Someone posted this question on Twitter: Do you get mad when God doesn’t answer your prayers?
I have a problem with the question.
It seems to me that the question assumes that God is always supposed to give me what I want. That doesn’t seem very loving.
What kind of parent would I be if whenever my grandson told me he wanted chocolate chip cookies for dinner I always said go ahead, eat the whole bag? No, because I love him I provide him with nutritious meals that include protein, vegetables, and fruit—most of the time anyway.
When Jesus taught the disciples about prayer he told them this story: 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11, NIV)”
Could it be that this is where the misunderstanding comes from? We hear Jesus say that God is the best father, he won’t trick us. No, he will always give “good gifts” to those that ask him. And we presume that those gifts are the goodies that we want, not necessarily the “good things” that we need. I think we would do better to hold up Romans 8:28 alongside this if we want a truer picture of God’s provision.
I think we make a similar type of mistake when we read Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” At face value, this verse seems to promise that God will give me the things I desire. Over time I have come to believe that verse is promising something much different than my wishes for a nicer house, car, or even weight loss. When we delight ourselves with God, he becomes the desire of our heart and he is abundantly willing to give more of himself to us. When my focus is on him, then he can place in my heart the things that I need to be pursuing, desiring.
I just don’t think God is sitting on his heavenly throne waiting to dote on us like spoiled grandchildren. I believe that sometimes God answers our prayers with a resounding and emphatic, “No.” I also think that sometimes he tells us, “Not yet, trust me.” But when it’s right and in line with his plan, then the answer is, “Yes.”
I was visiting my mom in Arizona and we were going through a little tourist trap buying gifts for family and friends. I saw a tea towel that had this saying printed on it: God always answers our prayers. Sometimes his answer is yes, other times it’s no, and occasionally not yet. But there are times when God looks down at us and responds to our prayers with, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” It was kind of like the cap above, but a little more feminine. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about some of the crazy things I’ve prayed for. The first thing that comes to mind was when our younger daughter had a sledding accident and severely broke her wrist. As I ran be with her, I prayed: “Please God, don’t let it be her left wrist (she’s left handed).” I stopped in my tracks as I realized the absurdity of the prayer. As if God was going to say, “Oh no, I broke the wrong one,” and switch the break to the other arm.
What I learned that day is that my heart and my head were on two different planes. All I really wanted was for my daughter to be safe, to be okay, and I lifted her situation to the only one who could truly get her through it. Thankfully, I believe the Spirit was my perfect translator. While her it was her left wrist that was broken, her time of need gave us a little extra time to bond. She had been struggling with independence and not needing Mom to be sticking her nose in all her business. The broken wrist meant she needed me again. I didn’t see that one coming, but God knew.
No matter how God chooses to answer my prayers, I totally believe that he who knows me best and loves me most will always give me exactly what I need. It may mean that I have to adapt my prayers to follow Jesus example in Gethsemene: this is what I want God, but nevertheless, your will be done. How could I ever get mad at that?