intimate instruction and wisdom took place in those times.

      I think in community equipping, encouragement, and prayer can take place, but I would hesitate to call it “discipleship.” At any rate, I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you have time or are so inclined.

      1. Bah… I’m late to your reply. When I say community I mean more than one. Not specifically a group of people. Personally, I have been part of large groups and more intimate groups (10 and under). If Jesus was our model, I would say 12 (assuming there are no more betrayers today (crosses fingers)). Even with that, he made no apology for having an even closer group who got to see and hear greater things (usually 3). So yeah, when I said community, I meant more than one.

  4. Since what we “ask for” might not be what we actually need, then NFQ, there is your explanation for why “no” or “wait” is certainly a valid “answer”. We may need time to grow before receiving the answer, or the answer we want may be totally wrong for us. When you ask someone for a gift, you may or may not receive that exact thing… right? Such as a motorcycle when you’re 16… let’s face it, sometimes we aren’t ready or the gift is just not a good gift.

    Really enjoy your posts, Nicole. Amanda is right, I forget also to make a point to positively influence someone. We all try to share God’s love but rarely do we go the extra mile and dig deeper. Thanks for sharing this one.

  5. That was convicting beyond words. Thank you!

    When I saw you pose that question the other day I came to the pitiful conclusion that I had no answer. I grew up in-and-out of the church, and I’ve definitely been influenced by those who cared enough to support me and serve me when I was in my years of “I-don’t-give-a—“. Nevertheless, there wasn’t that ONE person who I can say has shaped/greatly influenced my walk with Jesus. I don’t have many female friends, and have been praying regularly for female friends and female mentorship. The friends are showing up, but I’ve been close to giving up on looking for that person to look up to.

    How powerful to hear that God himself would be the one to encourage and equip and work in me to make me more like him. Now that I’ve read this, I’m looking back on the past few months in my life that I’ve been praying for this ONE person and finding that God has been filling that need with Himself and with other people that come and go in my life.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Monica, I guess I can say I’m happy that you were convicted by this post. Not that conviction is ever fun, but the realization that God has been filling you, growing you, and meeting your needs all along is a great one. Thank you for sharing Monica.

  6. The prayer He hasn’t answered for me is why He won’t take away my burning desire to write and speak to Christian groups if He’s not going to open the chances for me to do it.

    1. Jason, He is not done with you…not by a long shot. I am such a believer in the desires that make our hearts beats, so often being given to us from the Lord Himself.

      Now, I don’t know the ins and outs, but have you pursued this yourself? Have you begun to knock on doors and ask for opportunities? Sometimes, not every time, but sometimes He wants us to begin with a step forward…a step pf faith.

      Praying Jason for your heart’s desire to be realized and realized sooner than later.

  7. @NFQ I haven’t said a prayer that hasn’t been answered. People do need to realize that God will not necessarily give you what you want but what you need. (Matthew 6:32-33) I haven’t came across a Bible verse that I can even interpret as saying God will give you want you want.(i am a new follower of Christ though) I mean maybe that is where the “no” aspect comes from with “answered prayer”.

  8. I once heard a testimony from a preacher who had asked God to do something in her life that she had seen God do in the lives of others. To which God said to her, “Am I not enough (as I am to you?)” That has stayed with me ever since when I’ve prayed for things that I thought would be helpful in my walk with Jesus and when they haven’t been answered, It doesn’t mean I’ve always found it easy to learn and accept sometimes (if that makes sense).

  9. I like it. I’m confused Nicole, I know its out of the way to asked advice in you but I wanted to pour this out. Why is it that I feel very pressured with my age coz I’m turning 26 next month still no man is interested in me. My friends are teasing why I’m still single they would say that I’m not that bad physically and mentally but why there’s no one courted you. I’m always praying to God about my partner in life and still waiting until now but sometimes i feel bad about myself for not being attractive and the pressure I feel about my friends every time they would say that I’m getting old and still no boyfriend since birth. Oh why I’m being so desperate. I know it’s ridiculous as a woman who love God why I’m questioning this? God loves me indeed….but i also wanted to feel how a man loves me. Thanks Nicole hope for some advice from you.

  10. About 4 or 5 years ago I wanted God to show himself to me. I wanted to know what authentic Christianity was. I had the constant thought that if we as Christians really believed what we say we believe, we would live very differently, but I didn’t know how to do that, or what it meant. We, as a couple, were asking lots of questions that challenged the accepted answers of the established church, and we weren’t getting any satisfying answers. As an experiment, we decided not to go to church for a year. We were very involved in the church and we wanted to see if our faith was based on God, or on the church. During that year we read many people that had a slightly different take on Christianity. It was during that year of not going to church that our faith was completely revitalized and restored. We discovered that my original question was in fact true, that we as Christians do need to live in a very different way and that that was in fact the complete message of Jesus. No, this is not an easy thing to do, but it is do-able and it is mandated by God. In fact if we are not living differently then we have to ask ourselves if we should be calling ourselves Christians in the first place. And, when I say “living differently” I don’t mean not smoking, or dancing, or drinking; I mean living differently from the way 90% of western Christians live today. I mean what Rob Bell meant when he wrote the book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians. By the way, we still don’t go to church and we’ve never been happier. We do however meet regularly with a group of like-minded people, and we are looking for a church, we just haven’t found one yet.

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